Liquor stores report more shortages from the state

By Aaron Rice
August 7, 2020

As Mississippi marks the 54th anniversary of legal liquor sales in the state, the state run liquor warehouse is still not able to meet consumer demand.

In a recent story from WLBT, local liquor store owners are complaining that liquor shipment are still delayed at least two weeks. There was a run on liquor at the beginning of the pandemic, but that has eased off. Sean Summers, owner of Calistoga Wine and Spirits in Ridgeland, said his business is down 50 percent since December.

Yet, Alcohol Beverage Control is unable to complete basic orders. This raises numerous questions, such as, why do we need the state to control alcohol?

But what makes the recent news about shortages more ironic is that yesterday marked the 54th anniversary of the first legal liquor store in the state. On that day, Jigger and Jug opened in Greenville. That happened more than 30 years after the federal government repealed prohibition.

Mississippi has a long history of attempting to control alcohol consumption. It was the first state to pass some form of prohibition in 1908, and then was the first state to ratify the 18th amendment, creating a federal prohibition in 1918.

While prohibition inspired some great blues songs and classic literary characters it was bad public policy. For years before 1966, many establishments openly sold alcohol to customers, and the state even placed a 10 percent tax on the sale of alcohol, essentially making a mockery of its own prohibition laws.

Public policy ought to be rational and easily comprehendible by the public. Our modern laws governing the control of alcohol are anything but that, and continue a long tradition of excess government control. 

We have over empowered individual counties to define their own laws, and in so doing have created a chaotic state of regulation, difficult to understand by the average residential citizen, let alone internal and external businesses hoping to sell. Though residents in dry counties or those passing through will soon be allowed to legally posses alcohol.

Furthermore, the state has retained an egregious amount of control of the distribution process. Mississippi has decided that, rather than allow private businesses to control the market, it will run a large warehouse in the central part of the state which will have a complete monopoly over the distribution of all spirits and wines. 

As the Department of Revenue states on its own site, “the ABC imports, stores, and sells 2,850,000 cases of spirits and wines annually from its 211,000 square foot warehouse located in South Madison County Industrial Park.”

This warehouse consistently operates at capacity, and government leaders are considering a $35 million expansion. Perhaps our politicians ought to consider giving the free market a chance? 

There is no reason that our government should be so deeply involved in controlling the distribution for a product. They hike up prices by a tremendous rate, limit access to the product, and determine which brands are allowed to sell in the state, leaving businesses in the dark and unable to control their own wares.

Private businesses are barred from distributing alcohol in Mississippi. While UberEats, DoorDash, and GrubHub have created thousands of jobs in other states through their delivery systems, our legislative leaders have shut down this opportunity for individuals to order alcohol with their delivery.

And while a variety of companies sell and ship wine, whiskey, and other alcoholic beverages around the country, our legislative leaders have determined that we shouldn’t have this freedom of access. 

The excess regulation has made Mississippi last in the nation for craft beer development. For comparison, craft brewers currently produce $150 per capita in Mississippi, while they produce $650 per capita in Vermont. Imagine the difference such an industry could make in our state. This is thousands of tangible new jobs which are being discouraged from coming into existence by our government.

Existing policies have led Mississippi to have the largest shadow economy in the nation (referring to the exchange of products that are not taxed or recorded) at 9.54 percent of GDP. Moonshine is either produced or is available in every single county, which many link to the strict regulation of the alcohol industry. Our egregious taxation of alcohol products displayed here by the Department of Revenue has encouraged many companies such as Costco and Trader Joes to avoid opening locations in the state due to the lack of revenue potential on alcoholic products.

Prohibition is alive and well in Mississippi. Our government has decided we apparently can’t be trusted to make basic purchasing decisions for ourselves, so they must control what alcoholic drinks we’re allowed to have access to, how we’re allowed to receive these drinks, and from whom we’re allowed to purchase these drinks.

Be not fooled by the government “do gooders” who proclaim that they carry out policies like this for our own protection. Too many of our political leaders refuse to give freedom a chance, and instead have decided that they know better than we do when it comes to running our lives.

The fact is that while Mississippi prides itself on having a relatively low income tax, it finds dozens of other ways to tax and control its citizens. 

Companies are discouraged from entering into business in the state because we have established covert taxes which discourage entrepreneurial risk taking. 

Mississippi controls, regulates, and taxes alcohol worse than New York or California, so imagine what other discrete ways it is shutting down job opportunities and discouraging new business.

For now, the premise is simple: Get the state out of the alcohol business. Alcohol sales shouldn't be another excuse to take from taxpayers. That is not the role of government. Instead, Mississippi leaders should trust in the free market.


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