How Beer Regs Throttle the Brewery Industry

Image: Quinn Dombrowski
Image: Quinn Dombrowski

Here in Colorado, many craft brewers have sided with liquor stores to keep it illegal for grocery stores to sell anything other than 3.2 beer (except for one store in a chain). Not only is this stance by brewers morally wrong, because such regulations violate people’s rights, but it is incredibly short-sighted and self-destructive. (See my previous article.) Craft brewers would be far better off if they’d rally to repeal all onerous regulations of the beer industry, rather than undercut their moral authority to do so by selectively endorsing protectionist laws.

As Michelle Minton writes for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the very existence of craft breweries is due to lifting regulations against it:

[H]ome-brewing was still illegal until 1978 when then President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to legalize brewing in the home for personal or family use. In that year, the number of breweries was at its lowest point after the repeal of Prohibition. But in the 1980s, after states began to legalize brewpubs, the number of brewers began to rise.

But the beer and liquor industry is still very tightly and crazily regulated, particularly in its distribution systems, as Minton notes. She explains that the “mandatory three-tiered distribution system . . . requires brewers to sell their beer to wholesalers and prohibits from selling directly to consumers with a few exceptions.”

People should be able to brew what they want and sell it how they want, and consumers should be able to buy what they want from willing sellers. It’s called liberty.

Free Colorado’s Beer and Liquor Markets

At a recent Liberty On the Rocks event, Kris Cook and I argued in favor of free markets in beer and liquor sales. The event was actually a debate, but, as the other participants didn’t actually believe their stance, I didn’t want to include that footage.

We make the following basic points:

* We have a moral right to buy and sell what we please, from whom we please (within the context of consenting adults), by voluntary association.

* The Colorado laws prohibiting (most) grocery stores from selling regular beer, wine, and alcohol violate our rights to protect a special interest.

* Because of the law, Colorado consumers pay higher prices and suffer loss of convenience. But, because a small group artificially gains wealth by the law, it lobbies to maintain it.

* Claims that establishing a free market would lead to less safety or less beer selection constitute bogus fear-mongering. Other states without the restrictions don’t experience those problems.

* Likewise, claims that establishing a free market would “cost jobs” constitute gross ignorance of basic economics. A free market would instead direct resources to more highly valued uses, thereby creating more wealth.

Bill Johnson “Detests” Liberty in Beer Sales

Denver Post editorial columnist Bill Johnson (whose tirades inexplicably appear on the news pages of the paper) “detests” a bill to expand economic liberty and consumer choice in the beer trade, he writes in in his latest piece.

Johnson dislikes a bill that would allow consenting adults — grocers and consumers — to agree to exchange dollars for regular-strength beer. Currently Colorado law forcibly prohibits such voluntary exchanges and limits grocery stores (except for a single store in a chain) to low-alcohol beer.

To Johnson, the issue is about “the little guy” versus “corporate America,” and a “government… threatening yet again to shut” down liquor stores. Johnson doesn’t mention a single word about the fact that the so-called “little guy” liquor stores (which often also are corporate entities) currently use government force to block the competition.

What about the littlest guy of all, the lone consumer without the resources to relentlessly lobby the legislature, as liquor stores do? Consumers should be able to buy whatever beer they want from the seller of their choice. But their rights are irrelevant in Johnson’s world.

To be sure, the legislature also oppresses liquor stores by forcibly preventing them from selling most food and from opening chains. Those laws should be repealed. But two wrongs do not make a right, and rights-violating restrictions on liquor stores hardly justify additional restrictions on grocers. Justice requires the complete repudiation of all such anti-liberty controls.

Liquor store owners went into businesses knowing full well that current law benefits them by forcibly blocking their competitors. Those who start a businesses relying on the protection of unjust laws have no grounds to complain when those unjust laws finally are repealed. To the degree that the economic interests of liquor stores depend on violating people’s rights, those interests properly bear no legal weight.

