Prince of Petworth writes:
So for todayâ€™s Friday Question of the Day â€“ at what point does a neighborhood have too many liquor stores? Now Iâ€™m wondering if there is a historical component here â€“ as many liquor stores also function as corner stores/bodegas. I assume they proliferated for convenience and perhaps a lack of access to proper grocery stores? But in 2011 given the state of our neighborhoodâ€™s access to grocery stores and the existing corner stores â€“ at what point are there too many liquor stores? Should there be moratorium? Or should capitalism work this problem out?
And Matt responds:
Iâ€™m going to vote for capitalism here. Free markets have some flaws, but assessing the market demand for retail beer sales (again, if this were an actual map of liquor stores we could talk about liquor) and supplying a roughly appropriate number of beer retailers is exactly what free markets are good at doing. If anything the evidence suggests to me that the DC government is too stingy with these licenses and is allowing a lot of storefronts to stand vacant when convenience stores could be profitably operated.
I agree with Matt’s conclusion here, of course. But it bothers me a little that the conversation is primarily focused on questions of which policy option is most efficient at generating some end — in this case, the appropriate number of beer retailers. Occasionally, there will be a role for government planning, and far more often markets will do the best job allocating resources, but in either case, the default assumption should be that people should be allowed to do what they want with their property. Neither “I don’t like the typical liquor store clientele”, or “I think there are plenty of liquor stores already”, or “I’d rather this space be a book store” are good reasons to try and prevent the people who rightfully control a property from opening the business they want to open.
It’s very strange to me how many people think that “I want something different” is a sufficiently good reason to trample on someone’s property rights.