Just in case you think that things can’t get worse and then they do, here’s the story of why the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) will soon ration sales of popular brands of liquor.
Is nothing sacred?
Thanks to unnecessary and damaging COVID lockdown restrictions affecting global supply chains, starting this week PLCB will ration sales of certain bottles of Hennessy, Jack Daniel’s, Don Julio, and Patrón Tequila Silver. Other rationed brands include Blanton’s, Dom Pérignon, Moët & Chandon.
You’ll only be allowed to buy two bottles a day of some of your favorite hooch, whether you’re a person, a store, a bar, or a restaurant.
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Somewhat related, I was going to buy a new car this year, but decided to wait it out due to high prices and low availability created by the global lockdown-induced computer chip shortage.
But that’s how markets are supposed to work. When supplies become scarce, prices go up until demand declines enough to restore equilibrium. Fatter profits create increased supplies, driving prices down until a new equilibrium is reached.
No rationing is necessary in a functioning market. If I want to pay too much for a new car this year instead of waiting for sanity to return in 2022 or ’23, I know of a couple local Jeep dealers who would be very happy to relieve me of my excess cash.
But if I want to buy a third bottle of Patron Silver Tequila for a big tasting party of my perfect margaritas, I’d be out of luck living in Pennsylvania. Not at any price, not for legal purchases.
But the real culprit here is the PLCB itself, which sets prices for products via an arcane and bureaucratic process that does not allow for abrupt changes when the market shifts in unexpected ways.https://t.co/rVPyMlbJJl
— Jdubdubjr (@Racer05X) September 17, 2021
That’s because in Pennsylvania, liquor distribution does not occur in a free market. The PLCB is a government agency in charge of licensing the possession, sale, storage, transportation, importation, and manufacture of wine, spirits, and malt or brewed beverages.
Or as always happens when the state controls such things, the PLCB’s job is making sure that state residents pay too much for too little selection.
If, say, Arizona got a hold of my not-at-all-secret margarita recipe and wanted to go on a statewide bender, no big deal.
The increase in local demand would cause prices to go up, which would draw in supplies from other states until we’ve reached a perfect market where everybody gets to drink my margaritas.
Party on, Wayne. Party on, Garth.
But the PLCB stands in the way of functioning markets. Or as Prohibition-minded Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot put it when the PLCB was created, the Board’s mission was to “discourage the purchase of alcoholic beverages by making it as inconvenient and expensive as possible.”