Two main special interests oppose expanding a free market in beer sales: liquor stores and brewers like Mike Bristol. They argue that, if grocers were allowed to sell the beer of their choice, consumers would flock to grocers for their beer purchases, and they would stop buying craft beer. Such hyperventilating claims not only defy reality, they demean consumers as well as liquor store owners and craft brewers.

If consumers only shopped at liquor stores and only purchased craft beer because the law forcibly prevented them from doing otherwise, then obviously existing law harms consumers. Bristol basically is arguing that his beer is so bad that he must force people to drink it, and if he stops using force, people will strop drinking it. Well, if his beer is so bad that consumers would not voluntarily choose to buy it on a free market, then he should stop producing it! Likewise, if liquor stores exist only because the law forcibly prevents consumers from shopping elsewhere, then obviously those stores are not meeting consumers’ needs.

I would expect Bristol to take a little more pride in his work than that. If you have a good product, Mr. Bristol, then you should trust consumers to purchase it voluntarily. Just as it was wrong for Prohibition to once put beer brewers like you out of businesses, so it is wrong for you to use the force of unjust laws to block voluntary exchanges.

The simple fact is that, once grocers sell regular-strength beer, some will stock many craft beers, and others will not. That’s the case with liquor stores now. Guess what: stores stock what their customers like to buy. I personally have not purchased anything other than high-quality beer for many years (I have a wonderful Vanilla Porter in the fridge right now from Breckenridge Brewery), and I’m not going to start buying Bud and Coors just because the law permits a free market in beer sales.

Having been to many of Colorado’s fine breweries, talked to several of the state’s brewers, and chatted with hundreds of beer enthusiasts, it is obvious to me that there is a strong market in Colorado for craft beer. That market is not somehow going to evaporate just because grocery stores can sell beer. What that market presents is an opportunity for liquor stores to specialize in selection. I doubt that many grocery stores will offer services like pick-and-choose six-packs, as various liquor stores already provide. As is obvious to anyone who has traveled outside Colorado, liquor stores continue to thrive in states where grocers may sell regular-strength beer.

As for Johnson’s argument about putting people out of work, perhaps Johnson should brush up on his Bastiat so he doesn’t sound like such an economic illiterate. What is immediately seen is that some liquor stores may enjoy less business or even shut down. What is not seen is that, if that happens, it will happen because some consumers are better off buying beer at grocery stores. What Johnson ignores are the extra jobs at the grocery stores, the extra money in consumers’ pockets that can be spent elsewhere, and the extra time consumers have to produce or relax.

The legislature has no legitimate businesses forcibly disrupting the competitors of select businesses. Laws that prevent consenting adults from associating voluntarily to trade beer for dollars violate the rights of both buyer and seller. Shops that survive solely because they are protected by unjust laws do not deserve to be in business. Liquor store owners and brewers who actually take pride in their work and meet the needs of consumers will continue to thrive in a free market.

Give us liberty. Protect people’s rights. Restore a free market in beer.

Additional reading:
Time for a Free Market in the Alcohol Industry
Free Liquor Stores from Prohibition-Era Rules
Another Look at Blue Laws
Time to Bring Beer Sales to Ballot
Beer Smash Protests Protectionism | Photos
CO Brewers Should Endorse Liberty
A Good Beer Needs No Political Force
Blue-law special


Anonymous commented March 29, 2011 at 12:18 PM
Have you ever been to California? They allow all types of liquor sales in grocery stores there and it is very hard to find an independent liquor store. Though the grocery stores have a reasonable selection of products it is not as good as many of our independent Colorado liquor stores. And forget trying to get a recommendation on a good wine from a grocery store clerk.

You seem to make the assumption that we live in a free market and therefore we need to let the free market decide winners. I have some news for you; our market is not free. The overwhelming power of the large corporations easily stacks the deck in their favor. You seem to have bought into the idea that liberty and individualism means stripping away protections for small business from large predatory corporations because doing so fits into your “free market” ideology. The problem is that when the market is not truly free the outcome of your action is collectivism. So, are you and individualist or a collectivist?

You don’t believe me? Look at any small mid-western town’s Main Street thirty years ago and compare it to now since Wal-Mart moved into town. This is how collectivism wins the game under the guise of the “free market”.

