Booze and Socialism

 

My mate and I have noted our supply of various spirits is running out just in time for the holidays. What this means is undertaking a two-hour road trip to an adjacent state where we can shop in a pleasant, supermarket-style store stocked with spirits and wine from across the country and around the world. The knowledgeable staff will help us choose new brands based on our tastes. We will drop several hundred dollars and return across the river with enough to get through the long, dreary winter. I will try and find a good brand of cinnamon whisky which, in my experience, is a highly effective cold medicine.

We cannot get this in our home state. Why? Because our state has a “Liquor Control Commission,” a relic of Progressive and Prohibition-Era socialism that “appoints private businesses to act as its agents and sell its products in exchange for a commission.” In effect, it protects a crony market of crappy, hole-in-the-wall liquor stores staffed by surly, resentful employees, and limits beverage selections to those it deems worthy of being sold in our state. It also regulates what brands of liquor can be distributed within the state, which is why (I suspect) the only cinnamon whisky on sale around here is ‘Fireball.’ Which is… not that good.

The store we go to is part of a national chain. The reason they do not operate in this state is because of this part of the Liquor Commission’s power: “Normal proof spirits (>21% ABV) are sold only in a limited number of agent stores.” I imagine securing a permit to be one of those “limited number of agent stores” is a hotbed of paybacks and backroom deals with some organized crime thrown in.

Even in Maryland — where they won’t let you buy beer in a supermarket — has outlets. (And yeah, the chain is owned by lefties, but what-can-you-do?) This chain is apparently not allowed, or won’t jump over the bureaucratic hurdles, to operate within our state boundaries. But it is free to operate in the states to the north, west, and south of us. And we have relatives in those states. So, two or three times a year, we pay them a visit and load up on quality booze at low, low prices. I wonder how many others do this and how much revenue the state is losing on its already onerous liquor taxes; which have been raised by a series of Republican governors.

It is similar to the case with legal marijuana. States expected a tax windfall by legalizing our Brave New World’s version of soma (or, in Oregon, legalizing everything). But instead, illegal pot is still outselling legal pot. Why? Because legal pot is just illegal pot with excess taxes added to it. And the states that legalized its sale have generally decriminalized its distribution outside legal retain channels. So people paying extra at a dispensary instead of buying from the well-connected high school kid are basically suckers.

“But Victor, you snarling Pallas’s cat,” a pedant might say. “This isn’t socialism because the state doesn’t directly own the liquor stores (as they do in some states).” But whether the state controls the means of distribution through direct ownership or through regulatory micromanagement is a distinction without a difference. At least, not on the consumer end, who still gets limited selection and poor quality service.

What I am saying, what business is it of the state to regulate the retail distribution of alcohol? If there is any public benefit to this kind of bureaucracy and cronyism, I don’t see what it could be.

Also, the 21 years drinking age law is stupid and should be abolished.

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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Apparently the Democrats & other fans of abortion don’t believe that equal access to freedom & capitalism is as important as equal access to abortion.

    • #1
  2. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Are you in Kentucky? 

    • #2
  3. Al French Moderator
    Al French
    @AlFrench

    Victor Tango Kilo: Because our state has a “Liquor Control Commission;” a relic of Progressive and Prohibition-Era socialism that “appoints private businesses to act as its agents and sell its products in exchange for a commission.”

    Oregon has a similar system, although here it seems to work better than where you are. The employees are generally helpful, and the selection is OK. Oregon being a big state, shopping in another state is difficult unless you live near the border. Washington, until recently, had a similar system. I haven’t checked out the market there to see how well it now works.

    (When I turned 21, Oregon required a license to purchase spirits at the state store. It was only a few dollars, so I don’t know what the point was. They abolished the requirement a few ears later.)

    • #3
  4. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    WA’s state-run liquor stores were abolished by a people’s initiative (largely funded by liquor distributors and Big Grocery) a few years ago. Giant retailers like Safeway can as a result offer spirits, and Bev-Mo has opened a number of locations in the years since. Some private buyers also applied for and took over old state-store locations which, despite their small size, were grandfathered as permissible locations for new private retail operations.

