When I was first teaching Industrial Organization (nearly 10 years ago!), there was a big internet campaign to boycott Borders and Barnes & Noble. “It might superficially seem like consumers are getting more and better choices, but just you wait!” said the critics. I’m still waiting.

Now, explains Don Boudreaux in a letter to the editor, people are making the same argument about alcohol with a straight face:

Dear Editor:

Harry Wiles, Executive Director of American Beverage Licenses, supports government restrictions that hamper big-box retailers’ efforts to sell alcoholic beverages (Letters, May 20). He asserts that, without these restrictions, the likes of Costco and Wal-Mart will “muscle out smaller retailers at the expense of choice, convenience and service.”

The same argument was made 15 years ago by small book retailers when Barnes & Noble and Borders first opened large bookstores nationwide. But who today believes that Americans have less choice, convenience, and service when buying books? Clearly, we have more…

I have trouble even imagining how the small liquor store lobby would respond. I could say that it’s time for them to sober up, but I doubt they believe their own arguments. It’s the man in the street who is all-too-willing to buy the lobbyists’ 80-proof anti-market bias. And the first step to recovery, as usual, is for the man in the street to admit that he has a problem.