Earlier this week, voters in the state of Washington passed Initiative 1183 which will close state-run liquor stores and allow for privately owned retail stores to sell liquor. This move effectively ends the state’s 78 year-old monopoly on the sale of alcohol. In a similar move this week, voters in Georgia showed an overwhelming support for repealing the state’s “blue laws” which prohibited the sale of liquor on Sunday.
With regards to Washington, the move to privatize the sale of liquor is certainly not a new idea. In fact, just last November, citizens in the state of Washington voted on two ballot initiatives, each attempting to end the state’s reign over the sale of alcohol. However, neither ballot received enough votes to become law.
It is of no surprise that heated debates often arise when the state control of alcohol is questioned. Naturally, various questions arise in regard to liquor privatization. For instance, what will happen to the people currently employed in Washington’s state-run liquor stores? More importantly, though, what effects, if any, will privatization have on social outcome measures such as alcohol consumption and/or alcohol-related traffic fatalities?
In regards to job loss, the authors argue that although privatization may initially cause some job loss among individuals working in state-run liquor stores, it’s important to recognize that
many of the jobs will not disappear, but will merely shift from the public to private sector.
As Davies and Pulito further point out, one of the common arguments against the liberalization of alcohol control laws is the idea that
because state stores are not profit driven like private firms, privatization would result in increased alcohol consumption and problems associated with alcohol consumption, such as impaired driving.
However, the authors find evidence suggesting that
States that recently privatized their liquor industries experienced a significant decline in per-capita alcohol consumption.
States that have liquor controls experience significantly higher DUI-related fatality rates than states without controls.
Therefore, by liberalizing their alcohol control laws, Washington and Georgia may have created safer and more efficiently run alcohol industries. The other 17 “control states” should consider making similar moves.