Alcohol

The Unconvincing Case(s) Against Virginia Privatizing its State Liquor Stores

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As Dean Wormer told Kent Dorfman in Animal House, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life."

As the Richmond Dispatch's Barton Hinkle underscores, opponents of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to join the 1930s by privatizing the Old Dominion's state-owned and operated liquor stores are at the very least stupid.

We hear that big-box stores and supermarket chains will gobble up all the licenses, muscling aside the small independents. Simultaneously we hear that sleazy, low-rent liquor stores will pop up on every corner. How will they do that if the big boys snatch all the licenses?

We're also told that taxes on private sales can't possibly replace the revenue lost when the state gives up the profits from its in-store markup. . . . and that privatization will drive consumption through the roof as liquor marts hawk their wares with gaudy advertisements and come-on discounts….

Some lawmakers aren't even trying to make a coherent case. Last week State Sen. Donald McEachin denounced McDonnell's plan because it includes a tax on liquor by the drink in restaurants and bars. McEachin — not a lawmaker one normally would count in the no-new-taxes caucus — lambasted McDonnell for "raising taxes on the backs of those mom and pop businesses that create 80 percent of the jobs which are so desperately needed in this economy."

In the next breath, McEachin said that under privatization, "there will be an inordinate number of stores selling hard liquor. These stores could end up across the street from a local high school, or next door to the ball fields, or in other places where our underage youth will find uncommon temptation. I also fear that too many of these new stores will end up in low-income neighborhoods, taking advantage of those who already struggle, those who are most vulnerable, and those who can't make ends meet."

So on the one hand, folks who sell liquor are salt-of-the-earth moms and pops who create desperately needed jobs. But at the same time, they're amoral, predacious drug pushers forcing liquor down the throats of the young, the poor, and the vulnerable.

Read the whole thing to fully absorb just how mendacious and foolish politicians desperately defending the status quo can be.

And for god's sake, watch Reason.tv's video about why liquor privatization makes all the sense in the world, even if McDonnell cops to be a White Zinfandel enthusiast:

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  1. So on the one hand, folks who sell liquor are salt-of-the-earth moms and pops who create desperately needed jobs. But at the same time, they’re amoral, predacious drug pushers forcing liquor down the throats of the young, the poor, and the vulnerable.

    Grasshopper, it is time for you to leave.

  2. next door to the ball fields, or in other places where our underage youth will find uncommon temptation

    Yes, the only think keeping the youth from drinking hard liquor all day is the lack of liquor stores near ball fields.
    The funniest thing about these debates is that private liquor sales is not some new unknown territory. All they have to do is look at all of the states without state liquor monopolies to see what might happen.

    1. Here’s the study.

      I’d like to hear Delegate Marshall address its findings. His opposition surprised me.

  3. There seems to be a dearth of arguments on the side of consumer choice.

  4. You’d think a politician who began every speech and policy statement by saying

    “My opponents believe you are too stupid to make your own decisions about [insert issue here]. That is why they support [insert statist policy here]. On the other hand, I believe you can run your own life, which is why I oppose [insert statist policy here].”

    Would be wildly popular. What’s really weird is there isn’t a single one who takes this approach. Not. One.

    1. People seek positions of power because they feel they are justified in substituting their judgment for that of the individual whom they hold in contempt.

      People who trust in the judgment of the individual generally do not seek positions of power.

      1. Yeah, but they could at least pretend to respect people’s autonomy.

    2. I’m not convinced that it would be that popular.

      An awful lot of the the voting public seem to be convinced that they are surrounded by dark, predatory forces (from bankers “forcing’ loans that they can’t pay back on them to pedophiles at every schoolyard gate) against which they are utterly defenseless.

      Appeals to self-reliance, independence and strength are lost on such people.

      Combine that with the elitists who do “believe you are too stupid to make your own decisions about [insert issue here]” and you have at least the plurality needed to win most elections.

      1. An awful lot of the the voting public seem to be convinced that they are surrounded by dark, predatory forces….

        Like the FBI, CIA, FDA, TSA, most police forces, BHS, BTF, SEC. etc?

