The Silence of the Wine Consumer
The Pennsylvania Tribune Review on Saturday published an editorial on the issue of wine regulations that continues a tradition that is on its way to becoming and institution: Discussing the impact of wine regulations without taking account of the issue form the perspective of the consumer.
In "Data Disproves Argument Against Liquor Privatization", writers Antony Davis and James Harrigan, two economists from academia make the straightforward case that privatizing Pennsylvania's alcohol marketplace by taking out of the hands of the state would not lead to the kind of devastation that so many predict. Among their findings are:
-Privatization in PA would not create more outlets for obtaining alcohol
-Privatization in PA would be unlikely to increase drunk driving or underage drinking
-State Control is not a money-maker for Pennsylvania
Davis and Harrigan ask good questions about the privatization push in Pennsylvania and conclude with this:
"Every argument in favor of state stores fails. State liquor control will not make us more sober, safer or richer. Preserving jobs isn’t even a viable argument since private vendors would need to hire experienced workers, and who better than the former state store workers?"
Unfortunately, Davis and Harrigan fail to address the most important question and one that is so rarely addressed in any discussion of alcohol regulations anywhere: How do current regulations or proposed changed impact the consumer?
When it comes to wine and wine consumers one issue is paramount: Do state regulations concerning wine sales and distribution provide consumers with greater or lesser access to and choices of wine? This is the sine qua non where consumers and wine laws are concerned.
What's absolutely clear is that consumers would be best served by REAL privatization in Pennsylvania whereby wine vendors are allowed to procure the products they want unfettered by mandatory purchasing from wholesalers and consumers are allowed to access the entire universe of wine products via direct shipping. These are the two conditions that best serve wine consumers in any state, not merely Pennsylvania.
Currently, Pennsylvania wine lovers live in the worst of all worlds. Despite serious efforts this year to privatize the states wine sales, no success was had in the legislative arena. Additionally, attempts to pass direct shipping laws also failed. Pennsylvanians are forced to live with terrible choice and terrible access to wine or cross state lines to bring back what they want illegally.
Pennsylvania, as well as writers Davis and Harrigan are not unusual in ignoring the issue of wine laws and regulations from the perspective of the consumer. In fact, when lawmakers and regulators consider changes to wine laws, they rarely ever consider the interests of consumers and consumers are almost never consulted on changes in the law. Rather, wineries, wholesalers, retailers, regulators, lobbyists and other lawmakers appear to be the primary constituent that must be appeased. Not consumers. There's a reason for this: Consumers are not represented and have no voice and therefore they rarely see their most important interests addressed.