Ari commented March 29, 2011 at 12:24 PM
Arizona allows grocers to sell beer and wine. Check out all the independent liquor stores in Phoenix: And here is a listing of liquor stores in Los Angeles:

Your basic confusion, Anonymous, is over the meaning of a free market. A free market is NOT one free from competition. A free market is free from the initiation of force. If individuals wish to voluntarily shop at larger corporate stores, that’s their right. If smaller stores can’t compete on an open market, that proves only that they cannot meet the needs of consumers as well. We don’t need “protection” from lower prices and more convenience!

Anonymous commented March 29, 2011 at 3:15 PM
If you truly believe that the “free market” we have today is not massively weighted toward the success of large corporations through various laws, tax breaks, and lobbyists then there is little hope for you! Competition is not really competition when the deck is stacked.

Ari commented March 29, 2011 at 3:24 PM
I never claimed we have a free market now; the problem is that we do not. But the answer to unjust controls is not more unjust controls, it is more freedom. But the simple fact is that consumers suffer unjust liquor controls because of the lobbyists and political power of the liquor stores and brewers. Currently the deck is stacked against consumers, and I’m trying to unstack it. You’re trying to keep it stacked.

Anonymous commented March 30, 2011 at 7:05 AM
Our so called free market is at minimum, is 50% socialistic. If you do not understand this, you do not understand politics. Our social structure is also 50% socialist. The United States Constitution did not guarantee liberty; it guaranteed a Republic form of government. This Republic form of government has created a half free Nation.

I have never heard Ari claim we have a free market unlike old timers such as Rosen . I gotta give Rosen credit because the last few years he has morphed from free market to political economy.

Brew your own,grow your own, then you can have whatever you want, when you want it, nearly tax free!

Anonymous commented March 30, 2011 at 8:01 AM
Anon said: You don’t believe me? Look at any small mid-western town’s Main Street thirty years ago and compare it to now since Wal-Mart moved into town. This is how collectivism wins the game under the guise of the “free market”.

I am not saying there are not laws that go against main street however I thought main street failed because shop owners wanted to sale only 2 lawnmowers per month yet afford a caviar life style?

Wal-Mart brings affordable groceries’ to the masses.

This is called efficiency, something we all want.

Time for a Free Market in the Alcohol Industry

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published December 10 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Has Colorado’s liquor enforcement finally become so absurd that legislators will reform the laws to allow free markets? The point of Prohibition was to stop people from drinking. Now laws stemming from Prohibition will force people to buy higher-alcohol beer in restaurants and taverns.

Jessica Fender wrote up the sad story for the Denver Post. While grocery stores can sell only low-strength beer, new rules will prohibit restaurants and taverns from selling anything less than “4 percent alcohol by volume or 3.2 percent by weight.” Fender adds, “Beermakers will have to test their suds and submit an affidavit stating their alcohol content to authorities.”

Apparently, in this time of economic trouble and budget cuts, it is a pressing state priority that people get as drunk as possible at bars and that small business owners spend more resources fighting through red tape.

Unfortunately, the state does far more than control the potency of beer. Politicians ban liquor stores from opening franchises. They ban liquor stores from selling food, except for “liquor-filled candy” and “cocktail garnish in containers up to sixteen ounces.” They ban nearly all grocery stores from selling wine, liquor, and regular-strength beer; only one store in a chain can sell those products.

The state’s liquor laws make a mockery of justice and the law. They benefit some special interests at the expense of consumers, and they ensure that liquor lobbyists perpetually kiss the backsides of legislators.

Perhaps a glance at history will help put the matter in perspective. When Ari lived east of downtown Palisade back in the 1970s, that area was called “Vineland,” though it was covered in fruit trees. Where did the name come from?

In his book “The Story of Colorado Wines,” Abbot Fay writes, “By the spring of 1882 settlers were bringing fruit and grapevine stock” to the Western Slope. adds, “Governor George A. Crawford, who founded Grand Junction in 1881, plant[ed] sixty acres of grapes and other fruit on Rapid Creek above Palisade.”

But anti-liberty activists and politicians soon destroyed the wine industry. “The Women’s Christian Temperance Union became very active in Colorado at the beginning of the twentieth century,” Fay continues. Mesa County “went dry in 1909,” and “by 1916 the State of Colorado as a whole had adopted Prohibition.”

Fay writes, “As a result of Prohibition, many grapevines in the Grand Valley were uprooted, and the Palisade area was re-planted — mostly in peaches.” And “it took almost half a century before” farmers started growing grapes again. So that explains why, for several decades, Vineland featured practically no vines.

We are heartened that Colorado, once an early adopter of Prohibition, now blossoms with wineries and brew pubs. The Colorado Department of Agriculture reports that the number of wineries in the state has reached 100. As of 2008, the wine industry generated over $17 million in revenues and sold around 100,000 liters. Vineland is back!

For beer, the Colorado Brewers Guild reports that Colorado is home to 130 breweries, giving the state high rankings in terms of numbers of breweries and volume of beer produced.

Unfortunately, some of those producers have forgotten the history of oppression in their own industry and have turned to oppressing others. For example, earlier this year the Brewers Guild opposed a law to allow grocers to sell regular-strength beer to willing customers.

To get back to the basics, the proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights to produce and interact voluntarily with others. Colorado’s liquor laws instead violate people’s rights by restricting production and people’s ability to trade.

The government does play a legitimate role in alcohol and other industries: to ban the use of force and protect the right of consenting adults to contract freely.

The government may properly restrict the sale of certain potentially dangerous items to minors, on the grounds that minors are not mature enough to reasonably consent to the exchange. (However, we would add, once a person turns 18 and can vote, go to war, and sign contracts, that person is no longer a minor.) And, so long as the government controls the roads, part of its role must be to keep people safe from drunk drivers.

All the statutes beyond those basic functions should be repealed. The liquor enforcers should be released and allowed to seek useful employment at a real job. Working at a meaningless, socially destructive job at taxpayers’ expense must take a mental toll on those enforcers. The tax money currently wasted enforcing stupid liquor laws should be returned to those who earned it.

Colorado made a bit of progress toward free markets in allowing Sunday liquor sales. It is time to finish the job and establish consistently free markets for wine, beer, and liquor.

Free Liquor Stores from Prohibition-Era Rules

The following article originally was published February 7 by Colorado Daily.

Free Colorado’s liquor stores from Prohibition-era rules

by Ari Armstrong

Colorado unemployment rose back up to 7.5 percent in December. We remain in an economic slump. Gov. Bill Ritter has implemented and proposed a wide variety of net tax hikes and fees. The state budget remains in shambles.

Why, then, is the state’s Liquor Enforcement Division spending precious tax dollars to attack businesses, raise prices and interfere with the free exchange of goods?

The problem is what Liquor Enforcer Laura Harris calls “hidden ownership” between two different liquor stores, as reported by Monte Whaley for the Denver Post. Henry (or Hani) Sawaged owns Daveco Liquors in Thornton, certified by Guinness as the world’s largest liquor store. Henry’s brother Issam owns Davidsons Liquors in Highlands Ranch. (The Sawaged family immigrated from Jordan in 1979, fleeing religious persecution, Whaley notes.)

Whaley describes the allegations: “The Sawaged brothers negotiated the prices of major liquor purchases, signed leases and advertising agreements, oversaw employees and made other decisions on behalf of both stores, even though they were not both listed on the stores’ liquor licenses.”

In other words, the brothers are accused of buying from willing suppliers, selling to willing customers and running their businesses.

Leave it to the bureaucrats to persecute such “capitalist acts among consenting adults” (as philosopher Robert Nozick phrased it).

Why is this even a problem? Colorado law outlaws liquor store chains, meaning the same owner cannot open or help operate a second store.

That’s why there’s only one Daveco, Argonaut, and Applejack, and that’s why you can buy liquor from only a single Whole Foods in the state.

