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


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: