Instead of me harping about how government screws things up, which they often do, let’s focus on some happy thoughts.  Let’s talk about moonshine – how it has been a human indulgence for well over 5,000 years and how it is a worldwide phenomenon. Let me tell you some stories, and let me mention why this is an important topic.

Every nation on the planet has its own “shiners” that make products from whatever sugar and yeast is most available to them. All over the world, people have invented ways for natural sugars to be fermented in a pot with yeast to make an alcohol brew. Sometimes it is consumed as it is fermented, but most of the time this brew is distilled to heighten the alcohol content or flavor of what we and most everyone calls “moonshine.”

In most places, the art of making these brews is just part of the local environment. In recent years (especially in the U.S.), however, government has intervened to control the production and consumption of shine for the simple purpose of collecting a fee and controlling the distribution of these beverages. It is remarkable that in today’s world shine costs less than a dollar a gallon to produce. That is the truth, in spite of all the fancy talk and sales jargon about what the booze biz is all about. So, it is quite understandable that the business of making and selling alcoholic beverages has become corrupt. The government controls and licenses operations to create tax revenues; distillers make exotic claims about what is really a simple process; wholesalers and distributors control the process of market access for products; and the consumer has no clue about the realities of it all.

Jeff and I are American moonshiners. We met about 10 years ago. It turned out that Jeff’s strong retail background led the way to opening a liquor store in Hilton Head, S.C., which led us both to want to improve what people really do not know about the “dark side” of the American moonshine world. Law prohibits any person not authorized by government from making shine. You cannot make it in your own house for your own consumption. Most shiners spend their lives running from the law unable to operate a “proper business,” much less make a decent living.

So, Jeff went out and found illegal shiners, 153 to date, and helped get them legal and square with the law. So far, 56 distilleries have been converted. These shiners are now licensed to produce their products legally in a stable business. Things have changed over the past few years. In fact, the moonshine business has exploded in the U.S. over the past decade. A few changes in federal and state laws boosted shine’s popularity. For example, laws were adjusted to allow “tastings” in retail stores selling shine, which improved its image as a beverage. And the public perception of shine has changed thanks to television programs and advertising by legitimate people like Junior Johnson and Tim Smith. Just to prove that all this is serious, visit

All of this is mentioned to you here because it offers some good lessons for businessmen. First, it is to national benefit when truth and honesty in government law and policy is accurately portrayed to and understood by the public. Second, it is to business-community benefit when those who work in a particular field but lack the right focus or resources are lent a guiding hand when needed to improve performance. This really means spending the effort to identify those who have the ability to be winners and achieve their goal before they become losers. Third, it becomes a habit to identify problems to government and lead efforts to change laws and practical enforcements to improve instead of control outcomes of what are corrupt and valueless practices. 

It is also important to remember that happy Irish song that inspired this message today: “Lads, there’s whiskey in the jar!”