Believe it or not, yesterday’s entry about werewolves – and looking forward to tweeting about an appearance by animal-friendly comic book writer Grant Morrison on Tuesday – has me thinking about a more serious topic: “puppy mills.”
A visiting vegan pal – less prone than I to sound dismissive of animal welfare crusades and therefore in many people’s minds perhaps more reliable – shares my suspicion that the sudden animus (no pun intended) against “puppy mills,” which seems to be spreading rapidly to become a crusade against all pet stores, may be an under-examined new instance of a “bootlegger-Baptist alliance.”
A bootlegger-Baptist alliance, as libertarians but few others know, is any political situation in which, perversely, it behooves ostensibly-opposed factions to maintain some ban (or other legal rule) that ends up pleasing, for instance, both the black marketeers who will now get extra business and the prudes who get to crow about instituting the ban. Prohibition was great news if you ran a speakeasy (or one of a tiny handful of grandfathered-in distillers) – or if you were a teetotaling temperance crusader. Not so great for everyone who just wanted a drink.
Similar examples include the tobacco company Philip Morris and the anti-tobacco crusaders at Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids co-writing the law that made cigarettes become regulated by the FDA – in the process making it harder for newcomers to enter the tobacco market, even with safer products like smokeless tobacco, and by entering put a dent in Philip Morris’s massive market share (as my former co-workers at ACSH often lament). No one was made safer healthwise (the FDA did not ban cigarettes), yet both Philip Morris and Tobacco Free Kids could claim a big victory.
So who hates “puppy mills” enough to start railing against virtually all the pet stores we tolerated for so many decades (and note that I ask this regardless of how one feels about animal welfare as a moral priority)? Well, both animal activists and fancy dog breeders (for whom the average shopping mall pet store is unwelcome competition). And as often seems to happen in these alliances, two factions of the upper crust (who in many cases probably even socialize with each other despite their philosophical arguments) are likely sticking it to bourgeois shopkeeps in the process, though one of those upper crusty factions speaks for the lowly and oppressed (dogs in this case rather than, say, the homeless) and the other speaks from aristocratic disdain.
It’s not so unlike what I’ve long considered one of the most perverse examples of this sort of dual-purpose ban, minimum-acreage requirements that prevent smaller, cheaper houses for the poor being built – even as the upper-crusty (or mere bourgeois) homeowners of the area likely pat themselves on the back for preventing “crowded slum-dwellings” from being built (near their highly-valued property).
And I honestly say all this without being wholly opposed to animal activists, regular pet stores, or fancy dog breeders – or even aristocratic disdain. In fact, I’m not even saying every bootlegger-Baptist alliance is a bad thing (in fact, a lot of bootleggers and Baptists have probably participated in the very anti-regulatory libertarian movement). I’m just sharing my hunch about one dynamic that may be at work here, for sociological purposes.
And just for the hell of it, here’s “Overweight Hedgehog” again.