Sunday, October 25, 2009

Keeping Us in the Dark Ages

As I was perusing The New York Times this morning I came across a full page ad promoting something called the Zagat Wine Club. The club promises to help members choose wines much like their renowned Zagat Guide has helped diners find excellent restaurants.

“There’s no obligation. You can change any wines or delay delivery. Each case arrives with detailed tasting notes and a full money-back guarantee.”

As someone who enjoys a good glass of wine, this sounded right up my alley.

But wait, in the small print at the bottom of the page was a list of the 32 states and the District of Columbia where the club can deliver. The state of Maryland was not among them.

I’m not surprised. Much as the food workers union fights to limit your grocery choices around here, the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association works to limit your booze choices.

The MSLBA is the largest trade association in the state. They maintain a powerful lobby that aggressively fights to protect the interests of liquor store owners and dealers at the expense of the consumer.

That’s why we are one of the 18 states where you can’t join the Zagat Wine Club.


Freemarket said...

Awesome post! I seriously despise labor unions and industry special interest groups. The most harmful of these groups are the ones that benefit doctors, lawyers and accountants, along with the unions that benefit government employees like police, firefighters/EMS personnel and teachers. These groups absolutely benefit their own members at the expense of the public. Naturally, politicians love these groups because they are a source of mega bucks.

Anonymous said...

This is also why we can't purchase alcohol in grocery stores and stores such as Target. Target often has very good wine at very good prices in states where they are able to sell. :-(

Freemarket said...

Good point, anon. I have always wanted to try the “Two Buck Chuck” that Trader Joe’s sells in other parts of the country, but our lame Maryland Legislature has made it illegal for TJ’s to sell it in their stores here. Note to Maryland Legislature: you suck.

JessieX said...

Oh, FM, you just make my day and make me laugh. Repeating from your comment - "Note to Maryland Legislature: you suck." I don't necessarily agree and figure they've got a pretty not-easy job in front of them, but you sure did make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

For a libertarian you are extremely one-sided, FM. You are outraged at labor unions but the bailout of banks and insurance companies barely warrant a sentence all year.

That's the problem, folks. Most people are not one-sided as are these comments. They're well aware of the failings of labor unions, but are being pained every day by the outrageous bailout decisions.

How if the hell you can compare an EMS union to AIG and a $400,000 spa junket on taxpayer money is beyond mystifying.

Freemarket said...

Anon, even though I focus mostly on local issues, I have written a few posts about how the bailout sucks. In fact, I have written as much about that as I have about labor unions. That's why I find your comment very strange. How can you come to the conclusion that I am not as appalled as I should be by the national response to the economic crisis because of the comment I left on this blog? That is what mystifies me.

macsmom said...

FM, I am amazed (though not surprised, I guess) that you found a way to use this post about wine choice to take another pot-shot at teachers. Maybe we should all send you a bottle of wine?

Anonymous said...


Mail order booze - like anything could go wrong with that.

You might want to ask the Liquor Board why it's a really good idea to have only locally licensed distributors and retailers of controlled substances like alcohol. Or do you believe an out-of-state -based mail order business doesn't need the same oversight that our Liquor Board responsibly provides over local businesses?

And you'd prefer to forego equivalent offerings from local businesses? There are many local establishments here that run many events and classes for wine connoiseurs.

While you might claim food workers unions are limiting grocery choices, that's not accurate. Introduction of non-neighborhood oriented, superstore groceries themselves result too often in existing neighborhood groceries being unable to continue, which actually limits choices, and makes those choices more expensive and less convenient to get to. I know of one instance in the midwest where a certain superstore built stores in two small towns about 60 miles apart, resulting in both towns' local businesses unable to compete and closing. After their competition was gone, the superstore closed one of the town's stores, resulting in that town's people then having to drive 60 miles to shop at the remaining superstore. How's that for expanding choices?


You may as well just say you don't care that much for the middle class. And quite interesting you don't mention certain other regular contributors to campaigns that aren't representing individual workers' interests. If you want to look for groups that benefit their own members at the expense of the public, there's a whole lot of directions to point. But obviously, the standard of living for most of the groups you mentioned, along with the public in general, have gone down over about the past four decades, making it apparent that other interest groups' self-serving influences are a greater concern.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:19am, exactly right. I'd add that the closings are precisely what has happened to Columbia's village center concept, and it's not over until they've all closed and everyone is in their car sitting in traffic to get to Wegmans or Harris Teeter.

Freemarket said...

Macsmom, I have no problem with teachers, my problem is with the teachers’ union. The teachers’ union opposes vouchers not because they are bad for students, but because they are bad for public school teachers. Instead of sending me a bottle of wine, perhaps the teachers' union could just be a little more concerned about doing what is best for students and less concerned about lining the pockets of its members.

Anon 8:19, please provide a link or something to justify your claim that the standard of living of most of the groups I have mentioned, as well as the public in general, has decreased over the past four decades. I believe the exact opposite is true.

