Bootleggers & Shilling
As I thought about the verbal outburst that I took in a phone call to Illinois I realized that it wasn’t about a point of law as the facts the gentleman mustered were not facts at all but a complete misreading of the law. Rather, I think, the person who attempted to demean me and my colleagues was acting out of frustration with the realization that capitalism can be a lot tougher and more difficult than it’s made out to be when it turns out that competition really is integral to the practice of the capitalism.
When you think about the idea of competitive economic markets, it really is possible that that wine represents a sort of hyper-competitive market. The number of brands and individual products that consumers have to choose from is mindboggling. Even in a modest supermarket in the suburbs it’s likely that Madame Consumer looking for a nice red for dinner will be confronted with more choices than the collective fingers and toes on her and her neighborss bodies standing there in front of the wine shelf. And when you consider what is available to Ms. Consumer as she browses the Internet….well, it becomes clear that few other products categories are as crowded as wine.
This can be very frustrating for someone marketing a product or products in this hyper competitive market. They have quality products. They are in a good location. They have access to a good consumer base of middle to high income customers. Nevertheless, the competition is so great in the area of wine folks will take any advantage they can get…such as taking the opportunity to stifle competition by legal means.
I’m of course referring to the effort to cut out potential out-of-state retail competitors from the Illinois wine market, an issue I’ve found myself working on of late as I shill for bootleggers.
Progressive retailers and companies in the wine industry are hardly the first to take advantage of the opportunities delivered by the new age of capitalism brought on by the emergence of the Internet. Look at book sellers and travel companies and music. And wine is not the first industry to produce real nastiness among those who believe this new age is either driven by occult forces out to deprive their families of a livelihood or who simply believe that the old dying paradigm confers upon them an honored and unapproachable place inside that paradigm.Just look at the response by book sellers, travel companies and music as their walls were scaled by New Age demons infected by new technology.
But the wine industry is different. In every state old government-built scaffolding supports economic structures that favor an old way of doing business in wine. This has resulted in a sense of entitlement among those who are economically invested in the ways of the past and the statist approach to wine sales and marketing and consuming. While I’m not suggesting that the the old state-imposed paradigm for how wine should be sold and who should be able to sell it and who should be able to buy wine is not powerfully well-ensconced into the fabric of the wine market, and that those who have taken advantage of this old paradigm and been lifted up by it are not themselves terribly powerful, I am suggesting they are old.
The problem for these old folks who defend the the old way of selling wine is that they are defending something old. Old is not bad in every context. However, in the context of capitalist markets driven by new technology "old" is very vulnerable to "shills" and "bootleggers".