Get Oregon out of the Liquor Business

CascadeNewLogoBy Steve Buckstein

There are still eighteen so-called “control states” in America that exert substantial control over the sale of liquor. Oregon is one of them, virtually monopolizing its warehousing, distribution, and sale through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). You would think that independent-minded Oregonians would have rebelled against such control by now. Next year, they might.

The grocery industry now plans to place a measure on the 2016 General Election ballot that would allow consumers to buy hard liquor in the same private grocery stores where they can already conveniently purchase beer and wine.

While there is likely to be a lively debate over the pros and cons of making it easier, and possibly cheaper, for adults to purchase the alcohol of their choice, this debate should be about more than how one type of consumer product is sold.

It should also be about the role of government in a free society. In that context, we should remember that government in America was instituted to protect our lives, liberty, and property. Oregon state government was not meant to provide our jobs through picking winners and losers in the marketplace, our entertainment through the Oregon Lottery, or our alcohol through the OLCC.

Next November we can hopefully do something about that last item—getting state government out of the liquor business.

Steve Buckstein is Founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Government Regulation, Initiative & Referendum, Oregon Government | Tagged , | 9 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • thevillageidiot

    I am of the mind set that baby steps are not good enough. Yes it will help to get the state out of the direct liquor business i.e. into the “sphere” of the retail market. Notice I did not say free market. in order to get to the free market OLCC would need to be removed from existence. This will not happen. Once a government entity gets established it never dies. The OLCC will continue the regulation of the market and “protection” of the children. So while I think this is a good step it does not go far enough. The OLCC will continue its choke hold on the recreational substance market in order to generate revenue for the state (confiscate profits from businesses and hard earned pay from consumers).

  • mike rose

    Just part of the never ending “sin tax” form of economic development preferred by mediocre Oregon…OLCC, lottery/video games, and now legal weed. Oh so creative!…and getting us nowhere. Words fail.

  • MrBill

    Why do we even need an OLCC? Seems like an agency that could be seriously cut back without anyone noticing. Maybe it could even be eliminated.

  • Dave Lister

    I’m in agreement, if we do it right. But I bought a fifth of Johnny Walker Red in Seattle on Halloween. The price with tax $36.00. At the OLCC here, $24.00.

    • Dave, the higher price in Washington is a direct result of its 2012 privatization initiative proscribing high tax rates. Oregon’s 2016 initiative wisely sets no tax rates on alcohol. It leaves overreaching on tax rates up to the legislature, so be prepared to make the case for low taxes in Salem.

    • thevillageidiot

      Not only is it the higher liquor tax but you also paid Sales tax, depending on where it was purchased, of about 10%. I work in the Seattle Area.

      • Dave Lister

        Exactly. Double tax on liquor. The beginning shelf tag was higher also, at 28.00 before any tax.

        I don’t trust Salem on this. They are not going to let the government class lose the OLCC jobs without figuring out a way to stick it to us. Look at the pot initiative. The voters pass an initiative and Ginny Birdbrain Burdick goes about re-writing it.

        • Good points, Dave. While I supported legalizing marijuana, I called the way it was done the “OLCC full employment act.”

  • Moe

    I get my hooch via the dark web. JWR is about 20 bucks delivered.
    Only fools buy at retail.

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