The Glory of the Free Market


Coming soon to a Coke can near you?

So while everyone, yours truly included, has got the howling fantods over New York Nanny-in-Chief Mike Bloomberg’s decision to ban big, sugary drinks — a wonderful illustration of the technocrat’s continuing faith in his own power over human nature, the market and, in this case, what actually causes people to get fat — down in Washington DC (not a city known for the encouragement of enterprise) the power of the free market has already come up with a work-around to a similar local idiocy.

It seems that in America’s capital, officials decided to ban the sale of single beers in shops. And beer sellers have figured out a clever way to avoid the ban. As the DCist reports:

But much like prohibition just pushed drinking underground, the ban on single beers has just led producers to slap two cans together and price them competitively. In Mount Pleasant, four of the five corner stores or bodegas on the main commercial strip sell two-packs. Head up 14th Street into Ward 4, and any number of markets offer twice the amount of alcohol for not twice the price of what single beers used to cost. (At Connecticut Avenue Wine and Liquor in Dupont Circle, which enjoys an exception, a single 24-ounce can of Bud retails for $2.75.)

The widespread availability and low price of the two-packs would seem to undermine the initial intention of the law, which was to cut down on the drinking of single beers and the inherent problems that legislators said came along with it. In fact, you could argue that it’s only made problems twice as bad — someone who might have enjoyed that 24-ounce can before is now likely to drink two of them, and, all other things being equal, get twice as drunk.

The Law of Unintended Consequences: It is to nanny-staters what the Laws of Newton are to Wile E. Coyote. A painful illustration of the consequences of hubris, and vastly entertaining to watch.

I look forward to something similar happening in the old hometown soon.

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