If the state government's goal for owning liquor stores is the promotion of temperance, Idaho's liquor agency is kind of awful at it. Really awful. Sales are up. Income is up. Drinking is up.
And now, the state liquor agency wants to spend some money revamping its website. Why? So that the government can offer "drink recipes." And "party planning tips." So much for temperance.
The amount of money the agency is requesting isn't much--$15,000 from liquor sale receipts. But still, the state constitution's directive that the government ensure the "sobriety of the people, and the purity of the home" seems a bit at odds with the liquor division's budget request.
The liquor division also wants $197,000 to expand five liquor stores, according to budget info submitted to the state Division of Financial Management.
Jeff Anderson, who runs the state liquor division, told IdahoReporter.com that recent years have brought changes and innovation in the liquor industry requiring the liquor agency to adjust with those times.
"Whereas you used to have straight vodka and maybe a couple of brands, today you’ve got multiple craft distillers, flavored vodkas and so forth." The state's updated government website would provide consumers “with relevant content that a 21st century consumer has come to expect out of a modern retailer," Anderson told IdahoReporter.com's Austin Hill.
Once again, we remind Anderson that the state is not a "modern retailer." Nor is it a business enterprise. It is a government agency. Nor is it really doing much in the way of temperance. The agency "controls" some alcoholic beverages, but not others. Higher proof intoxicating liquor is sold through the state and its contractors. Beer and wine, however, are more widely available on grocery and convenience store shelves.
I'm no expert on drinking, but I understand that people can get drunk either way… compliments of the state liquor dispensary or private retailers. The "liquor control" argument, therefore, is a facade.
The temperance argument is also a facade. In fiscal year 2007, the state government sold 9.7 million bottles of liquor. In fiscal year 2012, the state government is projected to sell 10.7 million bottles. In 2007, the state made $127.6 million in sales. The last fiscal year was projected to bring in $150.6 million in sales.
And this is only sales through the state government. A dirty little secret is, if you want to buy a bottle of Jack, you need not use the state-controlled liquor system. You can buy it online.
This only furthers my argument that the state get out of the business of selling liquor. The state is hopelessly conflicted; the state purports that it is curtailing drinking through state-run liquor stores. Meanwhile the agency gloats that it sells ever increasing amounts of liquor and that cities and counties share in the liquor division's profiteering success.
And now the government wants to help you with drink recipes and throw a successful party. The real reason for this move is to maximize revenue by encouraging drinking, which can then lead to more money for government coffers.
Alcohol is a legal product and people should be able to buy it like other legal products--through stores not owned, operated or contracted with the state.
Left to fend for themselves, Idahoans might throw either a great party or a loser of a party, with lousy drinks or delightful drinks. Leaving the outcome of parties and drink recipes to the free market of friendships, party hosts and Google, then, would be more likely to satisfy the government's stated goal of temperance. But of course, that's not really the objective.
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