One of the sillier claims made by opponents of alcohol market liberalization is that allowing privately-owned stores to sell liquor would result in less selection:
This would likely be true for rural areas, but for the vast majority of state consumers, alcohol selection would definitely improve. The one thing markets are great at is delivering the goods that people want. If there’s demand for a certain brand of wine or liquor in your area, you can be sure that markets will supply it. Maybe not at the grocery store, but certainly at a specialty liquor store. And if not there, then on the Internet.
UFCW is making a ridiculous argument about this:
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, the union representing the approximately 3,000 employees in the state-run liquor stores, has been the most vocal opponent of privatization.
They and other opponents have argued that privatization actually will result in fewer options for consumers because grocery stores and convenience stores do not have the space to stock the wide array of choices that some of the largest state-owned liquor stores do.
In a free market with no restrictions on who can sell alcohol, the shape of the alcohol market would be this:
- Grocery stores sell all the popular brands, and experiment with a few obscure brands with niche popularity.
- Convenience stores and gas stations sell only popular brands
- Smaller specialty liquor stores sell harder-to-find niche brands, mostly in the big metros. Any brand that gets popular in these stores will eventually find its way to supermarket shelves.
- The Internet sells everything you want
Depending on how much lawmakers decide to restrict who can sell alcohol, and what kinds, selection may be worse than I am describing. But that’s an argument for placing as few restrictions as are politically possible on the seller side.
It continues to be the case that the only argument for the state monopoly that is even remotely persuasive is the jobs argument. The arguments that state stores do a better job on consumer choice, public health and safety are all hilariously bad. The only area where state stores do better than private stores is wages. Arguing that the state monopoly is worth preserving because you care about the jobs isn’t a crazy position. But it’s irritating having to play whack-a-mole with all these other nonsense talking points, which are really just meant to distract from the real disagreement. Just say it’s about the jobs. It’s your strongest point.
Personally I don’t think overpaying 5000 individuals is a good use of scarce public dollars, and the reason I feel that way is because this does not get us any closer to higher wages or better working conditions for private retail workers. It’s not any kind of symbolic win or anything, since you’ll never have a state monopoly on all the state’s retail jobs, nor should we want that. Also, the jobs aren’t going away. Even the Turzai plan, which was far too restrictive on the seller side, would’ve created more liquor stores than currently exist. All the people currently working in the state stores will be able to find jobs at liquor stores if they want. It’s really just the wages.
(Thanks: Eric Boehm)