Posts Filed Under PLCB
As many of you already know, I am no friend of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
I suppose that is putting it a bit mildly, since I’ve likened their unconcstitutional state-run wine monopoly to Communism, publicly ridiculed the 40%+ premium that they add to state wine prices (while at the same time limiting selection, reducing service quality, and boating some of the worst storage conditions in the country), and accused them of engaging in fear-mongering and sycophantic lobbying to protect their monopoly position.
But who’s bitter? Me?!? I’m not bitter!!! Who you callin’ a PSYCHO!??!!!
Anyway, the good news is that I no longer have to utilize previous 1WineDude.com real estate to fight the good fight against the PLCB. I’ve found a blog dedicated to that purpose, and I’d argue that its author (Lew Bryson) does a better job of it than I’d ever do!
I give you noplcb.blogspot.com, a.k.a. “Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished“!
For PA wine lovers, this blog will be hilariously funny in the same “cuts-so-close to reality that it kinda makes you wanna cry” way that Dilbert is hilariously funny for cubicle workers…
While I will probably defer to Lew on all matters PLCB from now on, I should note that I’m not an advocate for abolishing the PLCB – or any state-run liqour monopoly, for that matter. I simply want those monopolies to adhere to the decisions of their state and federal constitutions, and to ammend existing laws to permit competition with those monopolies.
Let them have their fair shot in the real world, and not in the ‘fake’ marketplace set up under the protection of state governments. Personally, I don’t think their business plans stand a snowball’s chance in hell, but let’s leave that to the open market to decide – and not the lobbyists.
When you’re talking about a monopoly that brings billions of dollars to those states, it’s a Sisyphusian struggle to be sure, and I’m sure that some of my rants about this topic sound downright naive.
But… the way that these state wine monopolies run is appalling; the message it sends is that the government will protect businesses from having to adhere to the Constitution, so long as those businesses make enough revenue for the state.
And that’s just not the kind of world in which I want my daughter to grow up.
Well, if not physically, then run away with me virtually, through the magic of the “Global Interweb.” Or whatever you crazy young cats are calling it these days!
Regular readers of this blog might recall that I’ve previously lamented the general lack of quality, easy-to-find Spanish & Portuguese wines in my area of the U.S. (the Communist-wealth of PA, ruled by the PLCB with an iron fist) – and my general lack of deep knowledge about the great wines of the Iberian peninsula (or whatever you crazy cats are calling it these days).
Well, I wanted to change that scenario (at least the part about my own Iberian wine knowledge, anyway), so I decided to take a little trip! A virtual trip.
In the not-too-distant future (hopefully by September), I’ll be working with a few fellow International wine bloggers (Catavino and De Long Wine among them) to take a virtual trip through the wine regions of Spain & Portugal!
I’m thinking of dubbing this the Spanish Caravan in (possibly drunken) tribute to Jim Morrison…
“Carry me caravan take me away
Take me to portugal, take me to spain
Andalusia with fields full of grain
I have to see you again and again
Take me, spanish caravan
Yes, I know you can”
– The Doors
You can read more about the idea at the OpenWine Consortium. Better yet, you can help to shape what this virtual trip will be all about by commenting here, or by joining up in the discussion at the OWC. Both options are free, good for your health (well, probably), and will give you a nice excuse (like you need it!) to taste some great wine, learn about the classic wine regions of Spain & Portugal, and – with any luck make – a few new friends in the on-line “wine 2.0 community.” Or whatever you crazy young cats are calling it these days.
In the meantime… Watch this space… Hope to see you soon, on the Spanish Caravan!
(images: about.com, mtv.com)
I know what you’re thinking, after reading the title of this post.
“Is the Dude about to go on yet another tirade about the PLCB? Okay, okay, they suck – we get it already…”
Well… the answer is “Yes.” Sort of. I’m about to go on a bit of a tirade about the wine shipping laws not just of Pennsylvania, but also of WA, ID, AZ, CO, KS, MN, IA, WI, MI, IN, KY, GA, FL, SC, NC, NY, VT, CT, RI, and IL (pending review of currently proposed legislation).
