September 25, 2015

Reducing income inequality

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Tim Worstall in Forbes:

There’s a fascinating and very long essay over in National Affairs about how we might cut income inequality. And, contrary to what any number of Democratic candidates for office will tell you, the answer isn’t to impose ever more regulation upon the economy. Rather, it’s to strip away some of the regulation that allows certain favoured income groups to make excessive incomes. Excessive here defined as greater than the economic value they add to the lives of the rest of us, something they achieve by carving out economic rents for themselves. I would, myself, go rather further than the writer, Steven Teves, and start using Mancur Olson’s analysis, that this is what democratic (note, democratic, not Democratic) politics always devolves down into, a carving up of the public sphere to favour certain interest groups. But even this milder version gives us more than just hints about what we should be doing:

    At the same time, however, we have seen an explosion in regulations that shower benefits on the very top of the income distribution. Economists call these “rents,” which we can define for simplicity’s sake as legal barriers to entry or other market distortions created by the state that create excess profits for market incumbents.

Let us take one very simple example of such rents. The earnings of those who possess taxi medallions in cities where there’s an insufficient number issued. Until very recently one such medallion, allowing one single cab to operate on the streets of NYC 24/7, had a capital value of $1 million. That led to a rent, a pure economic rent, of $40,000 a year to allow one cab river to use that medallion for 12 hours of the day. and, obviously, another $40,000 to allow another to use it for another 12 hours a day.

That is purely a rent: and one created by New York City not issuing enough medallions to cover the demand for cab services. Uber has of course exploded into this market and the success of that company, along with its many competitors, shows how pervasive the creation of such rents by limiting taxi numbers has been in cities around the world. That is an obvious and very clear creation of a rent purely through bureaucratic action.


Deregulating the economy will remove many of those rents. This will reduce income inequality. So, why aren’t those who rail against income inequality shouting for deregulation? Good question and the only proper answers become increasingly cynical. Unions exist for the purpose of creating rents for their members. So, given the union participation in the Democratic Party we’re not going to see calls for deregulation from that side. And different groups, those car dealers perhaps, the doctors, have their hooks into the Republican Party too.

My own answer is that it needs to be done in the same manner that Reagan treated the tax code. Not that I’m particularly stating that Reagan’s tax changes were quite as wondrous as some now think they were, only that it all had to be approached on a Big Bang basis. Everything had to be on the table at the same time so that while there were indeed those who would defend their little corner the over riding interest of all was that all such little corners got eradicated. With this rent creation, given that so much of it is at State level, that won’t really work. Except for one idea that I’ve floated before.

September 18, 2015

Beer? In Ontario grocery stores? It’s more likely than you think

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Ben’s Beer Blog scores an exclusive interview with Tom Barlow, President and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers on the topic of liberalizing Ontario’s Prohibition-era market access rules for beer:

Some details about beer in grocery stores

  • We will likely see beer on grocery store shelves in the next 18 months
  • The province still hasn’t decided how to auction off licenses to sell beer in a way that is fair to small grocers
  • At least one grocery store chain has stated they’d like to sell “100% craft beer.”
  • If you have fears that bigger brewers are going to be able to buy shelf space, continue to be scared of that very real possibility
  • Brewers will be allowed to do direct-to-store delivery

A transcript of my chat with Tom Barlow, President and CEO of CFIG, edited slightly for length

Ben Johnson: Thanks for chatting with me Tom. It’s been pretty quiet in terms of the announcement about exactly how we’re going to get beer in grocery stores. So can you tell me a little about the process for becoming eligible to sell beer in your stores? Speculation has been pretty rampant that we’d only see bigger chains getting the privilege, so it’s interesting to hear that independent grocers are at the table.

