In 1933 when America awoke from 13 years of mandatory sobriety (except that relatively few people actually practiced temperance) states like Pennsylvania had to figure out what to do with liquor sales.
Still unconvinced that free-market capitalism should be applied to the business of John Barleycorn, the Pennsylvania General Assembly placed in the hands of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board complete control over the sale of wine and spirits.
And so it has been for nearly 80 years that if you want to buy wine or liquor in the Commonwealth you have to buy it from the Commonwealth.
In the process, the state realized a tidy profit each year, while maintaining that State Stores had a calming effect on rates of alcohol abuse and drunken driving.
Over at least the last 20 of those years, lawmakers have made noises about privatizing the liquor business, selling off licenses, promoting free market competition, and making free-marketers from the Delaware Water Gap to Lake Erie smile.
Gov. Tom Corbett made liquor store privatization a plank in his platform, said now is the time. The state budget would stand to gain millions of instant cash if 1,250 licenses were auctioned. It would also go a long way toward bolstering a positive fiscal legacy for Corbett, albeit short-lived.
You see, quick and easy infusions of cash seldom have long-range effects on fiscal health when they are one-time gifts. To put it in simpler terms, opponents of the deal, including most Democrats and even some Republicans, say Pennsylvania would be cooking the goose that lays golden eggs each year with no guarantees of better prices or service for consumers.
We are a long way from anti-capitalist, but we believe the plan currently proposed by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai is short-sighted, and, at the very least, needs an overhaul.