State-Level Protectionism

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
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The imbecilic politicians in Michigan keep on keeping on. Michigan has made national headlines in regards to its protectionist wine policies. Back in 1985, the legislature amended its laws to allow in-state wineries to freely sell its wine to state residents, but it kept out the wine from outstate competitors in order to defend the “interests” of Michigan’s many winemakers. The law was challenged (in 1999) by a pro-wine lobby, and in May the U.S. Supreme Court declared Michigan’s law unconstitutional, and ordered a continuity in the law in regards to allowing all wine to be shipped, or banning all wine sales into the state.

However, Governor Granholm’s new law skirts around the Supreme Court ruling with many purposeful sticking points, and thus is said to be open to court challenge again.

The laws were intended, of course, to keep out competition, especially concerning the terrific mail-order service available from California wineries. Some reasons given for supporting the state’s wine ban:

Lou Adado, CEO of the Michigan Wine & Beer Wholesalers Association: “We supported the state’s position. Our primary fear is when you ship directly from the manufacturer to the consumer, underage consumers will have an easier time at getting the alcohol.”

John Lossia, co-owner of Merchant’s Fine Wine stores in Metro Detroit: “I am against government regulation where it doesn’t need to be. I don’t think wine is a controlled substance. People trying to get their hands on a nice bottle of wine are not people abusing alcohol. I am not worried about losing wine customers, but all of us have had bad experiences with mail-order sales. You cannot send wine back. Once you lose human contact in selecting wines, you lose a lot.”

The “children” argument is worth zero. Nice try, but little mileage. As to Lossia’s comment, whose business is it whether or not I have a “bad buying experience,” except the issue that exists between me and the selling merchant? Of course it’s not cencern, but rather, it’s about protectionist business practices.

Indeed, I do not like to see a Federal court overturn a state law–ever. Libertarians must necessarily oppose the growth of Federal power, including when the Feds overturn a state law that is unfavorable to begin with. (Or so I believe.) But that such protectionism exists is indeed noteworthy and tragic.

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