    Prices have not fallen, as the state still imposes significant per-liter taxes on liquor, but the supermarkets tend to discount some brands, which would not have been allowed under the prior state regime. And both variety and convenience have greatly improved. A wider selection of product as well as stores in less out of the way locations, offering longer hours, and less surly employees, have in my view made the move a successful one.

    • #4
  5. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Costco is allowed to sell liquor only in DC in my area— one store.  No Maryland or Virginia.

    • #5
  6. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Costco is allowed to sell liquor only DC in my area— one store. No Maryland or Virginia.

    When you say liquor, you are not including beer and wine, right?

    • #6
  7. Victor Tango Kilo Member
    Victor Tango Kilo
    @VtheK

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Are you in Kentucky?

    No but I looked up their laws because I was curious how liquor laws worked in a state where bourbon is a huge industry. Kentucky leaves liquor regulation mainly to the counties. Probably why Lexington has three of the retail outlets I mention in the OP out of the four in all of Kentucky. 

    • #7
  8. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Costco is allowed to sell liquor only DC in my area— one store. No Maryland or Virginia.

    When you say liquor, you are not including beer and wine, right?

    Correct.

    And PA has state stores that masquerade as privately run.

    • #8
  9. Scott Wilmot Member
    Scott Wilmot
    @ScottWilmot

    Victor Tango Kilo: I will try and find a good brand of cinnamon whisky which, in my experience, is a highly effective cold medicine.

    Knob Creek makes a great Maple Whiskey. I’m not a fan of cinnamon whiskey.

    • #9
  10. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Are you in Kentucky?

    No but I looked up their laws because I was curious how liquor laws worked in a state where bourbon is a huge industry. Kentucky leaves liquor regulation mainly to the counties. Probably why Lexington has three of the retail outlets I mention in the OP out of the four in all of Kentucky.

    Right.  

    I always found it odd that Jack Daniels is produced in a dry county.

    • #10
  11. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Victor Tango Kilo: I will try and find a good brand of cinnamon whisky which, in my experience, is a highly effective cold medicine.

    I favor Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire.

    • #11
  12. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    It seems totally irrational that in my county I can only buy beer (not in a restaurant, though) , but ten minutes away – a different county – I can buy wine, beer, hard liquor. 

    Still get lots of DWI.

    • #12
  13. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Scott Wilmot (View Comment):

    Victor Tango Kilo: I will try and find a good brand of cinnamon whisky which, in my experience, is a highly effective cold medicine.

    Knob Creek makes a great Maple Whiskey. I’m not a fan of cinnamon whiskey.

    Like it but a bit sweet for me.  I’ve thought of mixing it with the regular Knob Creek.  But I do crazy stuff sometimes.

    • #13
  14. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Utah’s liquor stores are full-on Socialism, down to calling them “State Liquor Stores.” The only thing that would make them even more so is if they called them “The People’s Liquor Stores.” As a result, selections in Utah liquor stores are limited. Local distilleries make showings there, and a few of the larger microbrew labels. Anything beyond that is hit or miss. I’ve looked in several for my favorite Scotch whisky for exemple, but really the odds of me finding it are slim to none. Now you can supposedly special order, but given how much whisky costs I just haven’t bothered.

    Going out for a drink finds one in the midst of even more arcane liquor laws here.

    • #14
  15. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Utah’s liquor stores are full-on Socialism, down to calling them “State Liquor Stores.” The only thing that would make them even more so is if they called them “The People’s Liquor Stores.” As a result, selections in Utah liquor stores are limited. Local distilleries make showings there, and a few of the larger microbrew labels. Anything beyond that is hit or miss. I’ve looked in several for my favorite Scotch whisky for exemple, but really the odds of me finding it are slim to none. Now you can supposedly special order, but given how much whisky costs I just haven’t bothered.

    Going out for a drink finds one in the midst of even more arcane liquor laws here.

    You have to stand on your left foot before 6pm, and on your right foot after 6pm?

    But since it’s always before AND after 6pm, really…

    • #15
  16. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    kedavis (View Comment):

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Utah’s liquor stores are full-on Socialism, down to calling them “State Liquor Stores.” The only thing that would make them even more so is if they called them “The People’s Liquor Stores.” As a result, selections in Utah liquor stores are limited. Local distilleries make showings there, and a few of the larger microbrew labels. Anything beyond that is hit or miss. I’ve looked in several for my favorite Scotch whisky for exemple, but really the odds of me finding it are slim to none. Now you can supposedly special order, but given how much whisky costs I just haven’t bothered.

    Going out for a drink finds one in the midst of even more arcane liquor laws here.

    You have to stand on your left foot before 6pm, and on your right foot after 6pm?

    But since it’s always before AND after 6pm, really…

    When the wife and I were newlyweds (Texas, 1967) I had to have her permission to drink – and even that was only in a “private” club.  Things have improved since then.

    • #16
  17. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    kedavis (View Comment):

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Utah’s liquor stores are full-on Socialism, down to calling them “State Liquor Stores.” The only thing that would make them even more so is if they called them “The People’s Liquor Stores.” As a result, selections in Utah liquor stores are limited. Local distilleries make showings there, and a few of the larger microbrew labels. Anything beyond that is hit or miss. I’ve looked in several for my favorite Scotch whisky for exemple, but really the odds of me finding it are slim to none. Now you can supposedly special order, but given how much whisky costs I just haven’t bothered.

    Going out for a drink finds one in the midst of even more arcane liquor laws here.

    You have to stand on your left foot before 6pm, and on your right foot after 6pm?

    But since it’s always before AND after 6pm, really…

    Then you shake it all about. Do the hokey pokey. Turn yourself around. That’s really what it’s all about.

    • #17
  18. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    I will try and find a good brand of cinnamon whisky which, in my experience, is a highly effective cold medicine.

    Hmm. On that recommendation, I might try it. Flavored whiskey, to me, is like flavored coffee: an unnatural and unnecessary embellishment. Unless the coffee is flavored with whiskey. 

    We have muni liquor stores around here. One of the suburb’s outlets are notoriously surly. The others are more upscale, and were hit hard when Total Wine & Spirits moved nearby and undercut them on everything. We were told b the muni supporters that A) they always do that, then raise the prices when the competition is crushed, and B) the muni’s profits go to parks! Okay, well, as for the first part, no one was crushed and the prices didn’t go up. In fact for years the Total store was in the same building as a Trader Joe’s liquor store, and both did fine. As for taxes supporting the city’s parks, well, that’s the city’s business, and I’m not under any obligation to pay 17% more. Which, I suppose, means I reject the very idea of the social compact.

    • #18
  19. Internet's Hank Contributor
    Internet's Hank
    @HankRhody

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    We have muni liquor stores around here. One of the suburb’s outlets are notoriously surly.

    You mean Surly Brewing

    • #19
  20. Headedwest Inactive
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Are you in Kentucky?

    No but I looked up their laws because I was curious how liquor laws worked in a state where bourbon is a huge industry. Kentucky leaves liquor regulation mainly to the counties. Probably why Lexington has three of the retail outlets I mention in the OP out of the four in all of Kentucky.

    Right.

    I always found it odd that Jack Daniels is produced in a dry county.

    Used to be dry. Not any more.

    • #20
  21. Headedwest Inactive
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    Are you in Kentucky?

    No but I looked up their laws because I was curious how liquor laws worked in a state where bourbon is a huge industry. Kentucky leaves liquor regulation mainly to the counties. Probably why Lexington has three of the retail outlets I mention in the OP out of the four in all of Kentucky.

    I’ve spent a lot of time hunting down rare bourbons in Kentucky. I have never found a government liquor store there. 

    • #21
  22. VUtah Member
    VUtah
    @VUtah

    C. U. Douglas (View Comment):

    Utah’s liquor stores are full-on Socialism, down to calling them “State Liquor Stores.” The only thing that would make them even more so is if they called them “The People’s Liquor Stores.” As a result, selections in Utah liquor stores are limited. Local distilleries make showings there, and a few of the larger microbrew labels. Anything beyond that is hit or miss. I’ve looked in several for my favorite Scotch whisky for exemple, but really the odds of me finding it are slim to none. Now you can supposedly special order, but given how much whisky costs I just haven’t bothered.

    Going out for a drink finds one in the midst of even more arcane liquor laws here.

