It has occurred to me recently that Pennsylvania’s monopoly control of the purchase, distribution, and sale of alcohol in the state is doomed.
I cannot tell you exactly when it will fall, or exactly how it will fall, but I think I can safely tell you that fall it will, and that we can safely speculate as to why it is doomed.
This occurred to me when I was being interviewed by Tricia L. Nadolny, the Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer who covers Chester County (before you poo-poo that beat, you need to understand that Chester County is one of the nation’s more affluent, has nationally ranked public school systems, and is often cited in top twenty lists of best counties to live in the U.S.). Nadolny was interested in my thoughts about the fate of Malvern lawyer Arthur Goldman’s wine collection, which was seized when he was convicted in a sting operation of selling wines (that you can’t get in PA) to friends, pretty much at cost. Intrepid wine blogger and wine PR guy Tom Wark is also quoted in the article, accurately assessing PA as the single worst state in the U.S. to live for wine lovers.
Here’s the thing: the PLCB and PA’s liquor control are ultimately doomed because enough information on alternatives now flows freely and quickly enough that any PA resident with half a brain and an Internet connection can grasp that the PLCB’s monopoly constitutes a form of repression on free commerce for people who are budding wine enthusiasts.
The logic behind that is simple, and, I think, bolstered by the Inquirer article itself, and, just as importantly, the hundred-plus comments that followed it…
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I’ve officially had it with the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America and their unparalleled ability to continually flip the legislative bird to U.S. taxpayers and American wine consumers.
Their latest ploy has been the introduction of HR 1161 – called, strangely enough, the “CARE” act (for Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2011″) but what I’d more accurately describe as the “SYFBWETBORA” act (for “Screwing You From Behind Without Even The Benefit Of a Reach-Around act of 2011”) – is, simply put, a colossal waste of legislative and taxpayer time and energy that could be spent on things slightly more important, such as reducing our national debt, helping to end starvation, fixing healthcare, or…
It’s tough to put into words how asinine this legislation really is, but I will try… for the impatient, I would describe HR 1161 as being the kind of legislation I would expect to be written by severely retarded monkeys, in so much as it promises to deliver a similar amount of potential “benefit” for U.S. consumers and taxpayers.
HR 1161 would basically amount to “exempting state alcohol laws from review under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.” Which would mean that state laws governing alcohol distribution – no matter how potentially unconstitutional, anti-consumer, pro-monopoly they are currently – couldn’t be challenged in court.
How bad is that? It’s bad enough that the National Association of Attorneys General have sent letters indicating that they do not support the bill. Basically, the case for HR 1161 being unconstitutional seems to be quite strong – which strongly suggests that a lot of time is being wasted in drafting, promoting, fighting, and discussing it, because it’s (probably… hopefully!) unlikely to pass.
As a commercial body, the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America asking to be protected from Constitutional commerce law is sort of like the U.S. Military asking to be exempted from ever having any of its members be tried for war crimes under any circumstances – we don’t expect that kind of behavior, but the threat of legislation and subsequent legal action at least is a deterrent.
If you want to learn (much) more about how bad HR 1161 really is, check out the on-going coverage of the details over at Tom Wark’s Fermentation blog. What I will leave you with is this: the only logical conclusion I’ve been able to come to when thinking about why on our wine-lovin’-Earth any member of the U.S. legislative system would be in support of HR 1161 is that they are firmly entrenched in the pockets of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.
And we know what we should do with politicians who are too firmly entrenched in the pockets of any big business group:
VOTE THEM OUT.
You can get started by joining up the movement against HR 1161 on Facebook, and by writing your legislative reps to let them know that you’ll be voting for their resignations if they support the bill.