After reading Rachel’s exploration of craft beer last week, I began thinking about the ways in which alcohol regulation can affect economies beyond brand competition. Let’s take Brandon, Mississippi, where I went to high school. Brandon is short on nice restaurants, even chains common to interstate-stop towns like Outback or Olive Garden steer clear of its city boundaries. Why can’t I get a nice steak in town? Look no further than good ole theocracy—it’s illegal to sell alcohol within the city lines. Thankfully, though, a recent push for liberty by the citizens of Brandon has paved the way for consumer choice without the mandated morality of others to re-enter this small, southern town.
Prohibition reigned in the entire state of Mississippi until 1966, but folks in Brandon found that freedom, like a good shot of whiskey, was apparently too strong for them even now. In a step towards liberty and economic progress, however, the city recently affirmed a referendum to allow the sale of liquor by the glass. The potential tax revenue generated by liquor sales were attractive enough for residents to overlook the Moral Majority who sought to impose their archaic views on alcohol consumption onto the entire town. In addition to the tax revenue, restaurant chains that earn their largest profit margins off of alcohol sales can now consider coming to Brandon bringing jobs and the business demands necessary for economic growth and prosperity.
Many opponents claim that allowing alcohol sales in the city would increase drunk driving, but this is a foolish notion. Making people drive to the next city to find liquor and then drive home is much more dangerous. Additionally, some of the town’s more conservative residents view the sale of alcohol as “build[ing] a city on the back of broken lives, broken families, and broken homes.” Uh, okay. Since when did an Olive Garden selling a glass of wine with their pasta exploit a broken life? Last I checked, people were capable of making the choice to drink responsibly. And if your real concern is alcoholism (which does break families, lives, and homes), it would make more sense to focus on getting these people treatment than simply booting booze out of the town, as if that absolves your moral responsibility to them.
Luckily, these naysayers were not enough to win the day in Brandon, but citizens aren’t exercising their freedom of the cocktail just yet. The rum must now be regulated (because we all know regulation is essential for everything…especially evil things like alcohol) by the city council of aldermen.
This final step to regulate worries me because of the strong conservative presence in Brandon. Regulation has long been the tool of busybodies who, if something they don’t like must be legal, will at least make it as hard for people to get as possible. Here, these “dogooders” stand to further stifle an economy that needs all of the opportunities it can get. The town cannot compete with surrounding areas for economic growth because the restaurants go where they can make money, which is where they can sell liquor. With the restaurants come a whole bundle of forward linkages to new economic growth.
I want my little brother to grow up in a prosperous town. I want him to go to well-funded schools, play in clean parks, and learn to drive on well paved roads. That can only happen if Brandon moves beyond a discomfort with alcohol. I hope the aldermen will listen their constituents and realize it’s time to cut short the regulation of alcohol. Lord knows the town needs it.
UPDATE: I just received a message on Facebook from Council Alderman Monica Corley, who read my post. The message reads, in relevant part:
“We have already passed the corresponding ordinance with a 50/50 ratio of food sales to alcohol sales. This is more liberal than Pearl and Flowood who require 60/40.”
They also report that Applebee’s in Brandon plans to sell liquor soon. They have not yet updated their ordinances, which is the source of the disconnect between this update and the article.
I am excited to see the town take steps towards a brighter future that encourages free consumer choice for residents. Liberty has truly won out in Brandon.