The word “socialism” has been frequently misused recently, mostly in hyperbole about the recent health care reforms. However, socialism is alive and well in another sector of the economy, in a number states in which the government has a monopoly on retail sales of spirits. The New York Times describes the liquor control system in the state of Washington, a system which will be eliminated on Friday:
State control, in turn, made generations of civil servants tastemaking critics — their decisions on what to stock dictating what people could order in bars or buy in the stores.
In 2010, for example, a tiny distiller here in Cashmere, called It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere, made a grape brandy that the owner, Colin Levi, was quite proud of. Liquor Control Board officials came by for a tasting and did not much care for it, Mr. Levi said, and that was that — it never went into distribution.
Until 2009, I lived in Oregon, another state with a government monopoly on the sale of liquor. In 2002, Oregonians rejected a ballot measure that would have created a single-payer health care system in that state. At the time, I remarked that people in Oregon were afraid of “socialized medicine” but had no problem with “socialized booze”.