The merits of willful inefficiency

Oregon is home to a good deal of talk about the reorganizing of its liquor marketplace, prospectively moving away – as Washington state has – from the liquor store system, and possibly removing such elements as the three-tier sales system (producer, wholesaler, retailer) that without doubt adds inefficiency and cost to the system, and to the product.

Not as a final word but as a factor in thinking about this, take a look at this Washington Monthly article, which suggests – more clearly than I’ve seen elsewhere – the pluses to throwing inefficiency and extra cost into the system.

A sample: “And so, for eighty years, the kind of vertical integration seen in pre-Prohibition America has not existed in the U.S. But now, that’s beginning to change. The careful balance that has governed liquor laws in the U.S. since the repeal of Prohibition is under assault in ways few Americans are remotely aware of. Over the last few years, two giant companies—Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, which together control 80 percent of beer sales in the United States—have been working, along with giant retailers, led by Costco, to undermine the existing system in the name of efficiency and low prices. If they succeed, America’s alcohol market will begin to look a lot more like England’s: a vertically integrated pipeline for cheap drink, flooding the gutters of our own Gin Lane.”

As the region moves, apparently, in the direction of a marijuana marketplace, some of the ideas here might come into play there as well. – Randy Stapilus

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