The state of affairs of wine shipping laws in those states is almost hopelessly broken. Notice I say “almost hopelessly.” That’s because I’ve thought of a way to fix it. Let’s break it down…
I say broken because those states have laws on the books that restrict the free trade of inter-state wine sales – a practice deemed unconstitutional at the federal (and for some also at the state) level. For the most part, these states are trying to protect state-run monopoly businesses that would be handed their own jock straps in the free market if, say, a big buyer like Costco were permitted to sell and ship wines directly to consumers in those states. The state run operations add extra cost while limiting value and selection – because they are monopolies, they don’t need to compete on the basis of price or service. If individual consumer rights, or the best interests of local state wineries get in the way of their monopoly profits, those citizens are simply disregarded – even if the states’ supreme courts have ruled against those practices. So, they make billions, pay big bucks to lobbyists to protect their position, and the state governments (for the most part) turn a blind eye to it all (probably because of the huge windfall).
How to fix this mess? Simple. Here’s a 2-step process of playing politics that could turn the tide. The thing to keep in mind is that politics is almost always a numbers game. And it almost always involves you (the people getting screwed) getting off your keesters and getting active.
- Stop buying wine from the state. I mean it. Don’t buy wine from your state-run liquor store. What will this do? It will reduce the windfall (remember the part about this being a numbers game?). No profits, no windfall. No windfall, no paying lobbyists to turn the tide of free trade legislation. No lobbyists, no deceit-filled battles to block the spread of capitalism to the wine shipping business.
Disclaimer: I’m not advocating you breaking the law – and to be honest, your state’s liquor laws are so convoluted you probably violated them already if you took any cough medicine this year. Anyway, I don’t care where you get your wine, as long as it’s not from a state-run monopoly. If you are lucky enough to live near a bordering state that does sell wine through the free market economy… well, I’m just saying that you might have alternatives.
- Write your state legislators. This is still a numbers game, because far fewer people actually do this than you’d think. So, if you flood your state legislators with correspondence, eventually they will question whether the tide needs to turn against the monopolies. Especially if you followed step 1 (politicians likely won’t stand by a sinking ship that is losing money) and indicate in your correspondence that you’re a voter in good standing and any re-election bid support on your part will hinge on their demonstrated support of free trade.Fortunately, writing your state legislators is very easy. Head on over to FreeTheGrapes.org – they will find your legislators e-mail addresses for you, and give you a handy form-letter to send them (don’t forget to add the re-election support part – politicians usually don’t like losing their jobs).
Maybe this sounds unreasonable, overly-simplistic and ridiculous to you.
But ask yourself this:
Is it any more ridiculous than a business with cripplingly poor business models, that can’t compete on the basis of service, selection, and price, making in excess of $1.5 billion dollars a year by hiding behind antiquated laws and charging you artificially high prices?
What if your state controlled your cell phone service that way? Or forced you to buy milk only from the state, even though it was stored improperly and cost 35% more than what your cousin, who lives in the next state over, pays for his family’s milk (which he can buy from wherever he feels offers the best milk at the lowest price)? Or limited your selection of underwear to a handful of brands and sizes?
Or treated women’s designer shoes the same way? (scary… that one might have the potential to drive some women I know to kill)…
Sure, there’s a big difference between “essential” goods like bread and luxury goods like designer fashions. But before you write off wine as an item that is fair play for regulation by the “pleasure police” (Robert Parker‘s term for the alcohol regulators in his home state of MD), don’t forget that two of our founding fathers (the two widely regarded to have had the most raw intellectual horsepower, by the way) – Jefferson and Franklin – viewed wine as an essential life good, equal to water and bread in terms of necessity.
So… who’s being unreasonable?
