The Buzz About Alcohol Reform

Do laws restricting alcohol markets serve the public good?

A new Mackinac Center study addresses the popular misconception that greater access to alcohol leads to more alcohol-related problems, including traffic accidents and health problems.

The study, “Alcohol Control Reform and Public Health and Safety,” was co-authored by Michael D. LaFaive, director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center and Antony Davies, adjunct professor at Duquesne University. It addresses a neglected but significant remnant of Prohibition: the legacy of alcohol regulations and the “public safety” argument. Unique to the policy literature on this topic, LaFaive and Davies measured legislative effectiveness through alcohol-attributable deaths as well as binge-drinking and traffic fatalities.

“This is the best and broadest measure of alcohol-related harms,” explains LaFaive. He says the study was prompted by “ruminations from well-intentioned but misguided opponents of alcohol deregulation.”

With original analyses, as well as borrowing from academic research by economists Donald J. Boudreaux and Julia Williams and the University of Michigan, the study finds that there is no statistically significant relationship between heavy alcohol controls and alcohol-attributable deaths —and it is frequently an inverse relationship.

LaFaive has given several speeches on the topic, and the Mackinac Center has released Viewpoints advocating reduced alcohol regulation since July of 2011. LaFaive’s most recent commentary, “Time to Scotch Michigan’s Wholesale Alcohol Monopolies,” was reprinted widely, appearing in MLive.com, the Detroit Legal News, the Saginaw News, the Bay City Times, The Flint Journal, the Jackson Citizen Patriot and the Grand Rapids Press. Through his analysis and this study, it is clear that the Mackinac Center’s efforts to highlight this issue are having an impact and leading reporters to seek out the Center for comment.

This study was released prior to Gov. Rick Snyder’s recommendations to the 21-member advisory committee, formed last year by the Office of Regulatory Reform/Reinvention. The Mackinac Center also submitted 15 recommendations to the committee last year, and anticipates that several of those ideas will be included in the governor’s list.

“I believe it will impact the debate in a strong way,” says LaFaive. “This is a very original, Michigan-centric contribution to the discussion.”