Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pa State Stores and Our Business

Ah, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the State Store system. So much can be written about that and so much has. So let me give it a “shot”. When talking about the LCB the subject most discussed is the state store system. Here is Pa. we have to buy wines and spirits from the government. Why? Just because! Some people want the system to be privatized while others want to keep it under the control of people don’t have real jobs. Let’s take a look at some this. But first I am going to get strong coffee.

Recently, Antony Davies, associate professor of economics at Duquesne University and a senior scholar at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. wrote a letter to the editor in the trib. He asked if the private sector could sell alcohol more efficiently than the state? His retort was that government has never done a more efficient job than private sector. My comment to Mr. Davies is to get off the campus more and see how private business is run. There is no law that says private business has to run efficiently, make money or give customers what they want. If that were not true then Dilbert would not exist. I have seen things done in retail that would make a government bureaucrat weep with envy.

The practice of operating efficiently does not have to be applied with the state store system. They have no competition other than boarder states and as long as we go in to buy wines and spirits at said price, what are they loosing? Could they make more money? Yes, But they are making money and being more efficient will not translate to lower costs for us. Under private hands, price could go up, selection could go down and we would still be bitching. And let’s us not forget the restaurant people. They now buy from a single source. How would they obtain stock? A central wholesaler who could control cost or multiple vendors fighting for sales? Should “big alcohol” go private don’t expect your Thunderbird to be delivered with unicorns.

Mr. Davis brought up the issue of underage drinking and drunk-driving (that’s drink-drive for my British readers). First of all, if alcohol was the only thing youngsters were taking in, it would be better than what they are taking in now. Getting booze and smokes have always been obtainable. How about dad’s liquor cabinet?

I have several issues to Mr. Davis’ comments on drunk driving and binge drinking. He said that Pennsylvania had equivalent underage drinking rates but higher drunk-driving fatality rates than privatized states. I cannot dispute this but what does it have to do with anything? First of all we need to remember that not all alcohol comes from state stores. Beer comes from distributors. I don’t think many people walk out of a state store or beer distributor and start drinking on the way home. Other than drinking at home, a lot of people drink in bars, clubs and restaurants. This is all private. Right now people are drinking beer, wine and whiskey and getting drunk and driving. Privatizing the system will do nothing to change this. If you want to link drunken driving to the state store then you need to eliminate all drunk driving incidents what were due to beer only. If that could be done it would mean nothing.

I have concerns and interests in how the LCB operates in general but as for state stores I don’t buy wines or spirits for home so I don’t care one hoot about them other than the state budget and my taxes. Anyway, should the system go private I am sure that we will have a good selection. As for price, we will pay for the value and not the worth. By that I mean that the price will based on what we are willing to pay as opposed what it cost to stock an item plus mark-up.

I am sure that all who read this has an opinion one way or another. I don’t see how a change in a products distribution will change its end use. All that is germane to this topic is taxes generated, price and selection. Right now we can bring our grievance to our representatives. We have been doing that and it has not gotten any better. Once the system goes private none of this will be any of our business.

Incidentally, I am only using Mr. Davis’ comments as he wrote a letter today and I could not pass it up. He said what a lot of people are saying and I think much of it is moot.

1 comment:

  1. "There is no law that says private business has to run efficiently, make money or give customers what they want."

    Sure there is, it's called the laws of supply and demand. Businesses that don't make money GO OUT OF BUSINESS! If service is lousy, I can vote with my money and patronize a different establishment. When a business loses money, they either shape-up or ship-out. Not so with a government run monopoly. If I want better service, I have to phone a representative, they have to call a committee, the union has to have their say, Joe Conti gives his input... It's very time consuming. All the while, if I still want to purchase wine, I must BY LAW only use the state stores. You take the consumer's vote away.