    Have you gone to the DABC website? You can search the inventory – find what is in stock, at which liquor store you can find it and how many bottles, how many cases are at the warehouse, and if it is on order. You can also find out what is on sale. We have a very nice state liquor store in our community and the wine bottles are stored properly, unlike many supermarket wine aisles in in other states. And the people working at the liquor store are colorful and friendly. 

    • #22
  23. AMD Texas Coolidge
    AMD Texas
    @DarinJohnson

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    I will try and find a good brand of cinnamon whisky which, in my experience, is a highly effective cold medicine.

    Hmm. On that recommendation, I might try it. Flavored whiskey, to me, is like flavored coffee: an unnatural and unnecessary embellishment. Unless the coffee is flavored with whiskey.

    We have muni liquor stores around here. One of the suburb’s outlets are notoriously surly. The others are more upscale, and were hit hard when Total Wine & Spirits moved nearby and undercut them on everything. We were told b the muni supporters that A) they always do that, then raise the prices when the competition is crushed, and B) the muni’s profits go to parks! Okay, well, as for the first part, no one was crushed and the prices didn’t go up. In fact for years the Total store was in the same building as a Trader Joe’s liquor store, and both did fine. As for taxes supporting the city’s parks, well, that’s the city’s business, and I’m not under any obligation to pay 17% more. Which, I suppose, means I reject the very idea of the social compact.

    With you 100% on flavored whiskey

    • #23
  24. DMak Member
    DMak
    @DMak

    When I moved from California to Maryland years and years ago, I found out that Maryland and Virginia run the sales for hard liqueur. I did not buy nor drink a single drop of alcohol, not even beer, during my entire nine years living there. It was hard, I can tell you that, but I survived.

    • #24
  25. Chuck Thatcher
    Chuck
    @Chuckles

    DMak (View Comment):

    When I moved from California to Maryland years and years ago, I found out that Maryland and Virginia run the sales for hard liqueur. I did not buy nor drink a single drop of alcohol, not even beer, during my entire nine years living there. It was hard, I can tell you that, but I survived.

    Didn’t they do bootleg?  Used to be a thriving business in Texas and NC, I know. Even after sales became legal.

    • #25
  26. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    DMak (View Comment):

    When I moved from California to Maryland years and years ago, I found out that Maryland and Virginia run the sales for hard liqueur. I did not buy nor drink a single drop of alcohol, not even beer, during my entire nine years living there. It was hard, I can tell you that, but I survived.

    It may be news to you, but the government including state governments, get a lot of tax money from alcohol sales even if you buy it at Safeway.

    • #26
  27. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    kedavis (View Comment):

    DMak (View Comment):

    When I moved from California to Maryland years and years ago, I found out that Maryland and Virginia run the sales for hard liqueur. I did not buy nor drink a single drop of alcohol, not even beer, during my entire nine years living there. It was hard, I can tell you that, but I survived.

    It may be news to you, but the government including state governments, get a lot of tax money from alcohol sales even if you buy it at Safeway.

    If I had to guess, DMak’s objection is not to paying tax, it is to state ownership and monopoly of what should be a private industry.  That is the thing that makes me dislike municipal liquor stores.  This is supposed to be a free country where we have free enterprise, but if I want to open a liquor store in some towns, I cannot because the city has outlawed competition.

    • #27
  28. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    DMak (View Comment):

    When I moved from California to Maryland years and years ago, I found out that Maryland and Virginia run the sales for hard liqueur. I did not buy nor drink a single drop of alcohol, not even beer, during my entire nine years living there. It was hard, I can tell you that, but I survived.

    It may be news to you, but the government including state governments, get a lot of tax money from alcohol sales even if you buy it at Safeway.

    If I had to guess, DMak’s objection is not to paying tax, it is to state ownership and monopoly of what should be a private industry. That is the thing that makes me dislike municipal liquor stores. This is supposed to be a free country where we have free enterprise, but if I want to open a liquor store in some towns, I cannot because the city has outlawed competition.

    I can see that, but it is still a bit of overreach.  Not buying what you’d normally buy in situations like that, is hurting the distillers etc more than it hurts the state.  And the distillers have no say in the stores being state-run.

    • #28
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