How Do Bootleggers and Baptists Come Together?

by Bruce Yandle

In the latest Independent Review, PERC fellow Randy Simmons and coauthors Ryan Yonk and Diana Thomas have made a significant and useful contribution to the evolving Bootleggers & Baptists theory of government regulation and action.

According to Google Scholar, there have been more than 3,000 references to the theory since it saw the light of day in 1983.  But Simmons, Yonk, and Thomas have done more than just refer to the theory or apply it; they have supplied a missing part to the evolving story–the political entrepreneur, the one who makes things happen.  Their efforts help us to understand better how the world works and in this case, how difficult are the prospects for obtaining efficiency-enhancing actions through government regulation.

You can read the whole piece online here [PDF].


  1. Juel Briggs - SYDNEY - AUSTRALIA says:

    If it is a desirable “good” for the US (and other developed countries) to reduce illegal logging in developing countries with poor forest management laws, poor law enforcement, bad governance and high corruption, what could be a good “Free Market” alternative to the Lacey Act (and similar laws such as the EU Illegal Logging (import) regulations)? Note that the property rights (for the trees and/or land) of such countries are often not clearly defined or disputed (National or State Government, private/corporate and tribal). There may even be multiple legal systems in operation (eg Tribal versus National Government)

    Sure, these property rights need to be clarified, but even if US/EU/Australian “imposition” of such rights/clear ownership were possible (onto a foreign land), surely this would be a breach of these nation’s sovereignty? And how could one resolve the situation where tribal ownership appears to exist on the same land as National/Governmental ownership?

    Secondly, does anyone in the US (or EU) know of any studies that have measured/assessed whether the Lacey Act (or EU regulations) is (are) actually effective at reducing Illegally Logged Timber Imports? Or has the Lacey Act just operated as a blanket/undiscriminating trade restriction (and cause of price increases) to ALL timber imports, no matter whether “Illegal” or “Legal”?

    Finally, even if the Lacey Act has reduced imports to the US, has it just caused illegal timber to be re-routed into manufacturing countries, only to be imported into the US as/”hidden within” finished products such as in the carcasses of furniture and melamine kitchen flat-packs?

    Illegal Logging (import) Laws are a text-book example of successfull Bootlegger, Baptist and Rent-seeker action. It is easy to see how these laws have gained such momentum and acceptance, with scarcely any critical analysis/assessment of either their effectiveness (at reducing illegal logging) nor any adverse economic impact (very likely if they really are acting as a general undiscriminating trade barrier).