Monday, September 24, 2007

Restriction of trade

Manitoba Liquor Control Commission president Don Lussier wasted no time in submitting an article to the editors of the Winnipeg Free Press, defending the monopoly on liquor trade his Commission enjoys, which was questioned in the paper by a Mr. Bruce Clark last Friday. Mr. Lussier's rejoinder was published the next day, mere column inches from the 135 year-old bastion of classic Liberalism's decree of support for "Freedom of Trade, Liberty of Religion, and Equality of Civil Rights."

Bruce Clark's article can be found here
Don Lussier's rejoinder is here

This isn't the first time MLCC has rushed to defend its existence in the Free Press. In December of 2006, union boss Peter Olfert submitted an article. Found on the MGEU website here.

Forced to write this article by virtue of the fact that there is not yet a monopoly on opinion (like the one that more "socially responsible" nations like Venezuela have), Mr. Lussier is forced to pull out the usual tricks to defend the MLCC's inefficient economic monopoly. He insults private businesses--from the corner store proprietor to the supermarket general manager--when he writes "One of the areas often over-looked in a comparison between private and public liquor retailing models is social responsibility. As a public retailer, the MLCC ensures that social responsibility... Programs and controls are in place in both retail and licensed establishments to prevent minors from purchasing alcohol and to prevent over-service of alcohol., as if a private retailer could not ask for ID the same way they do when selling cigarettes, or the way a licensed pub, nightclub, lounge, etc. does.

As if the local grocer isn't bad enough for being so iresponsibly profit-hungry that he'll sell booze to kids or to an overly intoxicated person, he also does not contribute to provincial coffers the way a liquor monopoly can. Lussier writes: "Every Friday, the MLCC makes a deposit into the provincial treasury. This... is used to help fund Manitoba's health care, education, social services and community support system," seeming to forget the host of taxes that private enterprises pay, and the additional tax dollars an expanded liquor market would generate.

He then goes on to say the MLCC: "score[s] very high in friendly, knowledgeable service, and availability of products. In fact, the level of service satisfaction with Liquor Mart customers is around 98 per cent -- a percentage that would be the envy of any retailer." Certainly, which such good selection, capable staff, and high customer approval, they would be at an advantage over other liquor stores in a free market. Manitoba Telecom Services, which was de-monopolized in the 1990s, is now thriving competitively, and there is no reason the MLCC's 46 stores couldn't do the same. Indeed, competition would entice them to offer even better service and selection.

The garnish of Mr. Lussier's cocktail of propaganda is his personal jab at Bruce Clark in the final paragraph, where he suggests that Mr. Clark--a native Winnipegger--stay out of Manitoba. "If price is your only motivator when it comes to buying a bottle of alcohol, then perhaps Palm Springs, Calif., is the place for you."

At its origins, the Liquor Control Commission's monopoly on liquor sales was an attempt for the government to replace gangsters as suppliers of booze to consumers, paradoxically in efforts to appease the temperence movement. It now exists by virtue of the fact that Manitoba has an overwhelmingly entrenched mindset of socialism, provincialism, monopolism, unionism, and a near-chronic fear of the open market. Manitobans who differ, as we all know, all too often take Mr. Lussier's advice to stay away.

Since market freedom is more attractive to people than moral obligation to a secular state, the monopoly on liquor trade is a losing game. Monopolies do not make ours a "have province", healthier, or better able to mitigate the overwhelming social problems that plague urban and Northern Manitoba. (Even the provincial government using capital works projects, suburban sprawl, and collective bargaining as a way to create economic growth cannot offset this.)

Myself, I plan to continue buying my wine from the friendly, knowledgable staff at private wine retailers like Fenton's at The Forks or DeLuca's in the West End. For the rare occassion that I purchase hard liquor, it will be from Manitoba's 47th liquor store: North Dakota.


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