Tuesday, November 07, 2006

That Time of Year Again

Yes, it is once again that magic moment when eligible US citizens will gather in their millions to "Vote or Die", as the saying goes.

Question 1 on the Massachusetts ballot is of particular interest to wine drinkers. This item, if approved, would either allow residents to buy wine at grocery stores like civilized people, or would lead to teenagers getting wasted on MD 20/20 from 7-Eleven. Depending on who you ask, of course.


Blogger Justin said...

No one is commenting on the fact that both houses of Congress went blue?

11/09/2006 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

I'll comment on that: Woohoo!!

11/09/2006 04:07:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Sorry... still recovering from the hangover. :-)

I'll second Ben's "woohoo!!"

Anyone have any good election stories? Did anyone have an election party? Which House/Senate race(s) pleased you most (or least)?

11/09/2006 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Was the hangover the result of grocery-store purchased wine?

Personally, I was disappointed that Sen. Chafee was defeated in RI, I thought he was a credit to the Senate.

11/09/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger Qian said...

I'm very glad that Catherine Harris did not win the FL senate race. Even though Bill Nelson isn't the most effective of senators, if Harris had been elected it would have killed my faith in people completely.

I'll third Ben's "Woohoo!!", but I'm not sure this is good news for the Dems in '08. Iraq is not going to get solved neatly in 2 years. The economy has every sign of being flat to even heading downward. The "R" word could easily happen in the next 2 years, especially with the coming real estate slump. A very large percentage of Americans have a negative savings rate, are already debt laden, and live in houses and drive cars that they can't afford. Many people's net worths are only in the black because of high real estate values. If the real estate market crashes hard, there's going to be hell to pay. Combine that with the tighter bankruptcy law, if we get into a recession, it'll take a very long time for the economy to recover. And because of the record federal deficits that we've been running already, it'll be harder for the government to spend its way out of a recession. I sincerely hope the real estate market will have a soft landing and the economy will continue to be strong. If not, God help the Dems.

11/09/2006 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Yes... grocery-store wine. The polls just looked so overwhelmingly positive that it didn't seem like a gin sort of night.

I would agree that Chafee was the nicest of the damned, and one who may be undergoing a sort of deathbed conversion. Still, he enabled some truly horrible stuff to pass the Senate. In Rhode Island more than any other state, that's fatal.

Qian, I'd still rather have the Democrats in power in Congress now than not. They can act as an effective check on hitherto unlimited Presidential power. Any further deterioration in Iraq will be blamed on the commander-in-chief who got us into this mess, not a bunch of legislators who have virtually no power in military matters. Likewise, the President (rightly or wrongly) usually gets the blame for an economic downturn.

11/09/2006 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

On a different note, the MBTA has approved an outrageous fare hike.

11/09/2006 11:46:00 PM  
Anonymous zana said...

Vincent, are you mocking us with your grocery store purchased wine? Obviously the law didn't pass because people were afraid hooligans would get drunk on two-buck chuck and get behind the wheel. Sigh...

11/10/2006 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Question 1 seems like an odd thing to have put on the ballot. It sounds like it was a turf war fought with mountains of cash from supermarkets for the issue and liquor stores against it for selfish reasons on both sides. New Mexico and South Carolina both allow the sale of wine in stores (NM even allows hard liquor) without serious problems arising.

It's unclear whether this is a net benefit to the customer. Sure, it's much easier to buy a bottle of wine to serve with dinner, but it's also much more likely that you'll buy some cheap plonk that's unworthy of drinking. I don't want to come across like a snobby oenophile, but grocery stores often sell a bunch of crap wines.

How does Massachusetts define a grocery store? Don't they sell wine at Harvest?

11/10/2006 11:54:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Isn't the set of wines worth drinking equal to the empty set?

11/11/2006 09:19:00 PM  
Blogger Qian said...

Florida also allows the sale of wine in grocery stores. Perhaps that is because no one believes the standard of driving in Florida would be adversely affected by the inebriation of our drivers.

11/12/2006 07:51:00 AM  
Anonymous zana said...

Currently, Massachusetts allows each chain of stores a total of three liquor licenses. For example, of all the Trader Joe's in MA, only three sell wine (Cambridge, Boston, and Brookline). If the law had passed, each town would be allowed to give out more licenses (the number is based on population) for markets to sell wine.

The battle was between the supermarkets and the liquor/beer companies who felt left out.

11/12/2006 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Come to think of it, the new Shaw's near the Pru (or as I call it, "the Prud", rhymes with "mud") sells wine. It must be one of the designated three.

That strikes me as one of the most arbitrary laws ever. It also seems that there must be ways to get around it -- suppose Trader Joe's established separate chains like Trader Moe's and Trader Bo's, all owned by the national chain, but all technically mutually independent. Could they get three licences per front company?

For that matter, I'm not convinced that setting the number of liquor licences by population size really make sense either. The number of restaurant alcohol licences (beer/wine and full) available in a town in New Mexico is a function of the population size. But it means that there are excellent restaurants where you can't get a drinkable margarita (wine margaritas don't count). And it means that the most valuable asset of a borderline restaurant can be its liquor licence.

I guess there are several questions I'm getting at. What is the public policy rationale for limiting the number of liquor licences in a town? Can the benefits (Are there any, and if so, what are they?) of having fewer outlets selling/serving alcoholic beverages be outweighed by the economic consequences of the system? How hard should government make it for me to get a bottle of sangiovese to go with my pasta?

11/12/2006 11:40:00 PM  
Blogger Quark said...

Some people were against question 1 (against giving towns the decision to give licenses for wine to grocery stores), because they were worried about increased access to alcohol, particular that kids would drink more.

I don't know that anyone based on real data which would support that claim. I actually think one could strongly argue (since it's all theoretical arguing anyway) that "yes on ques 1" could lead to LESS access to alcohol.

First of all, kids don't drink wine, so this whole idea that more wine outlets is going to lead to more underage drinking is kinda silly, but anyway...

My argument would go like this: Just because you can create more licenses, doesn't mean that more venues can compete in the marketplace. If by giving a grocerystore the right to sell wine, you cause a liquor store to go under, then you've just DECREASED the amount of non-wine alcohol that's available! You've likely REDUCED underage access to alcohol.

Further, all question 1 does is give towns the right to decide. If a town has a policy of a maximum of 10 licenses, and now they have the right to give one of those 10 to a grocery store, and they choose to take 1 away from a liquor store (thus closing it), again the access to non-wine alcohol has DECREASED.

I don't think anyone voted on question 1 based on anything more than baseless guesses as to what it would mean for the state.

11/13/2006 06:30:00 PM  

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