Tom Barlow: Yeah, I’ll share what I can. The regs will be coming out soon, and the people that have been in discussions are under a non-disclosure but what I can tell you is that the original conversation was that it would be just large chains, then the government through consultations with [CFIG] and regions decided that it should be open to “grocery” under the North American definition of what grocery is, namely that they carry fresh produce, fresh meat, and that kind of thing. I don’t know if they’ve settled on a size — there was some discussion that there would be a minimum size — but for all intents and purposes it would be “grocery” and it would be wide open. The discussion we’ve had so far is that there would be so many licenses to start and they’d step it out, then get comfortable, then release some more, and then release some more. The number that was floated was around 450 licenses. That is, 450 retailers are going to have the opportunity to sell beer.

BJ: I’m assuming it’s a bidding process for getting the license and that’s the part you can’t talk about?

TB: They’re still working through the mechanism, but are looking at a biding process. I think we made our point that privately held — vs. publicly held — the access to cash is different, so there needs to be a plan made so all the licenses don’t all get swallowed up by —

BJ: Galen Weston?

TB: — Yeah, exactly. We were a little frustrated at first but after numerous conversations they’ve heard our position, and I think it’s the same with the corporate chains, is that they should have just opened it up to “grocery” from the start. If you’re going to go grocery, go grocery. This contest for picking winners and losers is a slippery slope to be going down.

January 22, 2015

Rumours of privatization in Ontario’s liquor control monopoly?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Government, Law, Wine — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:57

In the latest issue of Michael Pinkus Wine Review, Michael talks about the hints and portents (dealing with the Ontario government requires a certain amount of Kremlinological observation skills) that a tiny measure of privatization may be coming:

There’s a rumour in the wind that a certain amount of privatization is coming to Ontario (wouldn’t that be nice), but I wouldn’t get my hopes up about it just yet – no time line has been given and I am sure that ‘more study’ is necessary … and of course, if track record is any indication, this government will find some way to either screw it up or make it such a complicated piece of legislation that it’ll take years to get through all the red tape behind it. I once heard Jerry Agar, of NewsTalk 1010 fame, say (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘if you want something screwed up get government involved’; he’s a proponent of the private sector because they can do it more efficiently than government if only ‘the man’ would just get outta the way … I would have to agree with him here. So far the government has made a mess of our liquor system that even repressed, despotic and 3rd world countries have better access to alcohol then we do.

Sadly, I believe it might be too little too late for some of Ontario wineries who have suffered this long, but might not be around to see the light at the end of the tunnel (if and/or when it comes). Yes, this might be the end of the line for a number of our precious wineries and we only have ourselves to blame for their demise. They have been as vocal as any sector, crying for help, not necessarily a hand out (which the grape growers seem to get) as much as a hand up – basically they’ve been pleading with each government: “please give us access to (our own) market (at the very least) and we’ll show you what we can do”, all to no avail.

Why the pessimistic attitude? Let’s look at the facts. It takes some rather deep pockets to own a winery in Ontario, that or a good credit rating, because money is the number one thing required to open the doors. But making it is more of an uphill battles then in any other business I this province. Post-1993, when the majority of the wineries around today opened their doors, your cellar door is the only place you can sell your wine – sure you could tap into the LCBO and the restaurant market, but that’s it. And although recent federal regulations have been lifted regarding the selling and especially shipping of wine across the country, many provinces have yet to enact their own legislation governing the practice, hence leaving the entire topic, not to mention hundreds of wineries, in limbo, unable to tap the rest of the country as a market for fear of breaking the law. With so few avenues to sell home-grown wine the government has basically handcuffed the industry – let alone the number of asinine rules that govern the industry from within (more on that next time) – it has all been put in place it would seem, so that wineries are destined to fail; that they remain open is a testament to their resolve and passion.

January 3, 2015

Last year, “a Kentucky judge did something no federal judge has done since 1932”

Filed under: Business, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:44

It’s been a very long time since a federal judge in Kentucky anywhere in the United States has struck down a “certificate of necessity” (CON) regulation:

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, so last year’s most encouraging development in governance might have occurred in February in a U.S. district court in Frankfort, Ky. There, a judge did something no federal judge has done since 1932. By striking down a “certificate of necessity” (CON) regulation, he struck a blow for liberty and against crony capitalism.

