October 16, 2009
Do your part for Mrs. Gregoire and give someone a bottle of Chivas Regal for Christmas

"State liquor board experimenting with seasonal gift stores in area malls"

I've been curious how the Liquor Control Board justifies its monopoly on bottle sales of liquor -- when beer and wine are available at every grocery store and vodka by the glass can be enjoyed at every corner bar. So I recently perused the WSLCB web site. Their own documents are fascinating. The WSLCB variously claims to benefit society by (I paraphrase, but the internal contradictions are real):

a) controlling alcohol consumption

b) promoting alcohol sales in order to generate revenue for state government

c) maintaining hundreds of cushy jobs for unionized public employees (complete with unfunded pension liabilities!)

d) selling alcohol at lower prices than the public would enjoy if sales were privatized

e) regulating (artificially raising) beer and wine prices to both limit consumption and benefit distributors at the expense of retailers and customers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at October 16, 2009 11:54 AM | Email This
Comments
1. A clear and concise statement of conflicted thinking.

Brilliant!
.

Posted by: OregonGuy on October 16, 2009 11:21 AM
2. This should be Eyemans next initiative, Disband the Liquor Control Board.

Posted by: mike336 on October 16, 2009 11:50 AM
3. This is a issue I think we can all get behind.

Posted by: meanie on October 16, 2009 11:59 AM
4. I suggested this to Rossi the last two times he ran as an easy agency to disband to show he is serious about smaller government. Not only was he against it but every supporter I met out leafleting for him was against it.

The GOP needs to get serious about cutting back the duties of government.

Posted by: Lysander on October 16, 2009 12:24 PM
5. I bought a half gallon of Makers in a Costco in Arizona for 26 bucks that would set you back north of $50 here.

Posted by: JDH on October 16, 2009 12:33 PM
6. JDH - the cost is more of a tax issue than a lack of free market forces. Looks like an opportunity for two initiatives.

Posted by: ronin on October 16, 2009 12:40 PM
7. Lets see

Pro: Greater accesibility, reduced government payroll, taxes would still be collected.

Con: workers would probably be given generous severance due to public employee union

Anyone have any additions?

Posted by: mike336 on October 16, 2009 01:09 PM
8. Lower cost in Idaho, and they post it on their website.

Posted by: Mad as Hell on October 16, 2009 02:26 PM
9. If the State went to private liquor stores, it would force private businesses to hire those unionized state employees at their inflated salaries and benefits. No cost savings there.

Posted by: Carol on October 16, 2009 02:29 PM
10. #9
I appreciate the thinking, but that's not necessarily true Carol.

Yes, you're probably right that the state would try to preserve the union jobs, but getting the stores into the hands of private industry would introduce market forces like supplier competition and focus on organizational efficiency - two big things the state government bureaucracy of Washington has shown no inclination for.

When vendors fight for shelfspace, retailers win and when retailers win, so do customers usually. On the efficiency front, modernization of supply chain management, focus on managing inventories and customer payment methods, etc. would all yield big results.

To put this in perspective, just about every analyst out there agrees that if Walmart employees unionized tomorrow, the company would still end up kicking the tail of their competitors because they have an incredibly efficient inventory management system in a real focus on using point-of-sale data analysis to drive inventory and pricing decisions.

Right now Washington state liquor stores do none of these things.

Posted by: johnny on October 16, 2009 02:49 PM
11. Who thinks if an initiative freeing up liquor sales would pass 70/30?

Posted by: Crusader on October 17, 2009 08:58 AM
12. There are about 30% hard core Republicans in this state so yeah I say 70/30 is about right.

Posted by: Lysander on October 17, 2009 12:49 PM
13. I totally agree with Johnny (#10). When I moved here from CA in 2005, I was startled to find that I had to go to a state-controlled liquor store to buy anything more than beer and wine. Where do we live, 1955 Alabama?

Even laid-back Californians would RIOT if they didn't have 24/7 access to liquor. I'm not saying it's a social good, just that the state-controlled system is bizarre and a relic.

And yes....liquor was cheaper there, even though the state taxes it plenty.

Posted by: Ex-OC'er on October 17, 2009 12:53 PM
14. I like the control of liquor here. I think it's a pretty good model for the loosening of drug prohibition when that comes.

I come from California where there's an ugly liquor store on every corner. They're unsightly and magnets for crime. The stores here by contrast are invisible. I don't miss them personally because I don't drink anything stronger than beer and wine.

Are the taxes high on liquor here? Good! Tax the things you want less of. Who's in favor of promoting more drug and alcohol use? Tax it to high heaven. That means more clear heads.

Posted by: YLB on October 18, 2009 01:21 PM
15. I want Liquor Barn. Wall to wall liquor, the size of Costco. I want liquor in Costco, in QFC, in Trader Joes. Why not?

Posted by: Crusader on October 18, 2009 02:18 PM
16. 15 - why not? Move to California then. They've got it in spades. I like the way things are here and when the day comes you'd like to buy some weak cannabis to unwind at the end of the day, the infrastructure to tax and control distribution is already there.

Posted by: YLB on October 20, 2009 07:56 AM
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