Ending Government Liquor Monopolies

There are currently 18 states in the U.S. that have monopolies on the sale of liquor. It’s a longstanding remnant of prohibition, but one that might be finally going away in a few states soon. The first “control” state to take on ending state control of liquor sales is Washington, with two different ballot initiatives next week. The second state will be Virginia. Governor McDonnell has already proposed one plan to privatize Virginia’s ABC stores, and the state legislature plans to take up the issue in the spring. A third state, Pennsylvania might join the privatization movement soon as well if gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett wins office.

This growing debate is the subject of an op-ed I co-authored with Jason Mercier at the Washington Policy Center, published today at

Seventy-seven years after the end of prohibition the battle of the “wets” versus the “drys” is alive and well in those states considering ending their government monopolies over the sale of liquor. Though not as colorful as the epic battles between Al Capone and Elliot Ness, the underlining debate continues over whether government control of liquor sales has measurable societal benefits. […]

Proponents of government control over liquor sales argue a state monopoly serves numerous social goals, such as preventing under-age drinking and reducing alcohol related deaths.

A central argument against private liquor sales is that ending government monopolies would lead to drastic social costs. For example, the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association argues that privatization of liquor sales would increase binge drinking and decrease road safety.

But a recent Commonwealth Foundation study looking at national per-capita alcohol consumption questioned the supposed link between state control and achieving social goals.

Read the whole op-ed here.