A regulatory hangover that is. While it’s true that the repeal of Prohibition ended the federal ban on alcohol sales, it set loose a flurry of state and local regulations designed to keep US citizens away from alcohol. The 3-tier alcohol distribution system is probably the worst of these regulations in that it makes alcohol much more expensive and creates a class of legally-protected middlemen with exclusive distribution rights in regional territories. Of course there are many other restrictions, including here in Alabama, that keep adults from enjoying their beverage of choice. These state and local regulations were designed to keep Americans believing the message promoted by the Drys for decades before Prohibition (and the one that’s used by nannies in many areas of life) that alcohol in and of itself is evil. Not only does such a message make adults into children, it removes personal responsibility from our choices. We blame substances, food or weapons for the bad choices that we make instead of owning up to our own decisions. Blaming others for our bad decisions elicits condemnation as it should, but somehow if we misuse alcohol or any number of other things, it’s ok to blame the thing instead of ourselves.

Author Maureen Ogle masterfully relates how blaming alcohol was institutionalized in the US via the state and local regulatory systems put into place after Prohibition:

But when 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. New state-owned liquor stores oozed the “alcohol is evil” message. Bottles of gin and wine, and the clerks who sold them, stood inside grilled enclosures that resembled miniature jail cells for the evil spirits. Customers browsed a row of empty containers on the counter—samples of the inmates, slipped money through a small opening, and received the corrupting goods in exchange. Children who accompanied their parents on those trips got the intended message: This stuff is bad!

True, we’ve chipped away at those repeal-era restrictions. Sunday sales are now common, and so are private liquor stores. In 2005, the Supreme Court acted to allow people to buy mail-order wine. Costco recently sued the state of Washington, challenging laws that prevented it from buying directly from manufacturers. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state’s authority, but more court cases will come, and soon, provoked by big-box retailers, the potential for Internet commerce, and, ironically, a vibrant alcohol industry. American winemaking, virtually nonexistent 50 years ago, deserves its reputation for excellence. In the past 30 years, the American brewing industry has become the most creative and dynamic in the world. A new generation of microdistillers is concocting magnificent brandy, rye, bourbon, and whiskey. But vintners, craft brewers, and microdistillers long for the day that they can use the Internet to reach customers directly (and bypass powerful distributors whose clout determines what products land on retailers’ shelves).

Read the whole thing.

In other words, Repeal of Prohibition was just the beginning.

Ogle link via Jacob.


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