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Monday, April 26, 2010

Comments on State Stores

I'm having an interesting exchange with NEPArtisan regarding State Store ownership, and since it's getting a little long in the tooth I'm going to post it here.

You can see the original posting on NEPArtisan HERE.

The last comment by Tom is the one I'm responding to; to save time flipping between tabs, I've pasted it immediately below:

Steve, I understand your argument. For me, it’s a very excellent example of socialism working pretty damn well. Beyond that, their workers do well for themselves because wages and service aren’t sacrificed in the name of profit, since only a delivery of a service, and not profit, is the main motive.

If this goes private, the only people getting in on the stores will be people with big money, shutting out the little guy even more.

In fact, right now the people own the state stores. As in both of us, and our neighbors, and everybody in this state.

I like that


Anyway, here is my response to Tom:

Tom...we will have to agree to disagree on this in a few different ways.

Service: Since I don't drink, I don't go into State Stores very often, but the once or twice a year when I do I don't find the service to be anywhere near great. In fact, it's no better than some of the worst private sector stores. The last time I was at a State Store I -

a) Couldn't find the wine I was looking for (a brand I found before at that store)
b) Couldn't find someone to help me find the wine
c) Stood waiting at the checkout until a clerk finally decided to come out from the back to help me.

Profit: The stores do generate a profit. That aside, why run a business that sells a product if it isn't to make a profit? Since the State is abysmal at managing most things, how do we know that the profit being generated really represents the potential of the business? What's more, since the State Stores run as a monopoly, what's to stop them from over-pricing their goods?

Big People/Big Money: By my estimation, the state absolutely represents big money. The state has readily available capital, can borrow at very good rates and has the ability to exclude competitors from the market. That's the kind of stuff that is rightfully called into question when it's done by the private sector. Why give the State a pass?

Shutting Out The Little Guy: Wait, since the State dictates that only the State can sell booze, isn't the State the one who is shutting out the little guy? What about all those small convenience stores that now sell beer...many aren't run by big money interests. Why should they be allowed to sell beer but not wine or spirits?

Who Owns The Stores: The people own the stores? When was the last time that you were given the opportunity to vote on the leadership of the State Stores? When was the last time you were asked to approve the auditors for the State Stores? I just voted for board members for my employer, where I own some stock. How come I don't have a similar opportunity for the State Stores? Want to know who actually owns the State Stores? It's not the taxpayers, it's the bureaucrats in state government who do...individuals who are accountable to no one. Hell, be you even know who the head State Store person is in Pennsylvania? In the absence of Googling it, I have no clue myself.

I submit that the State Stores aren't a good example of socialism at work. If you want an example of something like that which actually works, review the Japanese Postal Service, which is also one of the largest insurance companies on the planet. No, the State Stores are just a monopoly, plain an simple. Making matters worse, they are a silly monopoly governed by silly rules. Why do I say "silly"? Simple: Maybe someone can explain to me why it's okay to buy Bud Light at Convenient on Pittston Avenue, but Thunderbird can only be bought from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. When last I checked, both can get you plastered, although Thunderbird can also be used to power a gas leaf blower in a pinch as well.

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