Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Privatization as easy as ABC?

Virginia is one of nine states in the country that operate liquor stores -- 331 of them to be exact. While privately-run establishments are allowed to sell beer and wine, any beverage with an alcohol content of 14 percent or above is distributed solely by the state government, in effect making it Virginia's biggest drug dealer. Indeed, it is worth noting that producing revenue to fill the state coffers (along with protecting the youth of course) is part of the organization's mission statement:
To control the distribution of alcoholic beverages; operate efficient, conveniently located retail outlets; enforce the laws of the Commonwealth pertaining to alcoholic beverages and youth access to tobacco products; and provide excellent customer service, a reliable source of revenue, and effective public safety.
It's certainly hard to beat liquor as a consistent revenue source, especially when you have a monopoly on the market. Arguments have been made about the need for government to control distribution to help prevent alcohol abuse, but any relationship between abuse and government distribution is not at all apparent:

The 18 alcohol beverage control states

Binge alcohol use in past month among persons aged 12 or older

Thankfully the Republican candidate for Virginia governor in this fall's election, Bob McDonnell, has proposed an end to this absurd situation through privatization of the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control. It's worth noting that Democrat Governor Mark Warner's Commission on Efficiency and Effectiveness, established in 2002 and chaired by former Governor L. Douglas Wilder, -- a fellow Democrat -- also endorsed privatization.

An ABC privatization bill introduced by state Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) failed earlier this year. Let's hope that McDonnell, if elected, has more success.

More thoughts on government-run liquor stores here.

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