Slate had an interesting article today on the DIY movement. Don’t be put off by the title; it’s not all about beer. It’s more of a brief love letter to the DIY movement, including homebrewers, but it makes several mentions of state, local, and national regulations as they relate to Do-It-Yourselfers. I must admit, even as a subnational policy scholar, I hadn’t thought of how cities, states, and even the feds can affect the policy climate for folks like this. The web of city, state, and national regulations governing these activities must be fascinating. To a political scholar, anyway, probably less to “normal” people.
I must admit a certain affinity for these folks. As a former musician, my musical heros – punk bands of the eighties like Black Flag & the Minutemen – embraced the DIY aesthetic in creating their own record labels, venues, recording studios, etc. Not sure how much overlap there is between issues such as welcoming homebrew regulations, backyard agriculture (the chickens the guy mentions in the article), home recording studios, and the like, but the overarching interest in creating something, be it music, beer, or breakfast, is shared across the areas.
It is interesting to think about though. With the proper data, which might be difficult to get, you could create an index of how welcoming jurisdictions are to DIY activities. You’d have to define which activities qualify, likely focusing on the “home industry” stuff like homebrewing, backyard agriculture, biodiesel production, etc. I’m curious as to whether openness to these activities would fall along a single dimension or whether jurisdictional openness to activities like homebrewing might end up being somewhat orthogonal to most DIY activities, particularly in areas with blue laws. In any case, you could produce some interesting maps and charts, showing the ease of engaging in these hobbies across different states and cities.
What I like most about issues like this is how they illuminate the public policy process. All these activities have to intereact with the state, in some capacity, and that’s the essence of public policy. I imagine that the elimination of restrictions (or the establishment of them) would offer some excellent examples of both collective action problems and interest group politics. In short, these are good examples of how “politics” is not just Congress and the President. It permeates everyday life and has a huge impact on how we live, work and play.
Now I just have to figure out how to get some publications out of creating an index of “openness to DIY” activities. Maybe after tenure…