Commentary

Hitchcock: Why the “Fair Pint” Beer Bill is Not Needed

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On Monday, Governor LePage vetoed LD 122, An Act to Standardize Pints of Beer Sold in Maine, proposed by Sen. John Patrick, D-Rumford. This bill would subject all restaurants that serve pints of beer to government regulations to make sure their pint glasses actually hold sixteen ounces of beer.  Before reaching the Governor, this bill passed in the State House with opposition from Republicans, and passed unanimously in the State Senate.

All beer lovers want to know they are getting their money’s worth, so why would the Governor veto this bill?  To put it simply, because we already have a way to make sure this does not happen.

It is called the free market.

The free market will make sure restaurants actually serve a full pint, or else lose money to competitors.  Adding another regulation to the restaurant business could actually cost restaurants more money to comply, which translate into higher prices for beer.

It is bad business to try and fool customers into paying for less beer, both on a moral level and a practical level.  If a particular restaurant is fooling its customers, it runs the risk of people finding out.  The moment a customer starts thinking he or she is not getting all that he or she paid for is the starting point for correction.  That person will likely not come back to the restaurant, and will likely talk about the experience, both in person and in online review articles.  Once the word spreads, customers will be wary to go there, and will opt for competitors.  These businesses will either adjust their pricing or their serving methods, like actually serving pints, to gain business back.  If they do not, the businesses will go under.  As the Governor put it, people will “vote with their feet, and their wallet.”  This is the natural “fair pint” beer bill, because day-to-day business makes sure restaurants serve customers what they order.  Bad business hurts reputation, and no business wants that.

Involving the Government in a problem solved by natural business only prolongs action, and can be costly to the taxpayer and to the business, and while people may be getting a “fair pint” of beer, the cost of the pint will increase.  First of all, adding new regulations requires the Government to hire people to enforce the law, and these new salaries cost the taxpayers.  In addition, these regulations will impose a standardized way of determining what a pint actually is, and will require tests and visits, and maybe even standardized pint glasses that are government approved, all of which cost money, and will all be imposed on the taxpayers, either through higher taxes or higher costs for beer.  Either way, involving the Government is costly, especially more than leaving this to the free market.

After the Governor vetoing the bill, the State Senate, which first voted to pass this bill unanimously, voted 20-14 to sustain the veto, and thus this bill will not become law this time around.  Whenever you think a restaurant has not given you a whole pint of beer after you have ordered one, do not rely on the government.  It takes too much time to get anything accomplished about it and may lead to an increased cost for your beer.  Take action yourself and find another restaurant, and watch the business suffer for not being a fair business.

 

About Nathan Hitchcock

Nathan Hitchcock is currently a law student at the University of Maine School of Law and volunteers as a researcher for the Maine Heritage Policy Center. Prior to law school, he attended Hillsdale College in Michigan, where he earned a B.A. in Political Economy.

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