There’s a serious political battle going on in Washington state over state-owned liquor stores. One one side, we have big money flowing in from D.C.-based wholesaler groups who want nothing ever to change under any circumstances whatever and unions representing state liquor store employees. On the other side we have advocates of a free market or, to be more precise, Costco, which stands to make a bundle if it can start selling alcoholic beverages.
Those in favor of retaining the state monopoly like to cite various studies documenting huge increases in alcohol consumption when states get out of the liquor business. They do this largely with impunity, since modern journalism is concerned with documenting both sides of an argument rather than trying to figure out if one side or the other is, say, just making shit up.
Which is why optimists about the prospects of the American Experiment should send a thank you note to Erik Smith of WashingtonStateWire.com. Mr. Smith clearly sees the reporter’s role as more than stenographer. Confronted with endless repetitions of a horrifying statistic from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that privatizing state liquor stores leads to a 48% increase in consumption, he did actual research. No, really.
It is based on a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that wasn’t a study, wasn’t done by the CDC, and was based mainly on 30 and 40-year-old sales figures for wine, not hard liquor. It also doesn’t jibe with real-world statistics, which suggest Washington alcohol consumption won’t increase a drop.
One might imagine that, suitably embarrassed, pro-monopoly shills would find some other argument to make. One would be wrong. Lying doesn’t bear the political stigma it once did, and the political conventional wisdom is that, when caught lying, the best thing to do is to keep right on doing it.
Says spokesman Alex Fryer, “No one can know precisely how much alcohol consumption will rise, but, again, the CDC predicts a 48 percent increase. We believe the recommendations of the epidemiologists and public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be a big part of the debate.”
And Al Gore said he invented the Internet. Fact is, lying works.