The Principle of Control
Over at the Dover Canyon Winery Blog, Mary Baker points to something that she calls "Tennessee Hypocrisy". Besides the catchy phrase, it’s a pretty accurate description of a new law the state has put into effect that will have everyone who buys beer carded, but not if they buy wine.
It would be a happy day if this were the first bit of legal and ideological hypocrisy that was produced by those who are in charge of the sale and distribution of alcohol in the United States. America’s wine distributors, who were first given equal weight in the process of wine sales in America after prohibition and then purchased complete control over the years, are no strangers to hypocrisy.
In fact, I’d argue that there is fundamentally no possible way any entity can maintain iron fisted control over any system without embracing hypocrisy.
The principle goes like this: In order to control a system of commerce, an actor in that system must maintain that the system serves all the actors equally. Meanwhile, the controlling actor in the system must work to assure the system only serves them.
This is a neat and tidy description of the alcohol distributors’ relationship with the state-mandated three tier system. For example, when distributors and their representatives maintain that direct sales of wine must be curtailed in order to properly serve the interests of America’s minors, they actually serve themselves by asking that all sales first go through them.
Or when alcohol distributors claim that wineries must not be able to sell directly to retailers because it would curtail the procurement of state taxes, they don’t mention that this requirement assures that all sales go through them.
Or when alcohol wholesalers claim that retailers should not be able to ship across state lines because it will also up-end the the states’ ability to collect taxes, they don’t mention that this prohibition only benefits the alcohol distributors.
Mary hits on a slightly different type of hypocrisy built in to the distributor-controlled system of wine sales. However, it is hypocrisy none the less and a good, instructive read.