Liquor Delivery Changes Needed

Liquor Delivery Changes Needed

October 29, 2011
Originally published in The Detroit News

While former Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver is correct that Prohibition was a failure ("Don't change state's liquor delivery system," Oct. 13), it does not follow that the current regulatory scheme is working or that it has led to low rates of alcohol consumption.

His claim that "tied houses" (saloons owned or operated by alcohol producers) caused people to drink more is an old myth used by the temperance movement to push Prohibition on the country.

Using cirrhosis of the liver as a proxy, historians have found that drinking sharply decreased in the decade preceding Prohibition — even though tied houses still abounded. While incidences of cirrhosis declined further at the start of Prohibition, they rose again toward its end.

This myth of "unscrupulous" producers has been used to maintain the mandatory three-tier system that forces alcohol producers, like brewers, to rely on middlemen (wholesalers) to get their products into bars, restaurants and stores. The only real reason not to shift to a voluntary system is to protect the profits of middlemen, who wield considerable political power.

A voluntary distribution system would allow small producers to skip the middleman and cut costs, resulting in lower prices for consumers.