Thursday, June 14, 2012

Washington State Liquor Sales: A Perspective on Privatization

Liquor for thought: Wasn't it all about removing state control?

No, not in this case. Knowing what the market looks like at this point in time; who did this legislation really benefit? Customers? At present, there is less selection and a horizon of relatively higher prices for the forseeable future. Retailers? A business opportunity for sure, but with the 10% distributor fee and 17% retailer fee in addition to state taxes, who profits? Liquor Corporations? Yeah...probably not. So, if "we" aren't to benefit significantly from Initiative 1183, then who?

Consider this scenario: Washington State wanted more money from a liquor business without the responsibility of maintaining their current operating expenses, employee-driven health care costs and the growing headache of dealing with customer complaints. Washington State's population wanted what only a private liquor market could offer; "real" accountability, competition, quality service and more options at their time, their price and suited to their needs. It just so happened that a private business named Costco wanted the opportunity to sell liquor with pockets deep enough to afford it. Here, is the opportunity. The state, seeing a similar end to their control in mind, fosters this business's plans in pursuit of their own agenda. By passively supporting this plan, the state sheds the responsibility of its expenses without expense. It also implements a new group of taxes, called "fees" to fit a newly created private market like a glove. If the existing state liquor store's net profits weren't enough, then step it up by substituting private stores and add a little growth factor. In effect, allowing private businesses to retail liquor cures their headache while giving rise to the opportunity for the number of store's selling liquor to increase by 100 fold. More importantly, the potential for each new retailer's sales to yield big returns imposed by the new taxes, I mean "fees" should increase as well. Cha-ching! The state satisfies the need for privatization of their voting population and, at the same time, passively absolve themselves from their current role in the relationship, selling liquor to the consumer. To achieve this, the state, without too much arm tugging, allows its public advocate for the plan, Costco, to be the face that sells the idea to the consumer via an initiative. Sold! I-1183 passed and privatization is here. So, who did this legislation really benefit? If this scenario is true, Washington State is pretty damn clever if you ask me.

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