Former President Jimmy Carter may have a somewhat mixed record, with a Nobel Peace Prize on the one hand and a lost 1980 reelection bid on the other, but blogger E.D. Kain wants to add one very significant accomplishment to the Carter legacy: The booming U.S. craft beer industry. In 1979, Carter de-regulated the beer market, which had been tightly controlled since the end of prohibition. Kain passes along this graph from science blogger Rob Carlson:
Kain writes, "When prohibition was lifted, government tightly regulated the market, and small scale producers were essentially shut out of the beer market altogether. Regulations imposed at the time greatly benefited the large beer makers. In 1979, Carter deregulated the beer industry, opening back up to craft brewers. ... You can see how the large brewers continued to consolidate and grow and absorb more and more market share right up to the point where Carter deregulated the industry."
Carlson concludes that craft brewers demonstrated an ability to challenge even the largest and most entrenched beer-making giants. "This is an interesting and crucial point, because as far as I can tell nothing else substantive changed about the market. Deregulation reopened the market to craft brewers and the industry blossomed through organic growth and the preferences of consumers. (Conclusion: Emerging small scale, distributed production can compete against an installed large scale infrastructure base.)"
Kain is careful to note that there are times when more regulation is a good idea--offshore oil drilling practices, for example. The difference, he says, is that oil industry deregulation was done probably at the behest of industrial lobbyists, whereas beer deregulation was in the service of mom-and-pop brewers.