Enough is Enough: It’s Time for Virginia to Get Out of the Liquor Business

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    ( – promoted by lowkell)

    Our government has no business being in the liquor business. It’s time for the Virginia state government to get out of the business of making money off a statewide monopoly on liquor sales. This is an anachronism from the days of alcohol prohibition. Our government was not created to sell liquor. Our government was not founded to operate a profit-driven agency. Business is better left in the hands of business.

    Washington state used to have the same 1920s-era monopoly on liquor that Virginia now has. But in a 2011 referendum, voters wisely put an end to that. Washington state privatized liquor sales last year. And you know what? The sky did not fall. Drunk driving is down, and the state is actually making more money. Go figure.

    Governor Bob McDonnell (back in less scandal-ridden days), led a valiant effort to get the Virginia government out of the liquor business, but a coalition of Democrats and Republicans opposed him. Some Democrats did a lot of brow-wiping over the threat of losing millions of dollars the state makes selling booze. Some social conservatives did a lot of hand-wringing about the idea of a liquor store on every corner across the Commonwealth. The very same folks who endlessly beat the drum about less government and greater free enterprise stood in the Governor’s way and against their own purported principles.

    The day will come when a bipartisan group of leaders steps forward and does the right thing, and they will make history for all the right reasons. They will demonstrate a political courage we don’t see enough of these days in Richmond or Washington. That day can’t come soon enough. For those of us who believe that governments weren’t created to operate liquor stores, history is on our side. And the principles of liberty at the heart of our Constitution demand it.

    It’s simply not true that if we privatize our liquor sales, there will suddenly be liquor stores on every corner and next to every school. That’s a fallacious argument that ignores the government’s role in regulation and licensing. And while we’re at it, let’s stop breaking up private stills. This nation was founded on a conviction that governments are created to safeguard, not to suppress, human freedom. That means if a woman is allowed to make a craft beer in her basement, she ought to be able to make a craft whiskey in her backyard, too. It literally shouldn’t be any of the state’s business. Our government was not founded to protect people from themselves. Tragically, the Virginia ABC has become Nucky Thompson of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, with a crew of 120-plus armed agents working the state, looking for potential competitors who would dare to get in on their racket.

    The America that stands for freedom from tyranny was born because just enough people were just angry enough to say enough is enough. They spoke truth to power. They finally stood up to overzealous, militarized law enforcement, to government bureaucrats run amok with excessive power, to corporate interests who exercised undue influence over their lives, their privacy, and their freedom. Each generation of Americans has been given its challenge to do the same. We now have ours.

    I believe in my heart that the best days of this great nation are yet to come. But those days will only be realized if we are willing to do whatever we must do so that the treasure of liberty we have inherited is passed on to our children and our children’s children stronger and more vibrant than how we found it. The most patriotic act we can do as Americans is simply to wake up, and be just angry enough to say enough is enough.

    In 1807 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “It would seem impossible that an intelligent people with the faculty of reading and right of thinking should continue much longer to slumber under the pupilage of an interested aristocracy of priests and lawyers, persuading them to distrust themselves and to let them think for them… Awaken them from this voluntary degradation of mind. Restore them to a due estimate of themselves and their fellow citizens, and a just abhorrence of the falsehoods and artifices which have seduced them.”

    What happened here in Charlottesville on the night of April 11 should be a loud wake-up call to all of us who take seriously our responsibilities as free citizens. Our tax dollars should not be spent to pay armed agents of the state to lie in wait late at night in parking lots, following young college girls to their car, scaring them half to death. We should all be ashamed for letting it get to this point. We should do our best to immediately set things right, and err on the side of freedom.

    If it is true, that we can’t afford our schools and our roads and our public safety without operating a monopoly on liquor- supported by an armed crew of enforcers- then it only proves my point that we can and should do better than the government we’ve got. It’s time Virginia. You’ve got no business being in the liquor business.

    Best-selling author and historian Coy Barefoot is the host of Inside Charlottesville.

    • NotJohnSMosby

      1) This incident occurred outside a grocery store, not an ABC store.

      2) This incident was regarding what the officers thought was beer, not liquor.  Beer is sold throughout Virginia, at every gas station, convenience store, grocery store and Walmart/Target/K-Mart/etc that chooses to get a license to sell beer.

      3)  The ABC stores bring in a very sizable profit every year.  It’s hundreds of millions of dollars, not millions, as you state.  What is your plan on replace that lost revenue?  

      4) Rich white girls at UVA need to listen to law enforcement officers just like the rest of us.  A “darkened Harris Teeter parking lot” sounds like a lame excuse to me.  The two nearly ran over a couple of ABC agents when they “panicked”.  Gee, sorry little princess, we didn’t mean to scare you.

      Yeah, it was dumb of the ABC guys for wasting six agent’s worth of time staking out a supermarket.  It was really dumb of the girls to do what they did.

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      The revenue stream of the ABC stores will have to be replaced by some other revenue source. We cannot simply continue to cut taxes, increase exemptions to taxation, etc., and still receive the government services we all need and demand.

      Politicians love to cut taxes, but they never replace the lost revenue.  

    • Bumble Bee

      It is just that simple.  Don’t know what triggered this screed but it sounds a little off key.

    • Harkov311

      You say “If it is true, that we can’t afford our schools and our roads and our public safety without operating a monopoly on liquor- supported by an armed crew of enforcers- then it only proves my point that we can and should do better than the government we’ve got.”

      Well, maybe we should be doing better.  Maybe we should have other state taxes that make up for those hundreds of millions.  But we don’t, do we?

      Frankly, until the General Assembly actually comes up with some plan to actually make that revenue up somewhere else, I will continue to be against selling off the ABC.  McDonnell’s plan, from what I remember, didn’t make the revenue up elsewhere.  That’s why almost all Democrats were against it.

      And from your link it sounds like your real beef is with the ABC enforcement agents.  If that’s where the problem lies, why not just enhance their training and discipline the ones who use excessive force?  It sounds to me like the problem is with those agents, not the ABC as a whole.

    • First, the revenue we get from the sale of booze won’t simply be lost.  We’ll collect the taxes, while the bulk of the Operations Costs will go away.  There’s a fair probability that the effect would be a net plus.

      Second, the impetus for status quo is not about revenue for the state.  Like practically everything else, the ABC laws are kept in place to protect the revenue streams of well-connected “entrepreneurs” who enjoy the fruits of labor while not actually doing a whole lotta work themselves.

    • loudoun independent

      That’s a good point. The government doesn’t really have any business being in the liquor-selling business, but it makes money, so hey, let’s find a reason to justify it.

      But why stop there? The Home Depot seems to have a pretty good business model. Why shouldn’t the Virginia state government get into the home improvement business?

      Frozen yogurt places are all the rage, and I know a few individual franchisees who seem to be doing pretty alright. Let’s have the official state government frozen yogurt store. We can just create an office in Richmond that’s in charge of making decisions about it.

      There’s practically a CVS or Walgreens on every corner. I can’t think of a good reason why the state government shouldn’t open up a chain of convenience stores. We can feel proud every time we fill a prescription or buy a Snickers bar that the store’s profits are going to the state’s coffers.

      Seriously: if your primary argument is the revenue stream, then these ideas make EXACTLY as much sense as ABC stores (without the state-mandated monopoly, obviously).

      This is one of the more ridiculous policy debates in recent history.