The state of Virginia may be taking a big step into the 21st century if its new Republican governor has anything to say about it. Governor Bob McDonnell wants to get the Virginia state government out of the liquor business. Virginia, like my home state of Pennsylvania, has been locked in a temperance time warp since 1934 when the 21st amendment to the constitution repealed prohibition and effectively ended a 14 year ban on the sale of alcohol.
Unfortunately, the same amendment that gave back to Americans the freedom to imbibe also gave states the right to regulate and restrict the sale of spirits anyway they saw fit. And even though the firewater has been flowing freely now for 77 years, there are some states in this fair union of ours that still suffer from the heavy-handed hangover of direct government control .
I don’t know what our southern neighbors have to put up with, but here in Pennsylvania, it is illegal to buy a bottle of wine in New Jersey or Delaware and transport it back across the PA border. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board employs undercover agents who stake out wine and liquor shops located in NJ and DE close to the Pennsylvania state line. These agents spy out motorists with PA license plates and then alert the state troopers lying in wait on the other side of freedom. When the hapless consumer crosses back into the land of Carrie Nation, they’re pulled over to the side of the road where their ill gotten grapes are confiscated and their poor pockets are picked clean by a hefty fine. Citizens can actually be imprisoned for up to 90 days for buying booze out of state.
The PA state run liquor stores can’t compete with the privately owned and operated outlets in neighboring states. So to keep their customers captive, the booze bureaucrats resort to criminalizing a free market activity. There have been attempts to disband this Soviet style state store system but the union yonks and their political pals have repeatedly stymied such heroic efforts. Us put upon Pennsylvanians are left to sip the overpriced government grape or go without.
If virtuous Virginians can seize the day by dumping their dinosaur of a system, then why can’t Pennsylvania heed the weary whine of its spirited connoisseurs and liberate our libations?