Sunday, June 17, 2012

Who's Afraid of Sunday Liquor Sales?

As usual it's industry insiders themselves, who are behind the regulations. Even Matthew Yglesias gets it and writes:
Business groups often oppose regulations designed to force them to avoid imposing public health, safety, or pollution externalities on others. But in many other circumstances, existing businesses are well-adapted to the existing regulatory framework and oppose efforts to loosen things up. One examples comes from right here in Washington, DC where the city council has been sporadically considering the idea of allowing liquor stores to sell booze on Sunday...

it’s not as if existing public policy reflects some kind of principled religion-driven opposition to booze on Sundays. Supermarkets and corner stores are allowed to sell beer and wine on Sundays. Appropriately licensed bars and restaurants serve liquor seven days a week. And of course people who planned ahead are allowed to drink liquor in their own homes whenever they want. By the same token, the rule provides so many ways to get your drink on that it hardly seems like a meaningful deterrent to alcoholism. It is, instead, a minor inconvenience that produces a minor decline in overall economic activity and thus a minor decline in tax revenue.

The locus of opposition to changing the rule, meanwhile, turns out to be liquor store owners themselves. Their feeling, basically, is that while the no-Sunday-sales rule produces some actual reduction in total liquor sales it also simply displaces some sales to Saturdays and Mondays. By permitting Sunday sales, stores would essentially either have to stay open on Sunday or else risk losing sales to other stores who open on Sunday. That means longer workweeks for store owners.

It’s a very understandable impulse. A rule against writing blog posts outside the hours of 9AM-5PM from Monday to Friday would, similarly, make life easier for me.
The only problem with the Yglesias observation comes in the first paragraph, when it's clear he doesn't realize that even new regulations are are often supported by businesses to prevent others from entering an industry, or making it very difficult for others to do so.


  1. In my country, we didn't have any liquor sales regulations until a few years back. We were able to buy liquor 24h per day, 7 days per week. But then politicians thought it would be a good idea to start messing with that... they made it illegal to buy any kind of liquor from 10PM until 10AM. One could still consume it in a bar, but was now unable to leave with a few beers to drink them at home.

    Anyway.. result? Liquor consumption went up. People started buying more 'just in case' they needed it. And once the liquor was indahouse, people found themselves drinkin' it more often. What a surprise, huh?!

  2. Culture matters and if a society was a religious society, it would be reasonable for them to make laws respecting the practice of taking off Sunday, for example. I believe that laws such as these are a left-over from the era when America was much more religious.