Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wine and Women, but no Song

Texas legislators have introduced a bill legalizing the sale of liquor on Sundays. The Texas Package Stores Association (TPSA) opposes the bill, even though it would grant the owners of liquor stores more freedom. The association recently released a poll that shows 67% of Texas voters oppose the plan and has said that the bill will result in longer working hours for the owners of liquor stores.

Apparently most liquor stores are small, family owned operations. The owners fear that competition will require them to open on Sundays, even though the legislation does not require it. So what they are really fearing is competition, and they want the legislature to limit that competition.

The fact is, if a business wishes to open on Sunday, it is not appropriate or moral for the government to prohibit it from doing so. And it is no less immoral if most of the businesses in that particular industry support such prohibitions. The decision to open on Sunday should be left to the discretion of each individual store owner, not politicians or industry lobbyists.

Along a similar line, distributors of alcoholic beverages are seeking legislation that will allow them to sell directly to bars and restaurants, a practice that is currently prohibited. As might be expected, liquor store owners, who benefit from the current legislation, are opposed on the grounds that the bill will reduce competition.

According to the Austin Statesman:
Under Texas law, liquor manufacturers sell to liquor distributors, who in turn sell to about 2,300 retail package stores, which sell to consumers. About 600 of those stores have special permits to sell to the more than 9,000 bars and restaurants holding mixed-beverage permits.

Texas is one of three states — Kansas and South Carolina are the others — that have this additional link in the chain of commerce for liquor. In all states, most beer and wine is sold by their manufacturers to distributors who, in turn, to retail stores, including restaurants and bars.

In short, the current law is anti-competitive. It prohibits businesses from voluntarily selling their products to willing purchasers. The state has no right to be interfering in that process. Liquor store owners, who see their legally protected cash cow being threatened, argue that granting the distributors greater freedom would limit competition. Greg Wonsmos, president of TPSA:
Under the wholesaler plan, all competition is eliminated by law. That would be an outrage.
This statement is simply dishonest. The bill does not outlaw competition--it removes a prohibition on the actions of distributors. But because that prohibition provides a significant benefit to retailers, TPSA considers any move that creates greater freedom for distributors to be anti-competitive. In both instances TPSA is opposing legislation that is pro-freedom--both bills remove prohibitions that should not exist. Rather than actually compete, TPSA seeks legislation that will impose restrictions on others.

The Chronicle reported yesterday that police have broken the city's largest prostitution ring. A Houston couple was charged with aggravated promotion of prostitution. Their clients, who were charged $300 an hour or more, reportedly included lawyers, doctors, and athletes.

The investigation, which required the use of undercover police officers, wasted countless hours and resources for the sole purpose of arresting individuals engaged in voluntary activities. And the lives of many of the clients will likely be damaged as news of their involvement is leaked to the media.

Any law that prohibits voluntary interactions between consenting adults is improper and should be repealed. And that includes prostitution. Individuals have a moral right to act according to their own judgment. The fact that others may dislike those actions is no justification for banning them.

No comments: