Henry Kelley: Beer battle shows how cronyism trumps good policy in Florida

One of the most frustrating things in today’s political climate is the sense that if we hold one party accountable for its actions, we somehow are endorsing the other party’s behavior on all things.

I am proud of my opposition to many Republican bills, not because I suddenly love the Democrats, but because I believe America is best served by the smallest government possible.

Simply stated, I believe in “policy,” not politics.

Aaron Deslatte’s article about the “Politics of Beer” is an example of how cronyism trumps good policy in Florida, and it happens almost every time the established players are threatened by innovation, regardless of the party in power.

In the case of craft beers, normally pro-business, anti-regulation legislators are imposing regulations on small craft beer manufacturers because major distributors – and generous campaign contributors — like Budweiser want to use the law to hamper potential competitors.

It pains me that much of this anti-competition legislation has been crafted by the political party I belong to.

My close friends know (somewhat painfully) that what I love is “policy”  — a robust discussion of the wording of a bill or ordinance, and its impact on Americans.

This is why I opposed both the “Patriot Act” and “Affordable Care Act” — both cynically named because it’s clear that the results of both laws are exactly the opposite of what their titles promised.

I have been involved in a startup business for several years.  My two business partners and I took a large risk. It’s been a painful lesson in government regulation.

While my project has nothing to do with beer, the regulatory environment is so skewed toward the “big guys” that it’s shocking to me as a limited-government advocate.

As a nation, we are losing the long-standing idea that regardless of where our family started, we can succeed or fail on our own merits.

I will not recount the regulatory hurdles we have cleared and the many that still lie ahead.  Few know the countless nights spent sleeping on a warehouse floor to save on rent, and all the other things we have endured to launch our business. Let’s just say it has been “challenging.”

My story will have a happy ending because I’m blessed with business partners too smart and too stubborn to let it fail. But the next time you ask yourself “why does this beer cost so much?” consider the hidden cost of regulation. Then, call your elected officials and put a focus on what is hindering today’s entrepreneurs.

Put aside the “politics of party” and focused on “policy” because that is what matters.   Only through your action can you put an end to this cronyism of our government.

Henry Kelley is a businessman and founder of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party. He lives in Okaloosa County. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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