Question 1
Oct 17, 2006

On the Massachusetts state ballot there are three questions called, appropriately enough, Question 1, Question 2, and Question 3. Although in actuality, they are called Initiative Petition A, F, and H, respectively. Question 3 is about childcare. I don't really know anything about the issue, and the phrasing of the ballot question itself is somewhat confusing, so I'm just going to ignore that one. Question 1, however, is very interesting. The issue is whether or not to allow wine to be sold at food stores. 'The proposed law defines a “food store” as a retail vendor, such as a grocery store, supermarket, shop, club, outlet, or warehouse-type seller, that sells food to consumers to be eaten elsewhere (which must include meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, fresh fruit and produce, and other specified items), and that may sell other items usually found in grocery stores.' Any city or town can issue up to 5 licenses to food stores to sell wine for every 5,000 citizens of that city/town. If you want to really get into it, I think that the proposal is bad in that it perpetuates an inherently flawed, unfair, and anti-competitive system. I think that anyone should be able to sell any beverage that they want, be it wine, beer, schapps, single malt whisky, or everclear, so long as they take sufficient steps to verify the age of the customer. (Technically I also support abolishing the minimum drinking age, but that's a whole nother issue and rather beyond the scope of this post.) That's how it works in California, and, to the best of my knowledge, alcoholism is not running rampant through the Golden State any more than it is here in the Bay State. However, as abstaining to vote on Question 1 will also leave aforementioned flawed, unfair, and anti-competitive system in place, I'll just stick with a yes or no on Question 1. In that case, my vote is a resounding yes for Question 1. Under the current system wine is only sold in liquor stores, wine shops/galleries, and some speciality food stores (the Trader Joe's near us sells both wine and beer). However the store where we buy our grociers (Shaw's) can't, while the numerous liquor stores around Central Square can and do. The only arguments against Question 1 seem to be coming from the liquor stores themselves. Of course they don't want anyone else selling wine, if they have to compete their profit margins will most likely go down. Sadly, for them, that's the nature of a free market: competition leads to market efficiency and the consumer gets what they want for the best price. There is no good reason for the liquor stores to have a monopoly on wine (or beer or liquor for that matter), except, possibly, in the minds of the liquor store owners. A yes on Question 1 means a restoration (partial though it may be) of the rights of the citizens of Massachusetts as consumers. (Question 2 is also interesting, but I'll leave that for another post.)
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