Thursday, July 29, 2021
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ABC Privatization: Facts, Numbers Don’t Add Up


According to the Washington Post, Bob McDonnell is selling his ABC store privatization scheme by touting a couple of research reports funded by think tanks established for one purpose: to promote small government, an unregulated free market, and other conservative ideas. The big question for Virginians is just how much credence can be put into reports by groups like the Virginia Institute for Public Policy and Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Foundation.  

Also left unsaid by McDonnell is how he plans to fulfill his promise to be sure General Fund annual ABC profit income of more than $100 million is maintained, as well as how he plans on funding his promise to vigorously enforce drinking laws if liquor outlets are more than tripled.

McDonnell's studies come from two sources. The Virginia Institute for Public Policy is a think tank with a mission to promote "free enterprise, private property...and constitutionally limited government." While it is "nonpartisan," it has a point of view that directs which reports it will fund and publish. It's a sure bet that if a study doesn't match its philosophy, it won't see the light of day. Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Foundation has the same mission: to promote "limited government...and personal responsibility."

Normally, research must follow certain rules to be taken seriously, including using a methodology that can be replicated and reviewed blindly by others in order to reach the truth. Studies published by these conservative think tanks have a different purpose: to make public policy shift to the right. According to the media watchdog FAIR,  research reports like those McDonnell is using to sell privatization "offer a very limited menu: They only publish reports advocating deregulation, privatization, property rights, school choice and a few other topics."

You can bet that McDonnell won't mention other studies that show states with alcohol monopolies have fewer problems. Add to that the state revenue loss and the cost of enforcement and his  privatization house of cards really falls apart.