Archive for January, 2011


End drug prohibition now

January 23, 2011

Judge Jim Gray gives several good reasons to. Judge Gray wrote Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed: A Judicial Indictment Of War On Drugs. posted this clip last March (2010) – but it bears repeating until this thoughtless prohibition is ended.

The 18th amendment didn’t work and was repealed.

The War on Drugs doesn’t work and should be repealed.

How many times do we have to keep making the same mistake?


Not quite the DMV

January 9, 2011

I’ve seen a couple of mentions lately about Pennsylvania’s state-owned-and-operated liquor stores. "Like prisoners in a gulag," is how a NYT article describes liquor shoppers in Pennsylvania.

I can believe the gulag part, even though I’ve never been in a Pennsylvania liquor store. I thought that kind of store had disappeared years ago but I guess I’m not too surprised Pennsylvania still has them. My impression is that alcohol control laws in the northeastern US are a little weird. A lot of different laws, a lot of different taxes, and a lot of states in a small area passing all those laws and taxes.

I recall a visit to my wife’s cousins in Massachusetts once. One of our outings was a not-too-long drive to Connecticut to buy beer and wine. I think that trip was due to lower taxes. I remember that the Connecticut stores were conveniently located just barely over the state line. I could’ve thrown a rock back into Massachusetts.

The Pennsylvania stories reminded me of my year-long stint in Iowa in 1974 & 1975. I worked CATV construction then and I’d gone to Des Moines to work on the system being built there. At that time in Iowa, you could buy beer (and maybe wine) at any gas station or grocery. But if you wanted liquor, you could only buy that at state-operated liquor stores.

I visited an Iowa State liquor store once to buy a fifth of whiskey as a gift for a friend’s father. This would have been in December, 1974 and it was sort of like a trip to the DMV.

As I recall, the store’s very plain entry admitted you to an anteroom. A counter stretching across the width of the store separated this anteroom from the shelves of liquor in the rear. And here’s how you bought your bottle of hooch.

You went to the right side of the counter and told state employee #1 what you wanted; he marked items on a check list. Then he passed that list along to state employee #2, who fetched your order from the shelves in back. (There was more than one person filling this role, IIRC.) #2 gave it to state employee #3, who packaged it for you. Finally the package was handed to state employee #4, at the left side of the counter, and he took your payment and rang the sale on the register.

Only after the sale was concluded did you actually get to touch or look at what you’d bought. If you didn’t know exactly what you wanted when you walked in, I suppose you were out of luck.

There were four people doing what one person would do in any sensible, privately operated store. They were all middle-aged, or older, men and naturally none of them was in any particular hurry. It all paid the same, eh?

And of course, it had the same take-a-number system that many DMVs and post offices use to insure first-come, first-served customer handling.

It was one of the oddest things I’d seen in my young life and I remember thinking, ‘What is this? The Iowa Full Employment Center?’ Since I couldn’t imagine what business the State of Iowa had running retail stores, what I took away was another lesson in limited government.

Even though Iowa doesn’t run state-operated stores any longer, it’s still one of the 19 states which hold monopolies on liquor sales.

Luckily, I’m in the next state south and its alcohol control laws are very liberal.

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