Thursday, June 03, 2010

Standard-Examiner Editorial: Dump The State Liquor Monopoly!

Yet in Utah, we still view enjoying a drink like a professional prude stumbling into a peep show in a dark alley in Amsterdam.

Standard-Examiner Editorial
OUR VIEW: Utah, stop selling liquor!
June 4, 2010

Strikingly sensible editorial in this morning's Standard-Examiner, urging the State of Utah to get out of the liquor business, and to turn over the marketing of adult beverages to the private sector, where it would belong in a free market economy:
OUR VIEW: Utah, stop selling liquor!
We can't help but note the political irony of having a state legislature which actively promotes privatization of every endeavor from road construction to public schools, and yet prudishly clings to the Prohibition Era notion that a liquor monopoly ought to be run by a free market-adverse "nanny state ."

Great editorial... and Grondahl's morning cartoon is the editorial frosting on the cake.

In reality however, we won't hold our breath waiting for this...

Or this...

And what say our gentle readers about all this?


OneWhoKnows said...

Utah and it's Mormon lawmakers have NO business being in the liquor business no more than the rest of us telling them how to run their church. Seperation of church and state needs to be enforced and enjoyed for all people living in this country, especially Utah. The time is long over due for people to demand a return to our U.S. Constitution and to stand up and hold our lawmakers accountable and representative to our wishes. AMEN

Wm III said...

God forbid this would happen in my lifetime ...

Curmudgeon said...

Question: the state made $60 million peddling hooch last year. Is there any credible study that indicates moving liquor sales to the private sphere entirely would increase sales taxes by at least that amount? If not, the state will lose revenues, millions of which are targeted to schools, by getting out of the hooch-peddling business.

There are, as the editorial notes, other reasons the state shouldn't be in the liquor trade, and they are sound ones. And having lived until arriving here in states in which we could buy a bottle of wine at the super market, we've always found having to drive to a state package store to buy wine or other liquor annoying. Extra trip, extra stop, extra driving, and much higher prices, all to satisfy the Puritans in the legislature.

However, in the current financial crisis, with a legislature in power that swore it would not reduce school funding when it switched to our new flat income tax but which in fact stripped schools of many millions of dollars of tax revenues, and with millions more now lost due to the poor economy, I don't think now would be a good time to switch to private marketing of booze if the result will be a further reduction in money for schools.

If ending the state monopoly will not raise at least an additional $60 million in sales taxes so that schools don't suffer more revenue cuts, this particular reform might better be left to flush times to enact. It's a good idea. It's the right idea. But it may be the wrong time to do it.

Curmudgeon said...

Hmmmmm..... Anyone else curious about how the SE Editorial Board is familiar with what can be found in the dark alleys of Amsterdam?

[Grin. Sorry. Couldn't resist.]

blackrulon said...

As a alternative to closing state controlled liquor stores I have a suggestioin. Why not let private enterprise take over operations at store slated for closure. The state will continue to make money on the markup sales but will not have to fund operating costs. This will neither increase or decrease the number of outlets and will porovide a opportunity to watch how the private sector can make a profitable business operate or the store will close of it does not make a profit.

Curmudgeon said...


I don't see how this could work without the state agreeing to reduce its take from a privately operated state liquor store. If the private operation must turn over to the state exactly what the state is making from the store now, where would the private store's profit come from? Either state revenues would have to be reduced [to allow an increment of profit for the private operator], or, if state revenues are to remain the same, the private operator would have to raise prices even higher than they are now at state stores, which would presumably reduce business.

Moroni McConkie said...

I'd love to see the state get out of the liquor business, but I will be outvoted by the opposition. Fact. What else is there to discuss?

Curmudgeon said...


Neal H. has an interesting comment on this up over on the SE site [Link here.] I wonder if the legislature could be induced to at least fund the marketing study Neal H. mentions. If it concluded that shifting to private liquor sales could or would mean a significant boost in state revenues, that might shake some of the troglodytes loose on this issue.

I know, I know, MM. I said might, not would.

blackrulon said...

Curm, the private stores could sell a variety of items not just liquor. Just like in other states that let private business sell liquor. The markup on supplemental items sold in convenience stores is enormous and profitable. Do not dismiss alternatives out of hand. Let private market forces operate. If they fail to make a profit on sales of various items they will go out of business. If they make a profit the state will reap tax benefits. The state makes money on cigarettes without selling only through state monoply stores.

nicely done said...

I'm all for getting rid of more government loafers collecting paycheck sitting on thier brains at taxpayer expense....

Danny said...

