One of the biggest problems with regulations is their inflexibility. You try and regulate one product that is viewed by some as potentially dangerous, and as a result you end up harming a product that shares enough qualities to make it fall under the regulation, yet does not share the qualities that motivated the regulation in the first place. For instance, when safety regulations targeting large toy manufacturers put handmade toy companies out of business. This is exactly what has happened with the Four Loko regulation, which has also banned a small microbrew that uses caffeine.
The beer is called Moonshot ’69, and it was created by one of the founders of Sam Adams. The New York Times provides the details, including the fact that the beer was going to be sold at a beer festival this month, and that the owner has $25,000 worth of inventory she can’t get rid of.
As you read about Moonshot ’69 you may find yourself thinking that the regulation was clearly not designed to affect a microbrew like this, and that the ban shouldn’t affect the kind of beers that get sold at beer festivals. This is because while the regulation is ostensibly about caffeinated beer, as Robin Hanson argues, it’s actually about regulating a “particular vaguely-imagined classes of people”. Politicians want to regulate Four Loko drinkers, not caffeinated beer.
If you find this troubling just be glad that you and all the former Four Loko and Moonshot ’69 drinkers can, for some strange reason, console yourselves with a Redbull and Vodka. That is, for now.