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Prohibition Never Went Away

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The New York Times reports that many small restaurants and fast-food chains, desperate to hang on to profitability to some extent while the government conspires to kill it, are trying to introduce wine and beer on their menus as a way of drawing customers in.

Seems like a no brainer, right? Well, it’s not easy. You have to get permits, deal with vast regulations on supply chains, navigate the amazing complexities of laws at all levels, retrain employees, slow down service by checking IDs, annoy your customers by declining to sell them what they want, rely only on employees above the age of 21, expose yourself to massive new legal liabilities, and even hire private guards to watch for underage drinking.

The article reports all this without a consciousness that every one of these headaches is imposed by government. They could all go away with changes in the law. A free market would solve all of these problems.

So one really does wonder whether and to what extent it was actually easier to buy and sell liquor, wine, and beer during Prohibition than it is today. You took one giant risk but you didn’t pay taxes, navigate thousands of regulations, police your customers, face terrible liabilities or anything else. You bought the stuff and sold it, period.

Is it really so obvious which is better, hampered legality or look-the-other-way illegality?

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