I remember the landmark liquor stores when I was a kid. Everyone knew where they were - just like the massage parlors.

Yeh, to get to my house, drive past the Silver Fox, take a left at Ronnie's Liquors, then go past the church and the elementary school - second house on the right.

We had a lot more freedom then. And society was more moral too. Public morality now is a farce.

Utah's control of liquor sales is for the same reason we have vehicle inspections. There are those who make money off it who do not deserve to. It's easier for an incompetent to insinuate himself with the political machine than it is to make an honest living with actual customers and competition.

Curmudgeon said...


I didn't dismiss your alternative. I said I didn't see how it would work, and explained why.

The state, by the way, does not make money from the sale of cigarettes except by taxes on them. It makes money --- profit, not taxes --- from the sale of hooch through the state run monopoly liquor stores.

If the state gives over operation of the existing stores to private businesses, it could reduce the amount paid to the state on the sale of each bottle to allow the private operators' to profit, and then pass a new tax on liquor sales to make up the loss. But that would significantly raise the price to the consumer, which, again, would presumably cut sales volume.

If the state just gave up the monopoly altogether and its mandated 85% mark up, and suddenly there were as Neal H. supposes 400 liquor outlets around the state, with competitive pricing, the state might recoup what it gave up through a combination of a new tax on liquor coupled with a significant increase in sales [prompted presumably by price competition among the vendors].

But I still don't see how that would work if all the state did was allow private companies to operate the existing state liquor outlets, without the state having to surrender revenues to provide for the private operators' profits. Might work. I just don't see how.

Danny said...

It seems every time the comments section here changes, it gets harder to post a comment.

Used to be there were massage parlours, corner liquor stores, dog races and dog fights, you could walk anywhere in peace, and we had the original comment section for the WCF.

If a man wanted to get his cookies, he didn't have to handle the kids at school, he could get a throw for $20. He could get a drink. He could drop a 10 and see a little action. He could do as he pleased. There was less crime, lower taxes, and a man who was willing to work could find a job almost anywhere. And back then, a man could post comments easily.

Yes, life was simpler then.

ozboy said...

I'm witch ya on dad one Danny! I posted a comment on this thread earlier today when the comment section was temporarily in the hands of Osama Benladen and the SOB simply ate it! Being of short attention span I cannot remember what the comment was or would repeat it here.

Anonymous said...

When I was 15 years young, I could call the local liquor store on any Friday night, and an endless 30 minutes later the 20'ish year old delivery driver would arrive carrying full kegs of Bud, gallons of liquor, and dozens of cases of beer.
A half dozen Jr. High School young adults would meet the delivery man at the parents-are-out-of-town door with a loud w00t and some heady marijuana for his look-the-other-way tip.

No fake ID, as I was too young to even have a drivers licence.

I miss the good old days.

RudiZink said...

Sorry, Oz and Danny. I spent a couple of hours yesterday tinkering the our WCF comments settings, in the hope that I could ditch that annoying word recognition "captcha" feature which impedes readers comments on the blog. Unfortunately the new scheme didn't work out. During the test period we were inundated by a half dozen robot spam "ads," so I've now restored "popup comments," and our comments system is now back to normal.

I'll note, by the way that "robo spammming" has recently reached epidemic level on the internet. It's ten times worse than its ever been, during the five years I've published Weber County Forum.

Incidentally, the vast majority of this robo spam consists of those ubiquitous Viagra ads, which you'll find peppering comments sections from major US newspapers to the smallest backwater blogs.

Go figure. What kind of moron would order pharmaceuticals from internet spam posts?

Curmudgeon said...


The captcha box on WCF is not, I think, much of a problem. You want an example of a really difficult one to read --- I mess it up about one time in five --- look at the one over at the SE. And it still doesn't keep the shoe and handbag ads from clogging the comments section.

OgdenLover said...

As I've said before, putting the Utah government in charge of liquor sales is like putting cats in charge of dogfood.

Imgine being able to pick up a nice cabernet at the supermarket to go with the steak that's already in your basket. Quite possible in many other States.

AWM said...

Been to a fair amount of liquor stores in many states. Was at a Utah State store this past Saturday..clean, organized well kept..great in-stock selection. No alcohol dependent near-do wells loitering at the front door bumming for change. Staff was personable and appeared to practice good personal and oral hygiene. Can't say that about MOST liqour or "package " stores I've been to outside of Utah. As BB would state "js"

Curmudgeon said...


Yup. No complaints about service, helpfulness, etc. None whatever. The prices are way high compared with other states, and they don't stock some wines I wish they did, but the people who work the stores have been fine IMHO.

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