Between a pandemic, murder hornets, and so much more, it is perhaps little surprise that studies have consistently found that Americans are drinking more alcohol during quarantine. In states around the country liquor stores and small businesses that deliver alcohol have seen an uptick in sales.
Mississippi, thanks to the infinite wisdom of our legislative class, has decided that we do not want to see the same economic gains and tax revenue brought forth from an increase in demandlike in other parts of the country. An antiquated operations model that places a distribution monopoly within the hands of a single government entity and a series of laws that bar delivery and shipment of alcohol have handicapped the liquor industry in the state and desperately need to be reconsidered.
Liquor store owners in and around Jackson are saying that their deliveries are two weeks behind schedule. This is nothing new. Customers have long complained about the inability to get common alcohol selections due to the cutting of products from the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) warehouse.
A few months ago, ABC officials said that orders had risen 29percent and that they were considering suspending new orders. They ultimately announced a suspension of all orders from July 10 through July 20 before giving in to allow for more placements. Such drastic measures showcase the current inability of ABC to respond to changing market demand. While some suggest that the department simply needs more taxpayer resources, and a larger warehouse, a more dramatic solution is necessary.
ABC is perfectly making the case against its own existence and for privatization of their work. Government consistently proves itself to be an inefficient allocator of resources, and its departments are woefully unable to respond to rapid changes in the market context in order to adapt. Private distributors have greater flexibility to expand and contract depending on the performance of the market and thus should be empowered to do so.
One need only look to the most extreme example of late to see how the market ultimately reacts to changes in demand. Whentoilet paper sales spiked and aisles ran empty, stores kicked up their orders, and private distributors delivered, and yet months on, our government is still failing to respond effectively to a demand uptick that pales in comparison to the one for toilet paper over this year.
What purpose does Mississippi government have in the alcohol distribution business anyway? Government should no sooner step in to start distributing fried chicken and biscuits. Either way, it is a ridiculous misutilization of our tax dollars.
However, our legislators not only continue to invest in an antiquated system that is unable to fulfill the requests of both businesses and consumers, they also go so far as to block private entrepreneurs from delivering alcohol.
In states around the country, apps such as Postmates, Drizzly, and others have helped make shopping easier by reducing the number of people in physical store locations at any given time. They have done so through vast delivery networks which allow one to get alcohol products delivered to one’s door just as food, groceries, and other commodities are readily delivered.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of foresight on behalf of our government, our legislators chose to continue restricting this freedom, eliminating potential new jobs, and necessitating people go into physical liquor stores during a pandemic.
Altogether, Mississippi alcohol policy continues to be defined by our unique history with prohibition. As the first state to enact it and the last to officially end it, the ramifications of this remnant of a bygone era continue to make themselves known. The new strains placed on ABC by changes in market demand call for a reevaluation of government control over alcohol distribution.
And, while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and let people use 21st century technology to order alcohol too.
Hunter Estes is the Development Manager of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the state’s non-partisan, free-market think tank.