Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hooray, beer!

I don't really buy the argument currently popular among conservatives that businesses aren't hiring because of regulatory uncertainty. It seems much more likely to me that mass unemployment means a lot of people who can't afford to buy things. Couple that with a surge in productivity and a lot of excess capacity and there's no real need for businesses to hire.

That doesn't mean, however, that I think all regulation is good. I'm very sympathetic to the argument that there's way too much red tape involved in starting a small business. Some of this is on a federal level, but much is on the local level as well. That brings me to the title of the this post. Minneapolis is set to relax an ordinance that governs exactly how micro-brewers are allowed to sell beer. A seven word change to Minneapolis' laws is likely to immediately bring three breweries to the city. This is low-hanging fruit, and I'm sure there's more where that came from. Like Matt Yglesias, I'm particularly annoyed by short-sighted and often idiotic zoning regulations that stifle investment and create car-focused communities. (That problem is not always a result of laws, it can also be NIMBYism.)

There's actually a federal version of the deregulation going on in Minneapolis now. Under Carter, the brewing industry was deregulated, opening the door for all the delicious micro-brews we enjoy today. There should be common ground to find between liberals and conservatives on this issue. Not all regulation is bad, but there's certainly plenty of anachronistic or industry-written regulation out there that hurts small businesses. Taking a scalpel to those is small government I can believe in.

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