Although Raleigh Bruner’s Wildcat Moving company in Lexington is named in celebration of the local religion — University of Kentucky basketball — this did not immunize him from the opposition of companies with which he wished to compete. In 2012, he formed the company, hoping to operate statewide. Kentucky, however, like some other states, requires movers to obtain a CON. Kentucky’s statute says such certificates shall be issued if the applicant is “fit, willing and able properly to perform” moving services — and if he can demonstrate that existing moving services are “inadequate,” and that the proposed service “is or will be required by the present or future public convenience and necessity.”

Applicants must notify their prospective competitors, who can and often do file protests. This frequently requires applicants to hire lawyers for the hearings. There they bear the burden of proving current inadequacies and future necessities. And they usually lose. From 2007 to 2012, 39 Kentucky applications for CONs drew 114 protests — none from the general public, all from moving companies. Only three of the 39 persevered through the hearing gantlet; all three were denied CONs.

Bruner sued, arguing three things: that the CON process violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause because it is a “competitors’ veto” that favors existing companies over prospective rivals; that the statute’s requirements (“inadequate,” “convenience,” “necessity”) are unconstitutionally vague; and that the process violates the 14th Amendment’s protections of Americans’ “privileges or immunities,” including the right to earn a living.

October 2, 2014

American craft beer fans owe Jimmy Carter a hearty “Cheers!”

Filed under: USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

If you like your beer — that is beer for the taste rather than for the numbing effect of the alcohol — you probably prefer craft beer (or imports). You should probably thank the man who finally made it legal to brew your own and to sell your beer to the public. The craft beer revolution broke out very quickly after that:

There has never been a better time to love beer. Duck into any local sudshouse in any half-horse town, and one is likely to find behind the bar a distinctive tap dispensing Fat Tire Amber Ale, or Shiner Bock, or — at the very least—Samuel Adams Boston Lager. At fashionable metropolitan lounges, the menu is more dizzying: porter and stout, hefeweizen and lambic, ales brown and blonde and pale.

’Twas not always so. Shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, the number of American breweries spiked to more than 800, but thereafter consolidation marked the industry for decades. By the late 1970s, that figure had fallen to fewer than 100. These were the Dark Ages, when selection was nigh nonexistent and “lite” was a selling point. Miller went so far as to brag in the tagline of its commercials: “Everything you always wanted in a beer — and less.”

The best anecdote I have found to help explain these dismal times comes from “Confessions of a Beer Snob,” a 1976 article I stumbled across in the archives of The American Spectator, the magazine where I work. There’s a bit midway through the piece in which the author, a former Nixon speechwriter named Aram Bakshian Jr, describes a beer newly available on the East Coast that had taken Washington, DC, by storm. That beer? Coors.

“What transports of delight the availability of Coors threw certain White House colleagues of mine into. I always suspected that they were more excited by the idea of its being specially flown in from Colorado than by what little taste it — or, for that matter, they — had,” Bakshian wrote. “Today the Coors cult still thrives, its devotees buying it even at the most ridiculous prices, and liquor store windows across the country proudly displaying banners blazoned with the inspiring motto, ‘Coors is here!’”

This was the state of affairs until near the end of the decade, when everything changed, not quite suddenly, but faster than could have been reasonably foreseen. In 1978, Congress and Jimmy Carter officially legalized home brewing, previously a federal crime punishable by prison time, bringing tinkerers and hobbyists aboveboard. The first brewpub since Prohibition opened in Yakima, Washington, in 1982. It was a mad dash to the fermenting tanks from there. Today, somewhere around 3,000 breweries of various sizes operate from sea to shining sea, churning out all manner of hoppy, malty, citrusy concoctions.

