Friday, January 21, 2011

Granting the means of production: good beer, strong middle class

Here's a fine example of providing people a means of production and thereby offering social mobility.

In 1978 the US Congress and the Carter administration relaxed Federal laws on home-brewing beverages with an alcohol content higher than .5%...and thus began a new era in American beer. I don't need to remind folks that for half a century US beer, dominated by a few monolithic breweries, was an international joke.

But that small tweak top to the law in 1978 is one of the main reasons why I'm sitting at my computer tonight drinking a bottle of Founder's Dirty Bastard Ale from Grand Rapids, Michigan instead of a Budweiser. That's one of the reasons there's been an explosion of Michigan beers: Bell's, Founders, New Holland Brewery, Dark Horse, and still more local breweries that sell only in-house like Ol' Boy's tavern and Odd Side Ales in Grand Haven just 5 minutes to the south of me.

The beer renaissance has created jobs and a sense of pride in West Michigan. Some of the beers, most notably Bell's and Founders, have received national attention and the breweries are expanding to meet national demand for the excellent beers.

One change in the law, one restriction to the Small Guy was tweaked to allow people to legally experiment with beer production in their basement and it has grown to new industries from the bottom, up.

This is the heart of providing regular people the means of production.

The means to produce, to innovate, to create new industries and compete.

Michigan recently passed a law exempting small bakers and jam makers who make under $15,000 a year from requiring a state license or even a commercial kitchen to legally sell their goods. All they need is the means to produce bread at home.

These are the types of small steps that have huge impacts down the line.

There are countless insidious laws that were passed over the decades whose function is to slam the door on regular people having the means of production.

Distilling spirits is illegal, and procuring a license to do so requires the means to produce more then 10,000 cases of liquor, essentially sidelining small producers from competing. If toxic booze is the concern, there are far better ways to deal with this that don't remove a massive percentage of the US populace from the competitive pool.

Same with milk and dairy production. Federal requirements for pasteurization requires equipment prohibitively expensive to a small time dairy, or cheese producer.

Giving Americans the means of production is the single most important thing we can do to unchain middle class and lower class Americans from their fealty to larger corporations and lower wages, and give the larger corporations some much needed competition from the bottom for better quality goods for the rest of us.

1 comment:

esp said...

Beer swap. I'll send you a mixed 6 pack from Three Brothers in Warrenville (close enough to ride our bikes to) and you send us a six pack of your best.