While you wouldn't expect a communist
system to exist in the United States
, the liquor laws
provide an interesting data point
. The system of stores that alcoholic beverage
s in the commonwealth
is owned by the state government
, and it is illegal
to compete. There are two kinds of stores that will sell alcohol; beverage store
s, which only sell beer
and other light drink
s, and state store
s, that sell the hard stuff
. This law was introduced as a kind of extreme
form of sin tax
, and has stayed on the books because of its popularity
with certain religious
groups, despite its overwhelming disfavor with the general public.
This system suffers from the typical problems of communism:
- Selection is awful. Distribution choices are not made at the local level, and if the store doesn't have what you're looking for, you have to pay a hefty delivery charge to get that special Merlot for your family reunion dinner.
- Distribution of stores per area is limited by the population of the county, in theory. In practice, pork-barrel politics has introduced enough exceptions to render the actual distribution somewhat arbitrary. At one time, there were less stores in Pennsylvania than there were in the city of Dallas.
- Service sucks. By law. Employees are forbidden to recommend any specific brand of alcohol.
- High prices. There are a ton of taxes that you have to pay on your alcohol. An expose was done on this in the 1980s. It turned out that some of the taxes were highly suspect; for instance a 'flood relief' tax was going to pay for flooding damage that had been done in the 1930s.
- Poor management. It's hard to imagine losing money when you're the only person in town that can sell alcohol, but somehow Pennsylvania manages to do it.
Many state residents get around the law by driving to a neighboring state and purchasing their alcohol there, or by buying from local microbreweries
. It should be noted that arrests for drunk driving
and underage drinking
are not significantly lower in PA than in other states.