Lay off the booze, N.C.

From an editorial Friday in the Fayetteville Observer:

Lawmakers are reforming the state’s alcoholic-beverage control laws in ways that seem useful.

A bill on its way to the governor’s desk will ban the sale of powdered alcohol in North Carolina, tweak regulations for brewers and wineries, and allow wine to be sold in refillable “growlers,” as beer is.

It misses the key question, which we’d expect a legislature leaning conservative and libertarian to ask: Why is government in the liquor business?

Much of the ABC system is an artifact of Prohibition and the early years after its repeal, when the state needed to stamp out bootleggers and backyard distilleries.

Only 10 states still run a liquor-store monopoly, and a few more remain the state’s sole liquor wholesaler. But in most of the country, the liquor business is like any other: privately operated and usually quite competitive.

In other areas – like Internet service, for example – our lawmakers have adamantly supported the private sector and attacked local government attempts to enter the market.

Sure, the revenue is important to government, but excise tax rates could be set to ensure there’s no loss.

Let’s get government out of the booze business and let private business take it over. We’d like to raise a toast to that.