“Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that would have privatized the sale of wine and liquor while liberalizing the rules for selling beer in the Keystone State. Wolf counterintuitively argues that replacing the state monopoly with private businesses would be bad for consumers. “During consideration of this legislation,” he says, “it became abundantly clear that this plan would result in higher prices for consumers.” He also worries that letting private businesses sell wine and liquor would result in “less selection for consumers.” Link
Liquor stores are not run for the benefit of their customers, but for the benefit of their owners. The owners want money. The way they can legally obtain it is to convince people through any number of means to shop with them – be it price, selection, service, location, etc. – they only have the power of persuasion and civil means to garner business. They cannot compel it.
The government, however, doesn’t work in a world of voluntary choice – it is about “have to, or else”. Pennsylvania liquor sales are in that category – you have to buy what they say, when they say, for how much they say, and if you don’t like it you don’t have any other legal options. You can leave the state to purchase your alcohol, as so very many do based on the number of liquor stores that dot Pennsylvania’s borders.
Is there anyone ever clamoring for a state run monopoly on anything unless they hope to benefit from cronyism? The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is run as all things are, by and for the people who control it. That means instead of a system designed to benefit customers and meet their needs, Pennsylvania has one designed to meet the needs of politicians. That means protections for union members who would surely lose their jobs if they had to face free market competition. Unions, you see, give lots of cash to the Governor and his friends, on top of running their own seven figure political ad campaigns.
So, Pennsylvania’s system is operating exactly as one would expect – it is operating to the benefit of those that control it. The problem is, of course that some people live in the middle of the state, a long drive from its borders, and those people are paying the price for Governor Wolf’s political gain. They and every person in Pennsylvania are essentially forced to subsidize his election coffers, and the inflated paychecks of all those state employees who have no incentive at all to do a good job, because there simply is no competition legally permitted.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Democrats have … warned that prices would rise as private businesses sought profit.” That this comment wasn’t met with howls of laughter followed by the resignation of someone so breathtakingly ignorant does disappoint. Only when government is involved can prices reliably be counted on to rise and selection and service decline. When the people are free to vote with their dollars, and entrepreneurs are allowed to meet people’s needs, prices decline.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is continuously linked to scandals and reports of gross ineptitude, as well as the keystone coppery of seizing fine wines served by world renowned restaurants. The problem is not that the PLCB is acting outside the interests of Pennsylvanians, but that is is acting, quite predictably, as all state monopolies, to benefit its controllers.