Chains of other types of stores are common, from King Soopers to Radio Shack. Even brewpubs can operate chains. The owners of Boulder’s Mountain Sun also run Southern Sun and the Vine Street Pub in Denver. Rock Bottom runs seven Colorado pubs and is part of a larger chain of brewpubs and restaurants.

So why are owners of liquor stores denied the right to expand to other shops?

Colorado consumers still suffer from legal restrictions coming out of Prohibition. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that liquor stores could open on Sundays. State statute also forbids liquor stores from selling “food items that could constitute a snack, a meal or a portion of a meal.” (They can, however, sell “liquor-filled candy” and “cocktail garnish in containers up to sixteen ounces.”)

No doubt some liquor stores enjoy the statutory protection from competition. Various liquor store owners have also lobbied against proposals to allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer, wine and liquor.

Who pays for this political war on free-market competition is the consumer and taxpayer. Consumers pay higher prices for less-convenient shopping. And taxpayers pay the salaries and expenses of those charged with micromanaging the liquor industry, like making sure that garnish containers never exceed sixteen ounces.

Competitive business owners also pay a price, because those most willing and able to sell goods to willing consumers are, in many cases, legally prohibited from doing so.

Perhaps it’s time for a sober reexamination of those statutes.

Ari Armstrong is a guest writer for the Independence Institute and the publisher of

Beer Smash Protests Protectionism

This morning some friends and I hosted a media conference in Denver to advocate freedom in beer sales and to protest beer protectionism. Earl Allen, who spoke at the event along with Amanda Teresi and Dave Williams (and me), put together a YouTube video:

Here’s the release I sent out yesterday:

ISSUE: Allow Grocery Sales of Real Beer, End Protectionism

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: Smashing Beer Bottles to protest beer protectionism and advocate liberty in beer sales

WHEN AND WHERE: West Steps, Colorado Capitol, 11:00 a.m., Friday, March 13

Ari Armstrong, publisher of
Amanda Teresi, founder of Liberty on the Rocks
Dave Williams, president of the Gadsden Society
Additional speakers pending [Earl Allen became the fourth speaker]

“Grocery stores have a right to sell regular beer to consenting adults, and beer drinkers have the right to shop at stores of their choice. By killing Bill 1192 Wednesday, the legislature maintained unjust protectionism at the cost of individual liberty, property rights, and freedom of association,” said Ari Armstrong.

Armstrong will smash beer bottles from Colorado brewers who endorsed protectionism. The event will feature appropriate measures for safety and cleanup, so no beer or glass will be left on state property.

“The protectionists are smashing our liberty, so it’s only appropriate that we smash their beer,” Armstrong said.

Brewers who opposed 1192, thereby endorsing protectionism, include the following:

Bristol Brewing Co.

Del Norte Brewing Company

Colorado Brewers Guild

I do think it’s a mistake to think that the Brewer’s Guild necessarily speaks for all its members. I don’t mean to suggest that Bristol and Del Norte are the only or primary offenders; they’re just the ones I learned about. (Bristol’s oatmeal stout is spectacular, by the way, so I was especially pained to break bottles of that.)

I support Colorado’s beer and wine industry, and I have supported the freedom of brewers to produce and sell their products. Beer and wine producers, above all other businesses, should understand the devastating power of political intervention. Their industry was legally squashed for years in this nation. So why do some brewers support using political force to squash certain business transactions now? They should know better.

Other things equal, I’d prefer to buy my beer from producers who stand up for freedom rather than trample individual rights. So if anybody knows of any Colorado brewers who opposed the protectionist measures restricting grocery beer sales (or that even took an officially neutral position), please let me know, and I’d be happy to promote those brewers and go out of my way to buy beer from them.

I support liberty, and I try to support businesses that support liberty.

7 News broadcast the event live just after 11:00 a.m. CBS4 also published a story on the event, as did 9News.

Blogger Richard Combs writes, “I agree completely with Ari that this is unjust protectionism, and that the State of Colorado should long ago have abandoned this vestige of prohibitionism… But… the idea of smashing perfectly good, drinkable bottles of beer just disturbs me deeply.”