The Coors mania was felt as far away as the suburbs of Toronto: driving down to Buffalo to visit their incredibly wide variety of beer and liquor stores (one of my friends always referred to them as “boozaterias”) was eye-opening (and wallet-emptying at the punitive exchange rates of the day) for Ontarians in the late days of the LCBO’s Soviet store era and the grimy Brewers Retail outlets of the 1970s. And Coors, for a while, was the Holy Grail of American beer. Shudder.

May 29, 2014

A state legislative session devoted to “unlegislating”

Filed under: Government, Law — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:56

Our elected officials at all levels of government spend much of their time passing new laws … to the extent that it is no longer possible for an average citizen of a state or province to know what their legal status is on any given issue — it’s been estimated that you’ll commit three felonies a day without ever knowing it. Given that, this session of the Minnesota state legislature has a huge natural attraction:

It’s no longer a crime in Minnesota to carry fruit in an illegally sized container. The state’s telegraph regulations are gone. And it’s now legal to drive a car in neutral — if you can figure out how to do it.

Those were among the 1,175 obsolete, unnecessary and incomprehensible laws that Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature repealed this year as part of the governor’s “unsession” initiative. His goal was to make state government work better, faster and smarter.

“I think we’re off to a very good start,” Dayton said Tuesday at a Capitol news conference.

In addition to getting rid of outdated laws, the project made taxes simpler, cut bureaucratic red tape, speeded up business permits and required state agencies to communicate in plain language.

“We got rid of all the silly laws,” said Tony Sertich, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board commissioner who headed Dayton’s effort.

Well, not quite all of them. They kept a law on the books that requires state Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson to personally capture or destroy any wild boar that gets loose in Minneapolis or St. Paul. Sertich said it’s conceivable that such a critter could wander into the cities.

It would be a good use of any legislature’s time to trim old laws from the books, but that’s not how most politicians view their job, unfortunately.

H/T to Doug Mataconis for the link.

May 14, 2014

Another area for freedom of choice – the “right to try”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Health, Science, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:32

Amity Shlaes talks about a movement to allow more freedom of choice, but in an unusual and tightly regulated sector:

For decades now the Food and Drug Administration has maintained an onerous and slow approval process that delays the debut of new drugs for fatal diseases, sometimes for years longer than the life span of the patients desperate to try them. Attorneys and scholars at the Goldwater Institute of Arizona have crafted legislation for the states that would allow terminally ill patients to try experimental drugs for cancer or degenerative neurological diseases earlier. These “Right to Try” bills are so scripted that they overcome the usual objection to delivery of such experimental drugs: safety. Under “Right to Try,” only drugs that have passed the crucial Phase 1 of FDA testing could be prescribed, thereby reducing the possibility of Thalidomide repeat. Second, only patients determined to have terminal cases would be eligible to purchase the drugs, making it harder to maintain that the drug will jeopardize their lives.

Representatives in Colorado, Louisiana, and Missouri approved the “Right to Try” measure unanimously. Citizens of Arizona will vote on the effort to circumvent the FDA process this fall.

Why the popularity? The phrase “Right to Try” appeals especially in a nation that senses all too well the reductions in freedom that come as the Affordable Care Act is implemented. The recent success of The Dallas Buyers’ Club, a film about a man who procured experimental drugs for AIDS patients, also fuels the “Right to Try” impulse. Some of the popularity comes from our culture of choice. In Colorado, where citizens have choice about abortion, and now the choice to use marijuana, they may also get what seems an elemental choice, that to try to save their own lives.

But of course “Right to Try” also sails because of the frustration of tragedy. Years ago a man named Frank Burroughs founded the Abigail Alliance after conventional options failed to cure his 21-year-old daughter’s cancer. Abigail’s oncologist tried to get Abigail newer drugs, Erbitux or Iressa from AstraZeneca, the company with which Pfizer hopes to merge. But the drugs were not available in time to save the girl. The Abigail Alliance is attempting on the federal level what Goldwater is trying for states: The federal bill’s name is the Compassionate Care Act. “Those waiting for FDA decisions, mainly dying patients and those who care for them, view the agency as a barrier,” co-founder Steve Walker explained simply. And who can disagree? Many of the supporters of “Right to Try” or the Abigail Alliance are businesspeople or scientists who are motivated to honor ones they have lost to illness; others are racing to save sick family who are still living. Yet others labor for patients in particular or science in general.

