Nearly 80 years after prohibition ended, the temperance movement in the United States continues to thrive in the form of state-run liquor stores which attempt to limit consumption of liquor through price manipulation. Yet while last century's temperance movement sought to protect women and children from “the drink,” those who defend government-controlled liquor sales today aren’t quite so altruistic. Their concern is state tax revenues and government jobs.
Currently, 19 jurisdictions (18 states and one county) use government monopolies to control how alcohol is sold. The degree of monopolization varies — most states allow wine and beer to be sold in licensed locations like grocery stores and specialty shops, but restrict distilled products (whiskey, rum, vodka, etc.) to government-run stores. The state with the most stringent laws is Utah, dictating that all alcoholic beverages must be sold by the state. Pennsylvania comes in second, granting itself a monopoly on distilled beverages and wine.
Today, lawmakers in Pennsylvania are trying to move away from this model by introducing legislation to replace the roughly 620 state-owned liquor stores with privately run retail establishments. Yet, these efforts face some tough opposition — the Obama Administration and powerful forces at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In April, an “independent” task force, whose members are appointed by the Director of the CDC, released a report recommending against the privatization of alcohol sales based on their finding that “privatization results in increased per capita alcohol consumption, a well-established proxy for excessive consumption.” In layman’s terms, they’re asserting that privatization leads to binge drinking.
Yet while this report states that the Task Force is “an independent, nonfederal, volunteer body of public health and prevention experts,” the findings are being presented to the public with the CDC imprimatur—creating a misleading impression that the government has an “official position” on the issue, while shielding the CDC from having to back up the task force's assertions.
The report goes on to state (in very fine print) that their data is “preliminary and are subject to change as the systematic review goes through the scientific peer review process.” So, what might a “peer review process” reveal about the report?
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