11102014 Why Dry Counties Are a Waste of Resources

“The assertion that alcohol sales and consumption lead to rampant crime and decay of the moral fiber is no less than a claim that the free citizens of this free nation have neither the moral nor mental capacity to govern themselves and act as responsible members of society without a benign, possibly even theocratic, despotism that seeks to pass judgment….”   (I lost the attribution for this quote. I’m using it anyway and I apologize for not citing its source. – X)  This is a fancy-pants means of saying that you have to trust people to behave responsibly and not interfere with their choices until they misbehave – and not to seek to dictate people’s choices based on your moral grounds.

To ensure clarity in my point: I disagree with attempts to keep counties ‘dry,’ or devoid of the sale of alcoholic beverages. (Given the false pretense that no alcohol is sold in these counties, of course!)

I updated this entry after Amendment #4 failed here in Arkansas. Oddly enough, though, one county voted overall against allowing statewide liquor sales, yet on the same ballot passed a law to allow their own county to be able to sell alcohol. That’s funny on several levels, and a good demonstration of the craziness that characterizes people’s attitude and relationship to alcohol. The liquor stores in wet counties spent millions of dollars to reframe the argument to indicate ones attitude about “local control.” Those arguments are specious and laughable. But they were very, very effective in the vote. In Johnson, one of the most Mayberry RFD little kingdoms in the state, voters passed a law to allow Sunday sale of alcohol, even though it affects almost no businesses and in general the voters there lag significantly behind other areas in attitudes about such things. In the towns where I grew up, both illegal moonshining and bootlegging were very common. Even today, it is rampant.

Arkansas will eventually become totally wet and statewide liquor sales will be the norm. Like all social issues, it will be defeated by slimmer and slimmer margins. Over time, people will see through the ineffectiveness and hassle of having such crazy repressive laws on the books. It’s not a moral issue and continuing to frame it that way is going to lessen the ability to keep the laws unchanged.

First, restricting availability only serves to ensure that those without the means won’t have the same access to alcohol as those with better transportation and disposable income will have. If you argue that people with less money shouldn’t be spending it on alcohol, that is an elitist attitude. It’s true, of course, that money needed to maintain one’s life and health shouldn’t be wasted on alcohol; on the other hand, being rich doesn’t excuse the expenditure, either. We could all find better uses for our money than spending it alcohol. But that’s true of eating out, going to sporting events, trips, or how big our house is. Alcohol is still tainted by the old prohibitionist attitude.

Second, limiting access to otherwise legal activities or substances usually has an underpinning of moral superiority somewhere in the mix. Telling an adult “no” because they might misbehave is terrible public policy.

Third, if you vote down alcohol sales in your own backyard and yet drink elsewhere, where people allow one another to live freely until they do something illegal and/or stupid, you should consider that this sends the wrong message about how steadfast your beliefs might actually be. I would never prohibit an activity in my own backyard and partake of the same the activity just because of a different geographical location. Whether it is alcohol or bow hunting, if I fight it where I live, I’m not going to do it anywhere else, either.

Fourth, please don’t use the presence of children to force abolition on others. If you don’t want alcohol sold in your area, please don’t drink around children. It sends a conflicting message. Of course, you might counter with the claim that any good parent can demonstrate, explain and educate their children on the social downfall or intoxication and misuse – but so too can anyone else ask for the same right in their area and household. If you fight the availability of alcohol where you live based on your children being exposed to it, you should probably not drink in their presence, whether at home or on vacation. Most places don’t limit access to alcohol with laws such as ours. Children are going to be exposed to it. All you can do is be great parents and be a good example. History has shown that not having alcohol in the house doesn’t serve as a good indicator as to whether ones children will drink inappropriately.

Fifth, where alcohol is sold can be regulated easily. Whether your goal is to maintain an appearance such as to avoid gaudy signs or deterioration, you can pass laws to specify those concerns. The same holds true as for hours of operation, proximity to schools, the taxation amount and so forth.

People who drink are going to find ways to drink, especially when it is just a question of geography.

In simple terms, you have to trust me to drink responsibly, to not engage in illegal behavior, to treat my fellow human beings with the courtesy they deserve, to not drive under the influence, to not expose children to activities detrimental to their well-being – all of which is already expected of those who are responsible citizens.

The Perryman Report is a great read for anyone denying that prohibition is anything but negative on a place’s economic strength. The ability to control sale of alcohol has no effect on consumption. Many studies have shown the going “wet” has decreased a region’s per capita accident rate and increased its economic strength.