I hear you, my friend, but what’s truly disturbing is the political smashing of our liberties.

I’m going to end my evening, of course, with a beer, and a toast to liberty.

Squash Competition to Save It?

I had to laugh at this headline for a Rocky Mountain News Speakout by William J. Barr: “Chain stores would ruin Colorado’s competitive liquor business.”

The thrust the piece is that Colorado’s legislature must maintain the ban on chain liquor stores in order to preserve competition. In other words, in Barr’s view, “competition” means threatening to send in armed officers to prevent people from opening stores. “Competition” means forcibly preventing people from associating voluntarily in the economic sphere. In short, according to Barr, “competition” means outlawing select “capitalist acts among consenting adults,” to again invoke Nozick.

Barr’s position is utterly ridiculous. Using political force to shut down one’s competitors is the antithesis of free-market competition. But apparently Barr favors the sort of competition by which special interest groups grovel for protectionist legislation from morally corrupt politicians.

Real competition means that people have the protected right to offer their goods and services freely to willing customers. Nobody is forcing a single consumer to do business with a store that happens to be part of a chain. On a free market, any store that does not meet the needs of consumers will fail. If a chain succeeds on a free market, it is because quality management, economies of scale, and/or earned reputation draws in customers. So what Barr is really arguing is that customers must be forcibly prevented from doing business with stores that best meet their needs.

The Sin is the Tax

So-called “sin taxes” are appropriately named, because it is morally wrong to forcibly transfer wealth even if the taxes discriminate against politically-incorrect behavior. Here’s the latest from the Rocky Mountain News:

…Denver Democrat [Rep. Jerry Frangas] very quietly drafted a bill introduced this week that would raise alcohol taxes 2 percent to cover all of Colorado’s 180,000 uninsured children.

The tax of 11 cents, for example, on a $5.49 six-pack of Budweiser, would raise about $57 million for the state children’s health care program. When paired with federal matching funds, Frangas said it would provide up to $150 million.

In other words, through the magic of federal “matching” welfare payments, Frangas can capture a portion of the national income tax by imposing a state sales tax. That way, Frangas can also force people in every other state to fund the health care of select Coloradans. Ah, the glories of federalism in the modern age.

But socialized medicine is fine, “for the children,” right? On the contrary, generally parents have a moral obligation to fund their own children’s health-care expenses, and they should plan their families and expenses accordingly. Of course, parents whose children suffer unexpected, catastrophic illnesses already benefit from a wide array of voluntary charity programs (often in addition to insurance payments), as is appropriate. All of us want to see innocent children taken care of, which is exactly why even today’s mixed economy often provides for their needs and why a truly free market would do so even better. However, unlike force-funded welfare, voluntary charity is more likely to discourage dependency and irresponsibility on the part of the parents. Offhand, I don’t have a good estimate for how much socialized medicine “for the children” displaces private insurance (and discourages parental responsibility), but the figure is large. And, obviously, socialized medicine “for the children” is merely a stepping stone to socialized medicine for everyone. As one advocate of politically-funded medicine reportedly said, “[S]ome of you may think of me as an incrementalist. I prefer to think of myself as a sneaky sequentialist.”

If politicians really wanted to help, they would repeal the interventions that have artificially increased the costs of health care and insurance and reduced access to medical services especially among the poor (as Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh explain.)

What about a tax on alcohol? I oppose sales taxes in general. But, so long as there is a sales tax, it is wrong to discriminate against some people (in this case consumers of alcoholic beverages) and select legal activities. No doubt advocates of the tax on alcohol will argue that the tax would fund a “worthy” welfare program while discouraging a vice. But it is the proper role of government to protect individual rights, not to socially engineer behavior desired by politicians. While obviously alcohol can be abused — as can many other properly legal products — there is nothing inherently rights-violating or irresponsible about drinking alcohol. And purchasers of alcohol ought not be uniquely forced to subsidize other people’s children.

Bye-Bye Blue Laws?

