A number of distilleries in Mississippi are producing a new item for sale as the coronavirus spreads and one very essential product is available in limited quantities: hand sanitizer. 

This didn’t come from a government mandate on the private sector. It was actually the opposite. The federal government stood in the way, until they reversed a couple regulations. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau waived requirements to obtain permits to legally manufacture hand sanitizer and removed the excise tax for alcohol-based hand sanitizer products. That wasn’t all.

The Food and Drug Administration then had to issue guidance saying they do not “intend to take action against manufacturing firms that prepare alcohol‐​based hand sanitizers for consumer use and for use as health care personnel hand rubs during this ongoing public health emergency.”

It makes sense that distilleries would be a natural fit for a product that contains a high amount of alcohol. And numerous Mississippi distilleries, which have had to close their bars and stop providing tours, are taking advantage of the relaxed rules. And if anyone understands overzealous government regulations, it is alcohol producers. 

“I’m covered up in it — trying to make as much of the stuff as we can,” said David Rich, owner of Rich Grain Distilling Co. in Canton. Lazy Magnolia Brewery in Kiln is also making hand sanitizer.

In times of crisis, we often look to the government for an initial response. That is understandable. Yet it is the private sector who has always, and will always, respond as they can in times of need. As a new column in the Wall Street Journal outlines, Honeywell and 3M are hiring workers and increasing output for N95 masks. Ford and General Motors are using their global supply chain to make face shields, ventilators, and respirators. It is the private sector that created the technology that streamlined curbside pickup and delivery for grocery stores and restaurants.

And, of course, distilleries are now making hand sanitizer. Since government is no longer in the way.