Over a week ago I wrote about Senate Bill 383 which would bring about sweeping change to Oklahoma’s liquor laws. As supporters of the free market, we at OLR hope these five changes will make it on the ballot in 2016. Each were discussed in that article:
- Remove the low point regulation and allow regular strength beer to be sold at grocery and convenience stores.
- Allow for sale of chilled beer at liquor, grocery, and convenience stores.
- Allow wine to be sold at grocery and convenience stores.
- Allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays and all holidays except Christmas and New Year’s.
- Allow liquor stores to sell items which do not contain alcohol.
My research and article must have caused quite a stir because within hours of my publication, Bryan Kerr, president of the Retail Liquor Association of Oklahoma (RLAO) responded. RLAO is a special interest lobbying group which has been doing a good job at keeping Oklahoma as only one of five states with such backwards liquor laws. We are one of only five, but Kerr wants to press upon us that somehow our state will fall apart if we allow full strength beer to be sold everywhere without them telling us how it should be done.
One thing is for sure, to forbid a grocery store from selling regular beer and wine is certainly not conservative and it certainly does not uphold the value of the free market. The difference between me and your liquor lobby is that I believe in a free market for everyone; you only believe in a free market for those you represent. Are these the same people who pay your salary? In the end, your job forces you to reject the free market. Thankfully, every election cycle brings in a few more conservatives who are interested in the free market for all, not just a few.
Indeed I did believe the law required liquor stores to close on Veteran’s Day. They do not, but they do require them to be closed on certain days such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the 4th of July. However, the fact that liquor stores have a retail monopoly on wine, for example, means they can collectively close anytime they choose with little consequence. The retail liquor store industry is okay with laws to allow them to open almost any day of the year so long as they aren’t forced to compete with stores which will force them to stay open at every possible time. Thankfully, their tower of power will soon fall. I did take note that Mr. Kerr is in favor of staying closed on Sunday. How convenient to use the government to regulate your own industry so that you can have a guaranteed day off. Thankfully, conservatives who are concerned with a free market are seeing through this flimsy argumentation. One does not have to morally support alcohol to see that the retail liquor lobby’s true agenda is not to keep these archaic laws in place to protect us from the dangers of alcohol. They do it only to protect their monopoly on the industry. In a state which believes in the free market, I say this must stop immediately.
Mr. Kerr accuses me of cherry picking the numbers when the reality is that he plainly is the one guilty of such. He cherry picked Texas as an example from one argument I made to “refute” another argument not related to the first. Surely a man of his professional standing knows he did this.
I plainly stated that I averaged the numbers and did not cherry pick a particular state in my averaging. Texas was an example of a stronger beer state, not a safer state. The conclusion still stands: The average of the number of fatalities related to drunk driving is about the same whether we include those states which only sell low point beer or not. This proves that on average, low point beer laws have no effect on the percentage of drunk driving cases.
If low point beer laws always bring a safer state, then why are not all five states with low point laws safer than the other 45 with no low point beer laws? Since you cherry picked Texas as an example of regular beer laws gone bad, then how do you explain the more than 20 states who have better drunk driving numbers than Oklahoma and yet allow the sale of regular beer? How do you explain that, Mr. Kerr? You tried to paint a picture of tragedy if we allow regular beer into our grocery stores, but the numbers show that there is absolutely no correlation between low point beer laws and drunk driving. I invite readers to review the material. Further, if too much availability of alcohol increases alcohol abuse as your link seems to indicate, then are you in favor of fewer liquor stores per city or county? Surely you would agree that access to fewer package stores would reduce availability. I have a sneaking suspicion your group would never call for such a thing even though you yourself are now painting alcohol as some great evil which needs controlling.
I am surprised you would make such a moral argument for continuing to forbid the sale of regular chilled beer at grocery and c stores. Perhaps you do not realize that when an argument proves too much, it proves nothing at all. As per your argument, we should regulate alcohol so as to save lives. Since alcohol already ruins millions of lives, are you in favor of further regulating the sale of alcohol? Would you be in favor of bans upon whiskey, vodka, and other hard liquors? What if we could save just 50, 10, or even 1 life by doing this? You have taken the moral road on this so I ask you, sir, would you be in favor of further Prohibition if lives are to be saved? Even just one life? I stand firmly behind the numbers I cited previously. There is not a shred of evidence that low point beer laws help to lower drunk driving. With argumentation this outdated, your kingdom will soon crumble.
If incremental change is all we can get, then that’s all we can get. However, Mr. Kerr wants to further regulate the industry by saying we should sell this but not that but instead spend money educating people on the dangers of alcohol. Sir, the people of Oklahoma are not ready for more government and more regulation. And they will no longer tolerate an industry using legislative power to unfairly keep others out. The fact is that our current laws say we don’t trust the people of Oklahoma the way forty-five other states trust their people with their liquor laws.
Except for my Anniversary folly, I stand behind everything I have said. It is time for the liquor industry to lose their legislated monopoly. Selling regular beer at the grocery store does not cause more drunk driving. There is no correlation. The numbers prove it. I stand behind them. If they pretend they want to save lives, then Prohibition of hard liquor should be our first order of business. Otherwise, let us allow the free market to prevail.