While visiting my father in Shreveport last week, I took time out to have lunch with a friend/former student. I asked him how the “mortgage crisis,” “economic crisis,” and “banking crisis.” He said he’s not really seen any ill-effects. That’s largely due to two factors – first, the recession is not nearly the “crisis” that the ObamaNation would have you believe it is (remember what Rahmbo said, “you don’t want t let a crisis go to waste”), and that my buddy owns a chain of liquor stores.
Beer, wine and distilled spirits are the original recession-proof commodity. Beer is “nature’s off switch” for millions. Tough day at work? Hit the off switch. Need to relax? Off switch. Wanna party? Off switch. Wine is generally thought of as a more sophisticated drink, usually a lubricant for dining. Then there’s the distilled spirits group. If beer is nature’s off switch, then liquor is the go-to beverage for just about any extreme emotion. Lose your job? Get a raise? Bad news? In these situations, beer is for amateurs. Liquor, ounce for ounce, packs more punch for less swallowing. And unlike beer (which comes only in “beer flavor”), you can get hooch in a wide variety of flavors, everything from mouthwash flavors (schnapps) to paint stripper (scotch) to drinks that will blind you in one eye and make you say “arrrggh” a lot (rum).
The economics of selling alcoholic beverages is interesting. When the economy is up, liquor sales go up. When the economy tanks, sales go up. In fact, I can’t think of a lot of situations that would result in a decrease in liquor sales. Even Prohibition was a boost to the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. And therein lies the rub.
My buddy told me that he’d planned to build a new store in Shreveport. The demand was there. The financing was in place. (!) The zoning was set. But when it came time to bring the matter before the city council, everything ground to a screetching halt. You see, anytime you inject politics into alcohol (as opposed to the more traditional method of injecting alcohol into politicians), there’s trouble. I’ve yet to meet a political hack that didn’t just love the sound of their own voice, especially when they have the opportunity to demagogue in their bully pulpits, bullying businesses to what they think will win them political Brownie points. You see, the simple fact of the matter is, where there is demand, that demand will be satisfied, regardless of the law. Blue laws do not work. But they do have an effect. Sadly, not the ones intended by the legislation.
Let’s say, (as we do here in the Great State of Texas) “local control,” whereby any specific area can vote their zone “dry.” The results are these: 1) you won’t stop drinking in that area. 2) people who wish to drink will simply drive to the nearest “wet” area to buy their adult beverages of choice. 3) some people break the law, choosing to drink and drive…the farther they have to go for booze, the more likely there will be a tragic alcohol-induced accident. 4) all the tax revenues that would have gone to the dry area have relocated to the wet area. Brilliant.
For me, the irony is that I’m not really a drinker. In fact (believe it or not) I’ve never been drunk. Never been stoned. Never been so much as pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. I’m about as straight an arrow in that department as you could find. You see, while I’m not anti-drinking, I’ve never seen the point in getting drunk. I habitually limit myself to one beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of liquor per meal, if that. I can’t tell you the last time I had an “adult beverage,” because it’s just not that big a deal for me. (Plus, I’m cheap…that stuff is expensive.) I’m also a Christian. (Of course, I’m an Anglican, so we’re not counted in that portion of Christendom that believes drinking is evil. It’s been said that “where you find four Anglicans, you’ll usually find a fifth. If you get what I mean, and I think you do.)
A liquor store is not only a money machine, it’s a guranteed tax base for both local and state economies. And it’s recession-proof. What’s not to love? Unless, of course, you’re a politician, willing to exchange logic, reason, and what’s actually beneficial to your area, in exchange for grandstanding and the chance to earn votes by pandering to those who choose ideology over pragmatism.
As for me, I think the biggest “crisis” we face is not the recession, the financial markets, the housing market, foreclosures, or layoffs. It’s politicians that pander, shouting “crisis” from the rooftops, and ignoring ways to improve things. Perhaps starting with boosting, and not restricting recession-proof industries might be a good way to start.
I’ll drink to that.