The following opinion piece ran in the April 3, 2000 issue of the Oregon Commentator, astudent journal published at the University of Oregon.
Abolish the OLCC? We'll Drink to That!
by Angela Eckhardt and Kurt T. Weber
When national Prohibition ended in 1933 the regulation of alcohol was left to individualstates. Oregon and 17 others opted to establish state-operated distilled spirits distributionsystems. The underlying rationale for putting government in control of liquor distributionwas to exclude Prohibition-era bootleggers from the distilled spirits market. Simpleobservation shows that we no longer need worry about bootleggers. For this reason andmore, the continued existence of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission should bequestioned.
Introduction to the OLCC
Let's start with an overview of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), in orderto gain a better understanding of the intrusive and unnecessary role this government agencyplays in our lives. The OLCC is the only liquor distributor in Oregon: it is a government-created, government-operated, and government-protected monopoly. This begs thequestion: if monopolies are illegal, let alone bad for consumers, why does the state of Oregon run one?In theory, each liquor store in Oregon is privately owned and operated. But, reality falls farshort of theory. Liquor store owners, or "contract agents" as they're legally called, areessentially public employees - except in name and union membership. Contract agentshave the worst of both worlds: they shoulder all the responsibilities and liabilities of beinga private business owner, but they enjoy few - if any - of the advantages that being in theprivate sector offers. Indeed, the OLCC takes the notion of control to a whole new level.
The OLCC: Putting the control in liquor control
The OLCC dictates virtually every aspect of how contract agents run liquor stores. Tobegin with, the OLCC mandates that contract agents work in their stores full time, andcannot be absent for more than three days without written notification to the OLCC.Agents cannot change their hours of operation without approval. They cannot change theirstores' exterior signage, store location, or the interior design of their store without approval.They're legally prohibited from making product recommendations to, or quality evaluationsfor, customers. These restrictions are just the tip of the iceberg.
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