Bootleggers and Baptists; Silversmiths and Artemis Cultists
By Robert Higgs • Thursday December 5, 2013 9:41 AM PDT •
All students of government regulation (and, to some extent, of other intervention, as well) know about Bruce Yandle’s model of bootleggers and Baptists. In this vision, a special interest with a large financial stake in a regulation joins forces politically (sometimes only covertly or simply in effect) with a religious or ideological interest group that seeks the same regulation on ostensibly less venal grounds. The latter group gives political cover and public respectability to the former group, which generally provides most of the money to carry out the politicking. I recently came across what must rank as one of the earliest examples of such a situation, which is described in chapter 19 of The Acts of the Apostles:
About that time there arose no little stir concerning the [Christian] Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only at Ephesus but almost throughout all Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable company of people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may count for nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” When they heard this they were enraged, and cried out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion; and they rushed together into the theater . . . . Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, wishing to make a defense to the people. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all with one voice cried out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” [Acts 19:23-29, 33-34]
Bootleggers and Baptists; silversmiths and Artemis cultists: essentially the same setup for political purposes.