Beyond “Anything That’s Peaceful”: Why Culture Matters

The following is a submission written by SFL Campus Coordinator Brad Kells. Brad is a student at Michigan State University. 

While collecting data for some upcoming research, I found myself mulling over a seemingly insignificant data point: why do Vermont and Oregon have nearly one microbrewery for every thirty thousand people in the state, whereas Arkansas and Alabama have only about one per one million people? Homebrewing was legalized in 1978, and the modern craft brewing industry was born.  It quickly took off and today is proving a significant challenge to Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.  But it is not a simple case of “legalize something and creativity automatically results.” Creativity is resulting from the opportunities now available, but even after controlling for state and local laws, there is a significant difference in how certain regions are taking advantage of their freedom to create malted originality.  Why? Should we as libertarians care?

When innovation is the subject at hand, always quote Deirdre McCloskey.  From Bourgeois Dignity:

Deirdre McCloskey

“I claim here that the modern world was made by a new, faithful dignity accorded to the bourgeois… and a new, hopeful liberty… And both were necessary.  My libertarian friends want liberty alone to suffice, but it seems to me that it has not.  Changing laws is not enough (though it is a good start – and rotten laws can surely stop growth cold)… dignity is a sociological factor, liberty an economic one. Dignity concerns the opinion that others have of the shopkeeper.  Liberty concerns the laws that constrain him.  The society and the economy interact.  Yet contrary to a materialist reduction, they are not the same”

As in the craft beer industry, there is more to the creation of a vibrant and creative society than just laws, and libertarians can gain from paying attention to those other details. There is, after all, a significant difference between a free society where people choose to interact with one another, where they create and trade and where they respect innovation, and a

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