It seems likely that the Democrats will succeed at what Republicans never even attempted: repeal the Blue Law that prohibits Sunday liquor sales at stores. (I have heard of no attempt to remove the restrictions on Sunday auto sales.) While Democrats usually climb all over themselves to impose more economic controls, this time they seem ready to do the unthinkable: expand economic liberty.

Roger Fillion writes for the Rocky Mountain News:

SB-082, introduced by Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, would permit liquor stores to open Sundays. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., bar Sunday sales of distilled spirits. …

Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, is expected to offer a bill soon that would permit grocery stores such as Safeway and King Soopers to sell regular beer and wine six days a week, except Sundays. Stores that qualify must have a pharmacy and food sales that make up at least 51 percent of gross sales.

The reason that the bill is likely to pass this year, notes Fillion, is that “Colorado liquor store owners have reversed their long-standing opposition to Sunday liquor sales.” But of course liquor stores are opposed to allowing free-market competition at grocery stores; instead, liquor stores want to rely upon existing protectionist legislation to squash competition. So any grocery-store reform is unlikely. Still, I’ll take half a loaf this year, though I’ll continue to advocate economic liberty across the board.

According to the article, many liquor stores now want Sunday sales for two reasons. First, they think they can make money on Sunday. Second, they think that, by offering customers better service, they’ll reduce support for the grocery-store bill:

“If it’s what the consumer wants and it’s going there, there’s no use fighting it,” said Scott Robinson, co-owner of Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins, summing up the general attitude. “We’ll make more money being open seven days a week.”

Robinson also conceded that support of the Sunday sales legislation could help liquor store owners head off the grocery store bill.

“We’d rather be meeting the needs of the consumer when that one shows up,” he said.

Yet, while the article talks about “convenience,” jobs, and revenues, not once does the article mention the central issue: individual rights. Stores and their customers have the right to do business on mutually agreeable terms, without political interference. Of course, Democrats are afraid to talk about individual rights in the economic sphere, because then they might actually have to take economic liberty seriously.

Dempsey Challenges Unreasonable Alcohol Laws

Bob Dempsey, the coroner of San Miguel County, wrote a critique of two of MADD’s policies, the 0.08 percent blood-alcohol limit for driving and the 21-year age restriction. Dempsey’s article was published on December 29 in The Telluride Watch. Regarding the blood-alcohol limit, Dempsey writes:

… Among coroners who I have talked to, most believe problems don’t begin until about 0.12, which would be a more realistic legal level. … At 0.08 there is little probability of causing an accident. Because of MADD’s low-limit success, the fight against drunk driving has shifted from serious abusers to responsible drinkers. Law enforcement has become less selective, less prepared to ferret out drunk drivers and is losing focus on the real threat, namely, habitually drunk drivers. …

Karolyn Nunnallee, president of MADD, predicted in 2000 that a nationwide 0.08 standard “will save 600 lives every year.”

It hasn’t worked that way. The July 2007 issue of Contemporary Economic Policy examined data by Sam Houston State University and concluded, “There’s no evidence that lowering the legal level reduced fatality rates.”

Regarding laws that raise the legal drinking age to 21 — laws that I have long opposed on grounds of fairness — Dempsey writes:

This 21-year-old law has helped the “forbidden fruit” reputation of alcohol, and is linked to an astonishing increase in binge drinking among adolescents and young adults. Drinking to intoxication is the norm for 18-20 year olds, which significantly impairs one’s ability to make safe decisions, including the choice to get behind the wheel of an automobile.

When I went to college with an 18-year age-limit on drinking, there was no thought of binge drinking. We had too much fun socializing at lounges, behaving as responsible young adults. We would have been stigmatized otherwise. It could be the same today if we gave our youth a chance. This approach works in the rest of the world.

Our youth are better prepared today because MADD has done a superb job of educating the public of the dangers of drunk driving. But, they are unrelenting and refuse to admit that prohibition never works, causes more reckless drinking and worse, it forces it underground and breeds disrespect for the law.

Dempsey notes that Canadian provinces successfully lowered their drinking ages from 21 to 18 or 19. He notes that the organization “Choose Responsibly” is working to lower the drinking age in the United States.