How many of you go way out of your way to buy your liquor, be it at a military base or on the other side of a state line somewhere to avoid paying a higher cost?
By going to Florida or Mississippi, you are saving a few dollars at the cash register. But why should Alabamians have to do that in the first place?
Next year, State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, will once again introduce legislation to get the state of Alabama out of the retail sales of liquor.
In theory, that will lower the cost to the consumer for liquor. It has been proven over and over that anything government does is more costly, which is passed on to the consumers.
Orr has offered some kind of bill every session for the past several years, all of which have failed. On Alabama Public Television last week, he pledged to do so once again in 2020.
“I think the state has no business being in the retail sales of alcohol,” Orr told “Capital Journal” host Don Dailey. “If we were designing state government today, Don, would we think, ‘Well, let’s get into the retail sales of anything,’ for that matter of alcohol?
“But then, have the private sector down the street that we’re competing against. So, it’s been tried before. And I’m perhaps a little stubborn and am going to keep trying. I think we’re going to come with something different this time, and we’re going to see where we go.”
How did this happen in the first place?
It came after the country’s failed experiment with the prohibition of alcohol in the 1930s. The idea was the heavy hand of government could still deter consumption, which was seen as a necessary social control at the time in some places.
Alabama took it as license to get into the liquor business, which over time has evolved to shameless cronyism.
Proponents of the current system will tell you these outlets generate profits for the state, which creates the ability for the benevolent leaders in Montgomery to provide all the goodness only the government can offer.
If having a revenue-generating monopoly is justification, why not go into other businesses? How about car dealerships?
“Come down to State of Alabama Ford and Mercury, where you can expect about the same quality of service you get at the DMV! We don’t have to have the best deal because we’re the only deal!”
Proponents also say it is a jobs program — 170 stores with at least 600 employees. If those 170 stores went away tomorrow, at least 170 privately owned liquor stores would pop up very shortly.
The 2010 Republican takeover of state government was supposed to mean a new era with a majority led by conservative ideals. Somehow being in the retail business of alcohol, albeit a regulated substance, has survived this promise.
There is also the estimated $12 million in leases signed by this same benevolent government’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board to house some of those 170 stores held by some of the big players in Alabama.
Alabama is one of the reddest states in the union, and it should not be this difficult for the legislature to act and allow for the free market to prevail.
But why let that get in the way of tired bromides from Republicans in state government willing to extol the virtues of President Donald Trump.
It won’t be as if the state will be walking away empty-handed. This is not a zero-sum proposition. The state of Alabama will still get to wet its beak with taxes. And by eliminating the overhead costs of being in the retail business, some believe it will save taxpayers $20 million annually.
Granted, $20 million is a rounding error on the state’s annual education budget. However, look at it from the standpoint of the average person.
It’s not the dollar amount, but the idea that citizens in Alabama have to go to the trouble of going out of the way to purchase a legal product, or that they have to pay a tax on the convenience of not having to drive to a neighboring state.
Ever so often, some genius in the media will write a piece about how much money the government is losing with its antiquated liquor laws and how terrible it is that people do not want to pay more for the sake of giving the government the ability to spread its goodness around.
The correct approach for lawmakers is: How do we get people in Florida and Mississippi to come to Alabama to buy their booze? If we’re all about economic development, make it where retailers can come to this state and give the incentive to buy Alabama, even if it is for a handle of Wild Turkey.
It all starts with the state getting out of the retail booze business.
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