March 25, 2014

BBC to be (effectively) privatized in proposed new legislation

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:09

British TV viewers are required to pay a regular license fee (which funds the BBC) or they can be prosecuted. The British government may be on the verge of changing this:

Budgets come and go, but something more far-reaching will take place in the House of Commons today; something that might change our political discourse significantly, benignly and permanently.

The Government has indicated that it will back a Bill, brought in by the backbench MP, Andrew Bridgen, to decriminalise non-payment of the Television Licence Fee. Instead of being dragged through the courts, defaulters will simply have their access to the BBC switched off — in the same way that Sky withdraws its services from those who don’t pay their subscriptions.

The practical case for the measure is unarguable. The BBC’s privileged legal position is silting up our criminal justice system. A ridiculous 180,000 people face prosecution every year over non-payment. Under the new regime, they will instead be in the position people who don’t cough up for their gas or electricity bills. A great deal of time and money will be saved.

But the real significance of the proposal is that it will, in practice, remove the BBC’s monopoly. If the penalty for non-payment of the licence fee is withdrawal of the service, rather than prosecution, then that fee ceases to be a tax and becomes a subscription. Refusal to pay is no longer a criminal act, but an exercise of consumer choice. The BBC will become, in practice, a pay-on-demand service like its rivals.

September 17, 2013

A brief history of fifty years of American economic thought

Filed under: Economics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:07

Tyler Cowen wraps up the rise and fall of “right” and “left” economics in the US since the 1960s:

Throughout the 1970s and most of the 1980s, the so-called “right wing” was right about virtually everything on the economic front. Most of all communism, but also inflation, taxes, (most of) deregulation, labor unions, and much more, noting that a big chunk of the right wing blew it on race and some other social issues. The Friedmanite wing of the right nailed it on floating exchange rates.

Arguably the “rightness of the right” peaks around 1989, with the collapse of communism. After that, the right wing starts to lose its way.

Up through that time, market-oriented economists have more interesting research, more innovative journals, and much else to their credit, culminating in the persona and career of Milton Friedman.

I’ve never heard tales of Paul Samuelson’s MIT colleagues mocking him for his pronouncements on Soviet economic growth. I suspect they didn’t.

Starting in the early 1990s, the left wing is better equipped, more scholarly, and also more fun to read. (What exactly turned them around?) In the 1990s, the Quarterly Journal of Economics is suddenly more interesting and ultimately more influential than the Journal of Political Economy, even though the latter retained a higher academic ranking. The right loses track of what its issues ought to be. There is no real heir to the legacy of Milton Friedman.

June 3, 2013

CRTC rule changes may finally signal the end of the three-year phone contract

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:54

In Maclean’s, Steve Rennie outlines the new cell phone rules to come into effect later this year:

Wireless customers will be able to cancel their cellphone contracts after two years without any penalties — even if they’ve signed up for longer terms — under a new set of rules unveiled Monday by the federal telecom regulator.

However, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission didn’t go as far as an outright ban on the three-year contracts that Canadians vented so much about earlier this year as the national code for wireless services was being drafted.

“We didn’t focus on the length of the contract, we focused on the economic relation,” CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said in an interview.

“So, in effect, it’s equivalent to those asking for a ban of three-year contract without us actually banning three-year contracts, because what we’re saying is the contract’s amortization period can only be for a maximum period of 24 months.”

There’s also good news for those who travel with their cell phones (that’d be pretty much every Canadian traveller these days):

The CRTC is also capping extra data charges at $50 per month and international data roaming charges at $100 per month to avoid huge, surprise bills.

The regulator will require providers to allow customers to unlock their devices after 90 days, or immediately if they pay the full amount of the device.