        1. You see, the government is controlled by evil profit motivated core-poor-ay-shuns that corrupt our altruistic public servants.

          In order to wrest control away from the evil core-poor-ay-shuns, we must give more power to our altruistic public servants.

          When we have given enough power to our altruistic public servants, they will reign in those evil core-poor-ay-shuns that currently control them, take away the profits that are used to control them, and share the wealth with the workers who elected them.

      2. Don’t forget those who are just plain willing to hand over their rights. My in-laws fall into that bunch. They’re not paranoid, they just want “teh educated” to lead. Appeals to self-reliance and independence fall on deaf ears w/ that group.

        1. Ah, you’re right.

          And that’s the crew that pushes the vote total into solid majority territory.

        2. I have step-relations from England. About a year or two ago, while they were visiting for “the holidays,” somehow the issue of gun control versus individual liberties came up.

          Anyone ever try to argue in favor of the individual right to keep and carry firearms with a modern British subject? And “subject” is indeed the right word.

          Holy shit, they’ve been so brainwashed. One actually said, in support of a total ban on any private ownership of any guns at all, “if it prevents just one death; if it saves just one life, it’s worth it.”

          I posited that what if private ownership of guns in fact saved lives? He of course dismissed that out of hand as a ridiculous and absurd concept.

          It was an extremely frustrating experience.

          1. You’re doing it wrong. When someone says “BAN ALL TEH GUNZ” you immediately tell them that it is an excellent idea. Then you ask them how they will go about banning guns. Steer them towards the fact that they will be arming a group of psychopathic lunatics to go around kicking in doors.

            If that doesn’t work, go for a cost angle. Say that it is fine that they want to ban guns, and if they want to ban guns, you have absolutely no problem with them opening up their checkbook and sending money to whoever the gun-banner in chief is. Then ask them if they also respect your beliefs that you don’t want to ban guns. If they do, they should obviously have no problem in you not paying the psychopaths to go door-to-door.

            Statistics won’t work, no matter how much they are on your side. These people have grown up thinking anyone who owns a gun is a paranoid redneck who shoots people on the slightest provocation (besides the police, who actually are paranoid individuals who shoot people at the slightest provocation).

  5. Can’t be having profits, except for mom and pops, unless they’re in neighborhoods.

    Yeah.

  6. White Zinfandel? Seriously? Everybody knows that real men drink ros

  7. I am not surprised. In order to justify the unjustifiable, the opponents will grasp at any argument.

    The extremely gullible will swallow even the contradictory arguments and spout them in the same breath.

    Others will fasten on one argument as a ‘critical’ justification for the status quo.

    By using a scattershot of claims, the opponents hope to persuade a majority to vote against privatization.

    To counter this, the proponents must 1) clearly state the reasons for privatization; 2) clearly show how the arguments against are self-contradictory; and 3) show that the opponents’ are fundamentally self-serving.*

    *(Before certain statists show up to do so, I will acknowledge that many of the proponents will be self-interested. But that will be the topic of banner headlines in the opponents’ ads.)

    1. Those self-interested proponents of privatization should point out that they can provide the same services as the government, at a lower cost to the consumer, while still showing a tidy profit that they can spend in the community.

      Everyone wins!

  8. I was all for this plan until I heard the way it works involves auctioning off licenses in a way that eerily reminds me of the Russian experiment in “privatization.” Iirc you cannot deal in liquor unless you have a license and they are limited and expensive, squeezing out the small and unconnected business.

    1. Liquor licenses are always limited, expensive and squeeze out the small and unconnected business.

      At least it introduces a little competition for selection and price; something a governmental monopoly cannot do.

    2. It would be improved if you didn’t need a license to sell liquor, yes.

    3. I’m confused. You’re against so-called privatization because, even though it’s likely better than a state-run liquor monopoly, it’s not an ideal situation? Are you satirizing the people on H&R? Or are you seriously saying that you’d rather have a state run monopoly because the private version isn’t private enough?

