Pennsylvania’s Liquor Control Board Will Ration Booze Sales Because It Won’t Admit That Prices Work
Liquor stores in Pennsylvania will begin rationing limited supplies of dozens of varieties of booze this weekend—leaving not only consumers but also bars and restaurants hung out to dry.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which has monopoly control over the wholesale and retail of liquor in the state, announced Friday that it would impose a two-bottle-per-day limit on 43 varieties of alcohol—mostly champagnes, whiskeys, and bourbons. In a message to license holders, the PLCB blamed “sustained supply chain disruptions and product shortages” beyond the agency’s control for the new rationing rules, which will remain in place “for the foreseeable future,” according to Lehigh Valley Live.
It’s true that high demand and ongoing pandemic-related supply chain issues have crimped the availability of some brands of alcohol in ways that are not unique to Pennsylvania. But the real culprit here is the PLCB itself, which sets prices for products via an arcane and bureaucratic process that does not allow for abrupt changes when the market shifts in unexpected ways.
One of the amazing things about prices is that they ration goods all by themselves in response to rising demand and limited supply. In New Jersey, for example, where independent liquor stores are reporting similar supply issues, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “some buyers are flipping their purchases [of alcohol] at high markups.”
Good! Those higher prices will deter some buyers, leaving supplies available for those who are willing to pay.
Back in Pennsylvania, however, the state’s top-down pricing schemes leave no room for such adjustments. As a result, buyers are rushing to buy as much as they can at relatively lower prices. “Some places are over-ordering bottles, which leaves us with none to purchase,” Teddy Sourias
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