How Not To Win A Rigged Wine Essay Contest

"If a country were starting alcohol regulation from scratch, what regulatory framework would you advise it to create and why?"

CapThis is the question that forms the basis of an essay contest now underway at The Center For Alcohol Policy (CAP). For those of you unfamiliar with CAP, it is a faux policy and educational think tank founded and funded by the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the national trade association of beer wholesalers that brought you the CARE Act in an attempt to roll back consumer access to wines and beers via direct shipping.

Of course, CAP has no interest in a balanced, objective portrayal of the alcohol regulatory system, the concerns of modern consumers, the role of alcohol entrepreneurs nor the proper role of alcohol in American society. It's primary concern is how to create an intellectual and legal framework to protect the state mandated use of the middlemen wholesalers that is often wholly unnecessary to a balanced alcohol distribution system.

Still….damned interesting essay question.

The winning essay will undoubtedly proclaim that any country contemplating a new alcohol regulatory framework ought to start and end with a strict three tier system that gives local government entities complete control over alcohol regulations, as well as the right to farm out the details of the regulatory framework to those members of the middle wholesale tier that give policy makers the most money.

That's fine. The Center for Alcohol Policy has a purpose and that purpose will be fulfilled.

Still, damned interesting essay question when approached without the necessity of kowtowing to a Ktpanel of essay judges looking for an author and essay that presents the most creative way to assert the genius of a fractured regulatory system based on legally mandated use of wholesalers discriminatory laws that protect local campaign contributors.

How do I know that this kind of kowtowing is the underpinnings for a winning CAP essay? You merely have to look at the winning essays from the last CAP contest that was based on the topic: "The Importance of Toward Liquor Control to Modern Alcohol Policy."

"Toward Liquor Control" was published in the wake of Repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and sponsored by John D. Rockefeller. It set out a theoretical and practical foundation for today's government run alcohol regulatory system as well as the "licensed" system that exists in most states where private companies produce, distribute and sell alcohol under strict government oversight.

Eighty years after "Toward Liquor Control" was written it is a profoundly useless document in terms of understanding how best to establish an alcohol regulatory document. It stands, rather, as an interesting document describing a moment in history that no longer exists.

However, because the book essentially first described what is now the very archaic "three tier system" that remains in place in many states after nearly 80 years, despite its hindrance to consumers, businesses and government regulatory bodies, the Center For Alcohol Policy has attempted to enshrine "Toward Liquor Control" as some sort of Holy founding document. The essay contest was part of that enshrining.

So, is anyone surprised that the winning essays based on "Toward Liquor Control" are either completely or in large part full throated defenses of the Three Tier System and a remarkably simplistic trashing of all forms of direct shipping of wine and the 2005 Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision that noted, simply, a state may not constitutionally discriminate against out of state businesses?

Still, how to fashion an alcohol regulatory system from scratch, this year's essay question, is damned interesting.I might even take a whack at it.

I'd also be curious to hear any reader's list of fundamental requirements of a modern alcohol regulatory system:

What principles should an alcohol regulatory system promote?

What goals should an alcohol regulatory system pursue?

What structure should an alcohol regulatory system take?

How does the structure of such a system balance control, market access, consumer needs and tax collection

We know what the Center for Alcohol Policy wants to see in response to these issues: All alcohol must flow though middlemen; consumer access to artisan alcohol products should be limited to what wholesalers deem profitable for them; Any and all forms of protection for local wholesalers against competition ought to be allowed.

Of course we can do better than this if so inclined to think rationally about the question posed by the Center for Alcohol Policy in their damned interesting new essay contest topic. First prize in the CAP Essay Contest is $5,000. I don't know what the award is for the essay that most offends the self-serving sensibilities of wholesalers.


5 Responses

  1. James Houston - June 24, 2012

    Is the three tier system worldwide? It seems like having a good, large-scale example of what happens without it would help the cause a lot.

  2. Alen Jessy - June 25, 2012

    fine fine fine……….yes its really true for three tier information worldwide.

  3. - June 26, 2012

    I guess you missed the talk that John Beaudette of MHW gave about the wonderful benefits of Prohibition and the 3-tier system. Since it was said during a Wine Industry Conference in Napa Valley, it must be true!
    Too bad Rob McMillan wasn’t there to discuss his 5th Column theory.

  4. Erwin Dink - June 26, 2012

    Reeks of desperation. They’re looking for someone to draft the winning argument that they have thus far been unable to come up with.

  5. hjzcom - July 28, 2012

    I guess you missed the talk that John Beaudette of MHW gave about the wonderful benefits of Prohibition and the 3-tier system. Since it was said during a Wine Industry Conference in Napa Valley, it must be true!
    Too bad Rob McMillan wasn’t there to discuss his 5th Column theory.

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