April 10, 2013

In British political circles, the term “Thatcherism” conceals at least as much as it reveals

In sp!ked, Tim Black explains why the term “Thatcherism” is not actually a useful descriptor of Margaret Thatcher’s political ideology, but it helps hide the weaknesses of her political and ideological foes:

… for many of those who today preen themselves as left-wing, the idea of Thatcher is arguably even more important. And that’s because she can be blamed for everything that is wrong today. She may have left office nearly a quarter of a century ago, but so potent was the ideology she apparently promulgated — Thatcherism — that we as a nation continue to be in thrall to it. As one prominent left-wing columnist stated yesterday: ‘Thatcherism lives on. Nothing to celebrate.’ Ex-London mayor ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone agreed: ‘In actual fact, every real problem we face today is the legacy of the fact she was fundamentally wrong.’

Elsewhere, Johnathan Freedland at the liberalish-leftish Guardian joined the Thatcherism Lives chorus: ‘The country we live in remains Thatcher’s Britain. We still live in the land Margaret built.’ At the much-reported-upon, little-attended street parties in Brixton and Glasgow, staged in ironic honour of Thatcher’s passing, the belief that her ideas still walk among us was palpable. In the words of one 28-year-old student: ‘It is important to remember that Thatcherism isn’t dead and it is important that people get out on the street and not allow the government to whitewash what she did.’

[. . .]

And here is where reality stops and myth begins. Because that’s not what the left saw. They saw something more ideological than brutally pragmatic. They saw, in the words of Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques in 1985, ‘a novel and exceptional force’. They saw, in short, Thatcherism.

Given the fact that Thatcher herself never had an actual ideological project to which ‘Thatcherism’ might actually refer, it is unsurprising that a recent book on the subject admitted that ‘talk of “Thatcherism” obscures as much as it reveals’. Instead, the idea of Thatcherism always revealed far more about the left than it did about some perpetually elusive right-wing ideology. That is why the concept, first used by academic Stuart Hall in 1979, gained intellectual traction on the left in 1983, the year Labour, under the leadership of Michael Foot, suffered a devastating defeat at the General Election: it shifted the responsibility for failure from the Labour Party, and its complicity with so-called Thatcherite economics, to the working class, a social constituency supposedly seduced away from the Labour Party by Thatcher’s advocacy of social mobility and aspiration. The idea of ‘Thatcherism’ let Labour off the hook.

So the legacy of Thatcherism may indeed live on, as some sunk on the left insist. But not because of anything Thatcher herself did. It will live on because too many are more comfortable attacking a phantasm from the past than reckoning with political reality today.

March 22, 2013

Nick Gillespie on Libertarianism

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:24

Katy Bachelder interviews Reason‘s Nick Gillespie:

What do you see as the primary policy goal of libertarianism?

Things that move us toward decentralization of power. The way I used to talk about it when Windows was still a dominant operating system is that the way a computer operates, what you want is an operating system that allows as many different apps to run at the same time without crashing the system. That’s what classical liberalism really does.

How do you think libertarianism as a third party helps achieve those goals?

I’m not particularly interested in electoral politics. Where I think public choice economics is hugely important is what it asks is not simply what the rhetoric of people is, but what are the outcome of their actions. In that way, it gets to what actually matters as opposed to people sprinkling magic words. It’s amazing how much slack people will give if you say the right words as you’re repressing them.

Libertarianism is a pre-political attitude. It can inform you if you’re in the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or the Libertarian Party. It can express itself in a lot of different ways, like through Jimmy Carter, who is the great deregulator of the American economy, not Ronald Reagan. He deregulated interstate railroads, trucking, airlines. That all happened under Jimmy Carter and he was abetted in it by people like Milton Friedman. Libertarianism is an impulse, not a set of beads on a string.

[. . .]

Hillary Clinton just endorsed gay marriage. What do you think is the future for that issue?

