Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Another Buggy Whip to the Dust Bin

 For more than 80 years the State of Washington has been in the liquor business.  I don’t mean regulation, limitation, control or anything like that.  I’m talking about socialist style state run, owned, and operated liquor stores where state employees check your ID and sell you hard liquor.

No more.  A ballot measure eliminating this anachronistic system passed last night, so starting in June liquor sales will pass to the vaunted private sector.  There are good cases to be made on both sides. 
Of course for the free marketers state control of liquor sales has been a caustic bone in the throat for years;  commercial sales is rightly the province of business in a capitalist society, the state with its inefficient, bloated systems, overpaid, and underworked employees has no business conducting business.  And hey, if local businesses will be able to do more business, liquor will become cheaper, and of course, this system will create more jobs and more tax revenue.  What’s not to like?

The anti’s hung their hat on the fear tactic of more alcohol related social dysfunction;  More alcohol related illness and death, and of course every other TV add featured faux teenagers coming out of a convenience stores at night getting into a car with knowing grins.  They had some data but really didn’t offer much else to defend this quirky, last century structure. It was on the ballot a few years ago and did not pass, but this move to catch up with modern times was really a foregone conclusion, just a matter of when ‘common sense’ would prevail.
It turns out that common sense arrived via a Ferrari in the fast lane thanks to a $22 million campaign donation from Costco. Bleeding heart liberals, pedaling fears of what might happen was a lot like bringing a knife to a gunfight. They really never had a chance. 

So, in the land of free enterprise, once again money is the deciding factor.  I have no doubt that the big money campaign made the difference, and further, the prospect of more profits (and lower costs) were what drove the whole issue to begin with.  I mean what the heck, if it’s going to mean I can get cheaper booze, then it's an easy decision.  
 You will never see a referendum on the ballot that defines what is and what is not the appropriate role of government, and the fact that Washington was one of only eight states with this quirky approach to controlling a mind altering substance is just one more reason that we should catch up with the times, right? 
Frankly, if hard liquor is a little more expensive, a little harder to get, and a little more tightly controlled, I don’t see that as a bad thing.  All those points that made the case for commercialization were for me, reasons to retain tighter control on this controlled substance. I don’t drink, which may be obvious, but I once did, and I was really good at it, in spite of how hard it was to get a jug.  I‘m not a teetotaler, not anti-alcohol; as far as I am concerned to drink or not is a personal choice.  But it cannot be denied that there is a social cost associated with this personal decision, and because of that I think society has a right and responsibility to manage the situation.  The way we had it, until last night, seemed to me to be a reasonable management strategy.
So, starting in June, you will be able to get really cheap hard liquor (how long before we have Kirkland brand bourbon?) at your local WalMart, Target and of course, Costco.  Costco will be the vendor of choice; you’ll be able to get vodka, in a shrink wrapped two pack of 55 gallon drums. Capitalism conquers all! 

think I'll go for a bike ride. 

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