Friday, 5 December 2008

Happy Repeal Day!

Today is Repeal Day, the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. As you lift your glass tonight, give thanks for your right to do so.

To mark the occasion, historian Maureen Ogle has written two columns. One, in The Philadelphia Inquirer, focuses on how repeal was achieved. The other, in U.S. News & World Report, points out that the battle for individual liberty remains far from won:
[W]hen repeal came in December 1933, lawmakers celebrated with an orgy of regulations designed less to generate revenue than to maximize the barriers between Americans and alcohol. States, counties, and municipalities burdened manufacturers and retailers with complicated licensing requirements. Lawmakers separated manufacturers from the public by inserting distributors between the two. A welter of laws restricted the hours and days that people could buy drink.
Those restrictions persist to this day perhaps most invidiously in the form of the three tier distribution system, which surely must be the best way to explain rent seeking behavior to college students in way that is personally relevant. Far from protecting the consumer, the system raises prices, erects entry barriers for new brewers seeking markets, and perpetuates itself through the sale of political influence (financed by those rents).

Prohibition profoundly changed the nation's attitude toward alcohol, and its effects and echoes have not yet dissipated:
Per capita alcohol consumption did not reach pre-Prohibition levels until the 1970s and then only because the sheer number of baby boomers temporarily elevated it. In the 1980s, the national appetite for drink drifted downward again, prodded in part by a new generation of dry agencies and activists, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the federally funded National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Why not further the fight for freedom on Repeal Day? Support the Pop the Cap or Free the Hops organization in the state nearest you, sign a petition to allow competition in alcohol sales, or contact your state representative. The battle against Prohibition was eventually won, but the war is far from over.

No comments: