In Germany, alcohol is freely available; it can be bought virtually round-the clock (with petrol stations serving as 24/7 supermarkets, and ordinary supermarkets being open until at least 9 PM). There is an age limit, but it is easily circumvented. Why is the kind of special interest opportunism identified by the Coyote below not happening in the German market?
Living in AZ, I have come to expect that I can buy some tequila at my grocery store, but apparently this is a very limited freedom in the US: There are two reasons. First, this is where you get one of those left-right coalitions, with Republican social conservatives wanting to limit liquor availability and Democratic big government types wanting to keep sales to a small group that can be tightly regulated (and strip-mined for campaign donations), or even better, to state-run liquor stores. The second reason is that once any regulation is in place that restricts sales, the beneficiaries of those restrictions (e.g. liquor stores or unionized employees at state-run stores) fight any liberalization tooth and nail to protect their crony rents.
What makes the difference, I suspect, are inertia and US-specific tradition. By inertia I mean: it may be that impeded access to alcohol is a nuisance for many US citizens, but not one significant enough to take serious action against. By tradition I mean: substantial strands of the American society tolerate or support the extant alcohol regulation. The Coyote is probably right in suggesting that religious paternalism ("the right") and statist paternalism ("the left") are mighty forces that buttress the status quo.
My main point, however, is that we seem to be facing a political situation analogous to a(n economic) market that is dominated by a leading player while being open to new entrants, which latter condition is what matters most.
I see no insurmountable impediments to those who would like to change the present situation of alcohol regulation in the US by political means. In the meantime, we ought to appreciate the status quo as a reflection of broad public support, being a legitimate expression of the social conventions supported by our political order.
Indeed, the variety of regulatory regimes in the US, even on the local level, does seem to point to the possibility of competition and change in alcohol regulation. I cannot make out a conspiracy against freedom. In a free society, special interests will organise themselves to succeed politically, some of whom will prevail with policies unpalatable to the classical liberal, without however destroying society's framework of freedom.
There is (a) no prohibition of alcohol in the US, (b) only purchasing of it is restricted for certain age groups and (c) vending is subject to hindrances and privileges. Personally, I am in favour of getting rid of restrictions under (c) and support the creation of an open market for the production and sale of alcohol. In addition, I would favour a reduction of the age limit to 18 or even 16 years, emphasising socialisation of responsible conduct in an age group effectively exposed to alcohol consumption. Especially regarding the last point, I am not sure that I am right; conservatives and progressives opposing my preference may take the more convincing and more responsible stance.
In a future post, I shall try to explain more fully why unfortunately classical liberals or libertarians suffer chronic alienation from democratic processes and outcomes and the pluralist variety in which the public manifests itself under conditions of freedom. Freedom is all about making possible countless things that we do not like at all.
Incidentally, my sense is that religious fervour takes different forms in Germany than in the US. It is almost hilarious to listen to educated, well-situated Germans ripping the Christian faith and churches to pieces, only to turn in the next minute to soulful contemplation of a persons karma and the fateful presence in our lives of our remotest ancestors, not to mention their devotion to green myths and a belief in the miraculous powers of the state.
I may be wrong, but I seem to detect that Germans lacking a firm rootedness in Christianity and the attendant church communities and relying instead on a woolly and wonky multicultural mysticism (based on vulgarised fragments of exotic creeds, not unlike the mumbo jumbo of Nazism, in some respects), have a strong preference for state regulation. In the absence of firm moral convictions, public/civic courage is not their strength; they prefer to look the other way (say, when youngsters buy alcohol illicitly), but come back with a vengeance when the state has ruled on what may have plagued them as a wrong or a nuisance, or begin to perceive such a wrong or nuisance because the state has decreed it into existence.