I agree with you that there are many groups benefiting themselves at the expense of the public, and I despise all of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not anon 8:19 but families once paid off mortgages in 5-7 years on one income. Who can do that today?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:19 why is local better by default? If my favorite wine is a Maryland wine and I move out of State, I can no longer buy this wine. By your reasoning, I'd be better off buying the local Idaho vintage of my new hometown. Wouldn't the Maryland winery be better served by keeping my business, but shipping me a case of wine once a month?

0s0-Pa said...

That's too bad... but you might be able to find it online somewhere.
-Jack @ Trade Association

Anonymous said...

Median wage 1970: $6,186
Median wage 2008: $41,335
(a 6.7-fold increase)
Median home price 1970: $17,000
Median home price 2008: $206,500
(a 12.1-fold increase)
You do the math.

Anonymous said...

Local's better by default for the already stated reason: oversight. It's a product that society requires be more carefully dispensed.

There's nothing thwarting you from buying California wine in Maryland or Maryland wine in Idaho, unless you're under 21, already drunk, or not enjoying all your faculties. It's simply a matter of how each state ensures alcoholic beverages are being sold and delivered to solely its citizens who can legally purchase and posess them.

Freemarket said...

This topic is a great idea for a blog post.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:08, great facts. So, our salaries have increase 600% over the same period that our home puchases increased 1200%. That explains so much.

Buffalo Guy said...

My wife was given a gift at her work last year, and receives a box with two bottles of wine each month. It's delivered to her office in downtown Baltimore. I thought wine shipments were not allowed in Maryland period. I believe they are all California wines. Anyone know why this is possible?

wordbones said...

Anon 8:19 AM & 12:56 AM:

The argument about maintaining the status quo in order to prohibit possible sales to minors doesn't hold water. Don't you think that the 32 states and the District of Columbia that allow mail order sales have controls in place for this?

And it's not as if minors can't get alcohol in Maryland if they want it. Have you ever visited a college campus on weekend?

This prohibition in Maryland is nothing but good old fashioned protectionism no matter how you spin it.


Anonymous said...

No, I don't think the places that do allow mail order distribution of controlled substances are providing proper safeguards for their communities. Just google MSNBC mail order alcohol.

Your argument that because some under 21 (minors are under 18 by the way, not 21) do find ways to obtain alcohol somehow then makes mail order's risks ok is nonsensical moral relativism. It really only adds to the necessity to avoid mail order becoming yet one more means for them to do so. Impairing the judgement, reaction times, and other abilities of people whose brains still are likely to have a bit further to go for fully adult cognition by providing a too-easy-to-game avenue of distribution endangers them and those around them. Local liquor inspectors can't provide the same oversight of every delivery address as they can of every properly licensed business and makes it too tempting to abuse.

Your convenience simply doesn't take precedence over public safety. If you want responsible convenience in this realm, ask Santa for a local Brew-Thru.

Buffalo Guy, it's possible because some out-of-state entities aren't careful enough about obeying Maryland's laws, risking confiscation of product, substantial fines, loss of license to ship products to MD dealers, and even confiscation of vehicles used to deliver those goods. I wonder what a delivery truck goes for at state auction, maybe cheap, and bet it would look good repainted purple/black, red/black, or burgundy/gold for tailgating on game day.

If you want to label it protectionism, fine, but it's protectionism not of a particular business group, but of society as a whole. A more accurate term would be paternalism, the same role government plays in putting guard rails and speed limits on roads, seatbelts and airbags in cars, and requiring labels on foods and drugs. We're all our brother's keeper. Salut!

Buffalo Guy said...

Thanks Anon 12:06. A FedEx truck would probably be awesome for a tailgate party. Though I'm pretty sure FedEx lawyers have already checked this one out. Was still curious about the law, so I googled and found this explanation from the Wine Institute (see link below). Apparently one can indeed have wine shipped to them in Maryland. Also have to mention, when I lived in NY 20 years ago, it was kind of nice to be able to buy beer and wine in a supermarket. I'm sure that would never fly here.

Bob O said...

Wow! I think this is the most comments I've ever seen on an entry on this blog!

I'm just sorry I've been too busy to jump in on this, because I love wine and I hate government meddling in trade.

I'm not surprised that The People's Democratic Republic of Maryland is trying to get a slice of this pie through regulation. It is their modus operandi.

The next thing you know, they'll try to tax tobacco sales, and rely on them staying steady so that they can balance the state budget. Oops! The state government tried that, tobacco revenues dropped 25 percent, and now the state is in the red! My bad, I forgot about that.

I know, let's legalize slots at race tracks! We'll bring in more revenue to the state and prop up an industry that can't compete in the marketplace! Oops! That didn't work out either....

When is the state government of "The Free State Where Nothing is Free" going to realize that the only thing keeping them going is taxes garnered from high-income earners linked to the Federal government, and that all the rest of this is just window dressing?

Whoops! I hope no one from the state government is reading this blog....

Sarah said...

@ Anon 9:52 PM

One Idaho wine I know, Ste. Chappelle, is really good. I know, totally not the point of your post, but I just thought I'd throw that out there :)