    4. Reminds me of how some cities limit cabbie tokens.

      But it’s a step in the right direction. Advertised as an increase from 334 stores to 1,000, I wonder if McDonnell will then group the ‘tokens’ into subcategories for auction, i.e. big-box, small biz, etc.

      Obviously in a couple decades the debate will be to increase the number of licenses or just abolish the limit altogether. Baby steps.

    5. If it truly is an auction, rather than being subject to the discretion of a set of officials, then “connected” at least should have nothing to do with it.

    6. Sure, it’s not perfect. But it’s better than the status quo. More stores, more competition, more selection (instead of a statewide common list).

      Besides, aren’t you in Maryland? Perhaps you just want to keep all the VA residents coming there to buy.

  9. Friends don’t let friends drink white zinfandel. Nick, bring pinot grigio to that interview!

    1. I swear, if anyone orders merlot…

      1. My aunt loves merlot–with 3 ice cubes, and 3 packets of Sweet And Low.

  10. As I wrote to my state senator, the issue is that the state should not be in the retail business, period.

    All of this other crap is just hand-waving and excuses for not taking a principled stand.

  11. I also fear that too many of these new stores will end up in low-income neighborhoods, taking advantage of those who already struggle, those who are most vulnerable, and those who can’t make ends meet.”

    Yeah, they need to save their money for Lotto.

    1. Ba-da-bing !

  12. “Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life.”
    He says that as if it were a bad thing.

    1. It was a great way for me to go through life…

      1. BTW, Ted. I forgot to congratulate you last month on being sober for a whole year.

        1. Thanks. Being dead sucks. I can go through LIFE fat, drunk, and happy…Death-not so much.

  13. “there will be an inordinate number of stores selling hard liquor. These stores could end up across the street from a local high school, or next door to the ball fields, or in other places where our underage youth will find uncommon temptation. I also fear that too many of these new stores will end up in low-income neighborhoods, taking advantage of those who already struggle, those who are most vulnerable, and those who can’t make ends meet.”
    He forgot at the 9/11 site.

    1. I love it when morons try to claim that mere proximity to liquor stores will cause drinking. My hometown had a “300 feet” rule that banned any new place that served alcohol from opening within 300 feet of a school, church, or dorm. The law absolutely trashed Main Street, which had many churches and university buildings on or near it.

      However, as I am merely 25, I can remember quite vividly when I was starting college at 17. And I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I would gladly have crawled through 2 miles of broken class stark naked to get a case of bud light. So I don’t think the stupid “300 feet” law is going to help.

  14. Perhaps the opponents are simply trying to protect Virginia’s valuable moonshine industry.

  15. “There will be an inordinate number of stores selling hard liquor. These stores could end up across the street from a local high school, or next door to the ball fields, or in other places where our underage youth will find uncommon temptation. I also fear that too many of these new stores will end up in low-income neighborhoods, taking advantage of those who already struggle, those who are most vulnerable, and those who can’t make ends meet.”

    So, I got curious: Where are the government-operated stores located? With only a few minutes worth of searching, I’ve already found one in Richmond that appears to be within walking distance from a school. A private one, I think, so I guess that doesn’t count. Time for some crowdsourcing?

    1. There’s one right next to a large field/rec center near me. Schools and fields are everywhere. A challenge would be finding a VA-ABC not near a school or sports field.

    2. Come to think of it, I know of A VABC store not far from my house that is within line-of-sight to a public elemntary school. Probably a couple hundred yards – easy walking distance.

      And it’s right across the street from a county park, which is right next to the school and which, in fact, has a ballfield.

      Holy crap. I hadn’t realized that before. That’s hilarious. I’m going to write to Mr. McEachin and inform him of this dire situation!

    3. Don’t you know? The guys who manage state-run liquor stores would *never* sell to minors. Never. Not in a million years.

      But let them join the private sector for five minutes, and our precious youth will be tippling Wild Turkey like there’s no tomorrow.

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