After listening to Sen. John Valentine debate the X96 Radio From Hell team over liquor laws this morning, it could be asked if Utah has become an evil parallel universe, like the one Star Trek's Captain Kirk found himself in with a bearded Mr. Spock in "Mirror, Mirror," Episode 33.
In our parallel universe, we have a nondrinking senator with a loving name and a commission of tee-totaling bureaucrats devising agonizing ways to keep profits high, while keeping drinkers low and under their thumb.
Opposing them, we have a group of degenerate "liberals," oddly pro-business, who want to see the Legislature relax regulations on bars and restaurants (on the
Zion curtain, for example) and increase the number of liquor licenses
for both restaurants and clubs.
This upside down, topsy-turvy world only makes sense if you think in terms of opposites.
In the normal universe, reducing government regulation in the affairs of privately owned businesses would invigorate market forces and in this case, allow Utah's stunted dining and entertainment sectors to grow and become more normal.
Yet, if there's booze involved, it's just the opposite.
This morning, on X96, Sen. Valentine argued that the laws of Utah should reflect the values of the religious (nondrinking) majority. He implied that since there is a majority of nondrinkers in the state, drinkers should realize they imbibe at the majority's pleasure. The majority lets drinkers tipple, but on their terms, and under their control.
Lawmakers love to point out that alcohol "control" is not just a Mormon thing, that Utah is one of 19 jurisdictions in the country (18 other states and a county in Maryland) that regulate alcohol sales. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control's Website says that by removing the profit motive from booze sales, it can focus on moderation and law enforcement.
But as this is the world of opposites, lawmakers know they couldn't make ends meet if they successfully convinced Utahns to be "moderate" in their beverage intake. So instead, they maintain a monopoly that collects profits from drinkers that in turn are used to fund state government.
To create the illusion of moderation, though, they make frequent tweaks to liquor laws, which keeps bar and restaurant owners in a constant state of flux and makes them afraid to expand their businesses. It doesn't matter to the lawmakers because they know Utah drinkers will drink at home if need be and will put up with it.
Yes, those who make these laws are Republicans. Yes, they believe in free enterprise and espouse tea-party platitudes. But, when it comes to booze, they become communists (you heard it here, from a degenerate liberal). The DABC's 75th annual report says "revenues that would otherwise go to mark-ups for private sellers are instead funneled into state coffers and used to support public goals of moderation and government revenue enhancement."
Proceeds from liquor sales not only ensure the DABC's operation is entirely paid for, but, in FY 2010, $28 million went to school lunches, $15 million went to sales taxes, and $58 million in profit went to the general fund -- offsetting the tax burden for all Utahns. Very tidy revenue "enhancement" in that.
But what if, in this parallel universe, bars and restaurants stopped buying alcohol from the state and just told customers, "Sorry, we're out of what you ordered. How about a Diet Coke instead?" What if Utahns sobered up for a few months, gave the DABC package stores a wide berth and stopped feeding the beast? Wouldn't lawmakers, faced with a breathtaking loss of operating capital, be forced to deal with all the players more fairly?
It's hard to imagine the collective will needed to make something like that happen. The idea of an abstinent Utah is too radical for most Utah "liberals" -- you know, the ones who advocate for "big business" while decrying the communistic tendencies of the Legislature? Is it possible to be beamed back to a universe that makes sense?