Imagine shopping for alcoholic beverages in a store, unaware that The State Police are secretly spying on you and your activities. You pay for your purchases but as you cross the border on your way traveling back home, the Police bust you. You may avoid imprisonment, but your purchases are confiscated and you feel violated.
You were shopping in a state store in the Ukraine and you returned home to Belarus? Not exactly. You are a resident of Pennsylvania who was taking advantage of the lower prices and better product selection in Delaware, New Jersey or another neighboring state. But the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board doesn’t want residents to escape its monopoly and enjoy the fruits of competition.
All alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania must by law be purchased from the state’s monopoly stores operated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. However, many customers describe them as similar to a state store in the former Soviet Union, with poor product selection, high prices, surly clerks, and a general indifference to the desires of the public. Additionally, there is an onerous 24% state tax on top of federal and other taxes. Not surprisingly, customers near states with no monopoly find superior selection and service combined with lower taxes by shopping in border states.
The state monopoly doesn’t like this “border bleed,” but monopolies abhor the idea of competition even more than becoming competitive. That’s why the Control Board is trying to control residents by spying on them and intimidating them.
Perhaps the Liquor Control Board thinks that it’s protecting and serving Pennsylvanians, but apparently many residents don’t agree.