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LIQUOR: Passage of I-1183 a good thing

Letter by Donald J. Fritz, Tacoma on June 6, 2012 at 10:36 am with 11 Comments »
June 6, 2012 11:11 am

Contrary to the view expressed by a News Tribune editorial (6-5), voters did not make a mistake when they voted for Initiative 1183.

It is the purpose of government to accomplish things for the public welfare that cannot be done well by the private sector. Retailing of alcoholic beverages (or any other commodity) can, and normally is, done effectively by the private sector. Generally, in fact, the private sector tends to be highly competitive in performing the retailing function, leading to consumer convenience; a myriad of purchase options; and moderate, competitive pricing.

With the passage of I-1183, purchasing of alcoholic beverages stronger than wine has already become more convenient than it ever was under a state government monopoly. Yes, prices remain high. That is the ransom we voters/consumers paid for the release from government of the retailing function.

The News Tribune becomes histrionic in its editorial when declaring that any reduction of alcoholic beverage sales taxes would “create the perfect storm.” Many of the same retail outlets now selling “hard” liquor have long sold beer and wine, yet this has not led to hordes of drunken 10th-graders meandering in the streets.

Leave a comment Comments → 11
  1. Theefrinker says:

    Good letter, and well-put.

  2. Fibonacci says:

    “it is the purpose of government to accomplish things for the public welfare that cannot be done well by the private sector”. OK, I might have missed this in Civics class, but where does it say this in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the Bible, or anyplace else other than the Republican Party platform?

  3. alindasue says:


    “it is the purpose of government to accomplish things for the public welfare that cannot be done well by the private sector”.

    That same argument can also be used when talking about things like public transit systems and providing aid to the needy. It is not exclusive to one party or another.

    Public transit systems exist because that is something needed for the public welfare that it has been shown can not be done successfully by the private sector (without substantial public funds to supplement). On the other hand, a large number of states before Washington have already shown that the selling of liquor can be handled quite successfully by the private sector.

  4. anthonw says:

    I understand not everyone can be patient, but OMG. The system has been private for 5 days and all we’ve heard is the failure of privatization because the prices are higher than they were (interestingly enough, from the same people who’ve always opposed the initiative).

    We dismantled a system that was 78 years old. Nearly everyone working in the liquor industry in this state doesn’t know any other system. It’s going to take some time and its about more than price. Wait until the specialty shops open up; wait until the private labels (which include more than just generic bottlings) show up; wait until the liquor superstores open near you.

    People have worked around the clock for six months to make June 1 happen, and despite that, the stores opened with 50% or less inventory. Distributors are taking advantage of the chaos and jacking up their prices. They’re on the hook for $150m in the first year. If they can’t make it from the 10% fee, it comes out of profit (or your price, if you prefer).

    WA voters had the option to approve 1100, which did not have any fees or restrictions against MOM&POP but they rejected it on ridiculous fears or confusion. Privatization was the right way to go, but it will take some time for the dust to settle. I’m hoping that will start around August, but it may not be until next summer.

    If you don’t like the prices on the name brands, buy the store brands. Competition is about more than just prices. It’s about brand loyalty. Just like everything else in the grocery store, if the name brands aren’t selling so well, they have sales or drop their prices to compete with the store brands. If you must have the name brand for your receipe, shop around.

  5. the only thing I-1183 accomplished is to give more money to the corporations.

  6. I walked into a liquor store today, to view the difference for myself. Granted my purchases are less than once a year – gifts for others, as I don’t drink.

    The first thing I noticed was how little inventory is on the shelves. It’s primarily cheap booze, because the finer liquors would cost to inventory and these people just dumped a ton of money to buy those licensed stores.

    Within a couple years, strictly major retailers will be in business and you’ll buy what they want to stock.

    Brilliant law, people. If you want to drink a quality pour, by a plane ticket for Las Vegas.

  7. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    fib! For… I think the second time ever I read a post by you in complete agreement… until the very last line. You’re joking… right? Because everything you said up to that point would perfectly describe a conservative’s argument against typical democrat policy. I’d be very curious to know where you found the plank in the “Republican Party platform” that says otherwise.

    And I don’t think even the most libertarian among us would argue that all services provided by government can be done more efficiently and/ or cheaper in the private sector.

    I voted for I 1183, but not because I had any illusions that liquor would be cheaper – I absolutely didn’t. I view it as a first step; getting the government out of a business enterprise in which they have no right to be – both at the wholesale and retail level. Regulation does not mean absolute control of distribution.

    Voters have used the power of initiative to lower taxes in this state before – it will happen again, just watch.

    And I completely agree with anthonw’s post as well.

    In the mean time, it’s booze runs to Cali and Reno I guess… if you want sippn’ liquor for an affordable price and a little vacay too. Tahoe’s beautiful this time of year, and the skiings great in the winter.

  8. Ironic booze taxes are now paying for State teachers salaries. Would be more appropriate for huge tax increases on donuts.

  9. SadujTogracse says:

    Thank you voters for passing I-1183! While most items are a little more I have found some sale items cheaper than at the old state stores. Also, after 2 years the current 10% distribution fee will drop to 5% so that should help lower the price for customers. Selection and variety will only increase over time. It’s also much more convenient!

  10. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    LOL, IQof88 – I’m stealing that!

  11. beerBoy says:

    And I don’t think even the most libertarian among us would argue that all services provided by government can be done more efficiently and/ or cheaper in the private sector.

    vox – unfortunately there are more than a few who are so driven by ideology that they think privatization is the magic placebo that is ALWAYS better than government-provided services.

    Government-run liquor stores should be privatized as they are remnants of Prohibition (as are higher taxes on alcohol) and selling alcohol is not vital to the interests of the community. Supporters of government-run liquor stores most often are those who would prefer total prohibition of alcohol.

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