I am an economist, appearing on this panel as an individual at the request of FTC staff. I own a small vineyard in Napa Valley, California, have sold grapes to large and small wineries, and am familiar with the positions taken by many of the people in the wine industry regarding the opportunities and limitations surrounding direct sales of wine to consumers. My intention, however, is to speak here as an advocate for consumers rather than as an advocate for the wine business. My work as a professional economist concentrates primarily on consumer behavior, with applications in marketing, health, and the environment. I do not have a specialty in the economics of the wine industry. I am the E. Morris Cox Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and have served as President of the Econometrics Society and as vice-president of the American Economics Association. In 2000, I won the Nobel Prize in Economics for my work on consumer choice behavior.
In common with most economists, I believe that consumers benefit from free markets operated with the minimum government regulation required for consumer protection. The history of government regulation of markets is littered with examples of restrictions, ostensibly adopted on behalf of consumers, that instead protect concentrated economic interests at the consumers' expense. The restrictions on direct purchase of premium wines and their interstate shipment that have been adopted by a number of States are, I believe, another example of abuse of the regulatory process to protect concentrated economic interests, going far beyond the minimum regulations needed to maintain the integrity of State taxation and to protect minor consumers.