I spoke on Thursday to the Bastiat Society chapter in Charlotte with some observations rooted in public choice theory about the “three-tier” system of state liquor regulation familiar since Prohibition. A few further links for those interested in the subject:
- Tom Wark: “Why do wine and beer wholesalers deliver up more campaign contributions than all wineries, distillers, brewers and retailers combined?” (Because of the rents!) The North Carolina microbrewery angle;
- Matt Yglesias at Slate: “How Looser Regulation Gave D.C. Great Specialty Bars“
- AEI held a panel discussion last spring with Brandon Arnold, Jacob Grier (both formerly with the Cato Institute), and Stephen George, moderated by Tim Carney. Video snippets: Jacob on the history of the 3-tier system (2:00); Brandon on homebrewing (0:44). Here’s Jacob discussing the Oregon system at his cocktails-and-policy blog Liquidity Preference, and here’s Brandon on direct-to-consumer Internet sales.
- On “at rest” laws, and the attempted extension to New York: my posts at Cato and Overlawyered, Wark, and recently from CEI’s Michelle Minton on renewed action in New York.
- Oldie-but-goodie David Spiegel, Regulation mag, 1985 (PDF).
Caitlin Flanagan’s piece in The Atlantic is getting quite a build-up, but Glenn Reynolds concludes that “overall … [it] doesn’t deliver insight commensurate with its length.”
It’s illegal to have an open bar at a ticketed event in Massachusetts, and if you overlook that rule the Boston cops might just show up and get you to “voluntarily” turn some of the event’s proceeds over to them. [Clark at Popehat]
Around half the states, including Vermont, ban “happy hour” promotions at drinking establishments. At Watchdog.org, Jon Street quotes me suggesting it’s past time for the Green Mountain State to drop its ban:
Walter Olson, a senior fellow for constitutional studies at The Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning, Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told Vermont Watchdog, “Why should Vermont insert itself between deals that please restaurants and customers alike?”
“When young people are starting out in the job world, they like moving to the sorts of places where there’s happy hour… It’s good for main streets that don’t want to go dead when the work day ends, good for restaurants trying to reach new customers, and good for tourism. The toll of drunk driving across America has plunged tremendously, both in states that have bans and in those that don’t, and it’s hard to see any difference there,” Olson said.
The happy hour controversy flared up earlier this year in Massachusetts [coverage: MSN, ABC, Consumerist, and Boston Globe (pro-happy-hour column by Farah Stockman)]. Texas alcoholic beverage regulators have a table of state laws here (PDF)
Christopher Snowdon on Britain’s hypertrophy of public health [Spiked Online]:
…["Public health"] once meant vaccinations, sanitation and education. It was ‘public’ only in the sense that it protected people from contagious diseases carried by others. Today, it means protecting people from themselves. The word ‘epidemic’ has also been divorced from its meaning – an outbreak of infectious disease – and is instead used to describe endemic behaviour such as drinking, or non-contagious diseases such as cancer, or physical conditions such as obesity which are neither diseases nor activities. This switch from literal meanings to poetic metaphors helps to maintain the conceit that governments have the same rights and responsibility to police the habits of its citizens as they do to ensure that drinking water is uncontaminated. …
Once again, all it took was a change in terminology. A ‘binge-drinker’ had traditionally been someone who went on a session lasting several days. Now it means anyone who consumes more than three drinks in an evening. … Today, if you are gripped by an urge to eradicate some bad habit or other, you no longer have to make a nuisance of yourself knocking door-to-door or waving a placard in some dismal town square. You can instead find yourself a job in the vast network of publicly funded health groups and transform yourself from crank to ‘advocate’. … Although ‘public health’ is still popularly viewed as a wing of the medical profession, its enormous funding and prestige has attracted countless individuals whose lack of medical qualifications is compensated by their thirst for social change.
“Sin” taxes? “Fines for living in a way that displeases a purse-lipped elite.” For persons who are going to live well into old age in any event, the question is not so much “preventing” one eventual cause of death as swapping one for another, perhaps more troublesome cause. And always, always the moralizing:
It can scarcely be coincidence that the main targets of the public-health movement are the same vices of sloth, gluttony, smoking and drinking that have preoccupied moralists, evangelists and puritans since time immemorial. HL Mencken long ago described public health as ‘the corruption of medicine by morality’.
Whole thing here.
After pleading guilty to driving under the influence, two New Jersey men “subsequently brought a product liability action against the company that made the breath-testing device used to establish their BACs as being in excess of .08%.” Asking for class action status on behalf of all New Jersey drivers convicted after blowing into the device, the “plaintiffs claimed that ‘the Alcotest 7110 contains latent design defects in that it is a piece of respiratory equipment that is not standardized at frequent intervals and there is no provision for calibration of its pulmonary reporting apparatus.’” A court ruled the complaint inadequate on the pleadings, though it has given them a chance to replead. [Steve McConnell, Drug and Device Law]
“Plans to ban the pint glass from pubs throughout the Highlands of Scotland have sparked outrage. The traditional vessel is already outlawed in nightclubs in the Highlands, which are forced to serve all drinks – including champagne, cocktails and the finest malt whiskies – in plastic containers after 9pm because of police fears over potential injury.” The Highland Licensing Board is now proposing to extend the scheme further, against objections from pub owners as well as critics of the Nanny State generally. [Telegraph]
“Young New Yorkers would not be able to buy cigarettes until they were 21, up from the current 18, under a proposal advanced [last month] by Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the city’s health commissioner, and Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker.” [New York Times via J.D. Tuccille] Or at least would not be able to buy them legally: according to estimates from the Mackinac Institute, New York state already has the nation’s highest rate of smuggled cigarette consumption, at more than 60 percent of its total market. [Catherine Rampell, NYT; Mackinac; Tax Foundation; Christopher Snowdon, "The Wages of Sin Taxes" (CEI, PDF)]
More: As the legal drinking age has been pushed upward in recent years, the average age of first use of alcohol has fallen markedly [Tuccille]
“A police officer fired for driving drunk in an unmarked police car while off-duty has filed a $6 million lawsuit against the city of Gresham, the police chief and others, alleging his rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit filed in Portland alleged the officer, Jason Servo, was suffering from alcoholism, a recognized disability under the act, and shouldn’t have been dismissed.” [AP] In my book The Excuse Factory I sketched some of the history of how alcoholism (at least when the subject declares a willingness to participate in rehab) came to be protected under the ADA.