On January 16th 1919, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution prohibited the production and sale of alcohol in the United States for almost a decade and a half. Prohibition was supported by two groups that could not be more diametrically opposed. On one side were the Baptists and other evangelical Christians who saw Prohibition as ridding society of ills such as alcoholism and domestic violence. On the other side were the Bootleggers, whose moonshine prices were driven up by the regulation against alcohol.
This creates a paradoxical effect where coalitions with opposed interests find a common point of agreement in regulatory policy. The Baptists take the moral upper hand and help with enforcement, while the Bootleggers make profitable monopoly deals with the regulatory authorities.
I thought this was a fascinating concept by Bruce Yandle, and I find it surprisingly useful in analyzing lots of tech news. Consider:
- In AI Safety, Effective Altruists playing The Baptists, and OpenAI playing The Bootleggers.
- In nuclear power, Environmentalists playing The Baptists and Fossil Fuel Companies playing the Bootleggers.
- more to be added…