(images: blog.whathappensnow.com, wine.appellationamerica.com, ronalfy.com)
(images: tastephx.com, defendamerica.mil, green-talk.com)
For those of you plying along at home, I’m a new dad – of only a few remarkable days. As you might imagine, you could change my handle to “1DiaperDude” and it would be an apt description, since I’m far more involved in baby-related activities at the moment than I am in vino sampling.
As a new parent, I now find myself asking questions that, in my previous life (BC – Before Children), I would never have considered:
This kid is *adorable* – is she actually mine?
How much talk about poop is too much talk about poop?
Do any criminal sex offenders live in our neighborhood?
What’s the best way to threaten my daughter’s future teenage suitors when they eventually come to the house to take her on a date, without risking incarceration? Display a “wall of weapons”?
Because I’m a wine geek, I’ve also been asking another question:
How can I (eventually) introduce my family to responsible wine consumption?
As I pondered that last question, I came to realize something. It’s something that struck me as very important (and maybe, I dare say after having a few glasses of vino tonight as I type this, a touch profound):
Our children are the “collateral damage” in the marketing fight for your wine dollar…
1) On the one hand, state-run liquor distribution monopolies (such as the PLCB) are exploiting our fear of keeping our children safe.
These wine distro. monopolies protect their big profits by fighting legislation that would open their state wine sales to the free market.
How do they muster support for that legislation? They scare it out of you, by telling you that your children will get their hands on alcohol illegally if states governments permit wine and other alcoholic beverages to be sold via the Internet and direct-shipped to your door.
On the surface it seems a simple choice – protect your kids., right?
But what the wine monopolies don’t tell you is that their data are based on seriously flawed studies. They’re betting that a) you’re too dumb to scratch under the surface and get the real facts on their studies, b) you’re not a smart enough parent to teach your children responsible behavior around alcohol, and c) you won;t bother because your kids will become scheming, irresponsible teens anyway.
If I was dolling out grades, that approach would get, at best, a D minus. It’s the politics of fear vs. the politics of free trade – and our kids, unable to adequately defend themselves, are caught in the crossfire.
2) On the other hand, for the most part our U.S. society does little (or nothing) to introduce kids to the notion of responsible, healthy alcohol / wine consumption. Instead, we allow that introduction to take place via movies and TV, where our children get to see seriously unhealthy over-consumption portrayed as the height of coolness, synonymous “real” partying and fun.
What can we do about it? The role of parenting is essential:
1) “Teach Your Children Well” – As parents, we need to insure that we spend enough time in our children’s lives. Part of that QT (eventually) is to help them understand wine’s healthy place at the dinner table, in our society at large, and in world history.
We also have to make sure that our kids don’t view alcohol over-consumption as something “cool” (so cool that they automatically associate it as being essential to having a good time).
2) “Teach Your Parents Well” – As parents, we need to encourage each other, and encourage the dialog of abuse prevention (instead of treatment). Why hasn’t this dialog made more headway into traditional media and social programs? I’ve no idea – though I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that both cases mentioned above line the pockets of somebody.
Try searching on Google for family and alcohol, and you’ll see what I mean – you will get results that deal with treating alcohol abuse problems in the family after they are already problems; you won’t find much on responsible prevention.
One of the few places where you can find this dialog taking place is in the wine blogging community. Commendably, many wine bloggers have tried to tackle this topic, Dr. Debs and The Pour among them.
You can support the positive dialog by supporting the wine blogging community. Donate to your favorite blogs, spread the word by giving them a digg, join the Open Wine Consortium, and join the fight against wine distro. scare-tactics by writing to your state governments to let them know how you feel about their questionable practices.
3) Set an example by drinking responsibly, and not abusing alcohol in front of your children. Well… duh…!
Nobody said being a dad would be easy. Being a dad has made me even more determined to fight against wine distribution monopolies. And it’s given even more respect for the value that the global blogging community can provide.