I think gay marriage is over as an issue. When you look at public opinion polls about gay issues, the moral approbation toward the issue has faded. The larger questions are: what is the connection between the state and individual choices? It’s as big of a deal as it is because the state is involved in bestowing certain benefits such as tax incentives. I think what we’re starting to see is that if you want to live in a society that is truly pluralistic and tolerant, and that doesn’t mean everyone agrees every lifestyle is morally valid, but just tolerant, then we have to start shrinking the scope and the size of the state. The state should recognize all people as equal.

January 24, 2013

The LCBO’s tentative, faltering steps to allowing wider sales of wine

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Wine — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:39

In the latest Ontario Wine Review, Michael Pinkus pours scorn on the LCBO’s latest attempt to fend off an actual competitive market:

The LCBO is about money and profits — and about control. I know I will have people freaking out at me for saying this but I want you to ask yourself “why?” Why would the LCBO suddenly decide that grocery stores are the place to put locations? Doesn’t sound all that smart to me — and not what we asked for. We asked for the right to pick up booze and bread in the same place — the government has said fine but you’ll still have to visit two cashiers and wait in line. Heck, I could have gone across to the mall parking lot to the LCBO location, got a bigger selection than in that tiny kiosk they’ll most likely rent and I still would have had to stand in line at a different cashier — where’s the convenience?

Plus we already have Wine Rack and Wine Shoppe locations in grocery stores … and therein lies the rub (as Shakespeare would say). The LCBO already knows those stores are profitable, the “pilot project” is done, there’s no study needed, Vincor and Peller have already done the research (and if you don’t think the LCBO has had a look at those numbers you’ve got another surprise coming) — this is just another way for the LCBO to compete with those two companies — and by extension, the wineries of Ontario. [Ed. Note: just in case you don’t know Peller and Vincor hold the majority of private liquor store licenses in the province — something they acquired before 1988 when free trade came in].

“… and will also create new VQA boutiques for Ontario wines inside five of its own stores.” A novel idea? I don’t think so. They have one in St. Catharines already (of all places), and what do you want to bet the LCBO will place these new “boutiques” where they are most needed like Niagara, Prince Edward County and Windsor where wineries already exist — no better way to compete with your competition than on their own turf.

November 29, 2012

QotD: Transforming Ontario’s wine market

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Quotations, Wine — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

A major transition is never easy, but it would be worth it. The strategy we recommend would lead to more government revenue for health care and education; a sustained commitment to the socially responsible use of alcohol; increased economic growth based on greater access to markets; a renewed emphasis on responsible environmental practices; and wider choice, more convenience and competitive prices for consumers.

The present beverage alcohol system took shape at the end of Prohibition. For decades, Ontario has made minor repairs to the system when a complete overhaul was needed. In our view the government should focus its role on effective regulation, and restructure the system from top to bottom to establish a more competitive model.

After 78 years, change is long overdue. It is time to transform Ontario’s beverage alcohol system for the 21st century.

“Part IV. Conclusion: Towards a Competitive System”, A Report of the Beverage Alcohol System Review Panel July, 2005

July 17, 2012

Ending supply management

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:00

In the Globe and Mail Economy Lab, David Bond explores equitable ways to compensate farmers who will lose out if-and-when the federal government abandons the supply management system:

The quota was originally given out for free, therefore farmers or their direct successors still in the business would receive nothing for their original allocation and then 90 per cent of whatever they paid at the time they acquired additional amounts of quota.

Why only 90 per cent? Well having quota allowed the holders to earn returns on their investment well in excess of the returns that could have been earned in alternative forms of farming. Having enjoyed for more than 40 years these superior returns thanks to their ability to persuade government to protect them from competition it’s time they “enjoyed” some of the costs they foisted upon Canadian consumers.

While the potential beneficiaries of this compensation may complain of shoddy treatment they evidenced little sympathy on the costs they passed on to the consumers much less the harmful impact they had on potential exports of other agricultural and non-agricultural exports because government refused to modify supply management during trade negotiations.

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