We don’t expect much from lawmakers, especially state legislators.
We don’t expect them to be as wise as Learned Hand, or as well-informed as President Obama, or as personally disarming as President Clinton. We’d prefer that they not kick press photographers, or forward nasty racist e-mails to their colleagues or chase their girlfriends down the street while armed with a screwdriver-but we’re not surprised at such contretemps.
We do expect that, in considering legislation, they consider the common weal.
“Weal” is a word that has fallen into disuse. It means not just wealth, but a soundly based, equitable prosperity. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints understand this concept, which is reflected in the laws enacted over many decades by Utah legislators.
As an example, Utah controls the sale of alcohol more strictly than does any other state. There are no liquor stores as such, only state-owned outlets. Supermarkets can sell low-alcohol beer, and that’s about it.
Here’s how Utah’s department of alcoholic beverage control explains the state’s policy.
“Utah’s liquor laws are based on the general philosophy of making alcoholic beverages available in a manner that reasonably satisfies the public demand. In this respect, however, the state does not promote or encourage the sale or use of alcohol.”
Agree or disagree, it’s clear that Utah’s policy is founded upon a coherent philosophy of promoting the public weal. While recognizing the right of adults to consume alcohol, Utah legislators understand that the use of alcohol contributes to/causes many social ills, and believe that such use ought to be restricted, rather than encouraged.
By contrast, here in Colorado our legislature appears to be guided not by principle, but by the politics of money and influence.
At present, full strength beer, wine, and liquor can only be purchased at appropriately licensed privately owned liquor stores, which are restricted by law to a single location. Grocery stores can only carry low alcohol beer.
The legislature is considering a bill (HB 1279) which would allow grocery stores to carry all forms of alcoholic beverages, provided that they purchase the liquor license of two existing liquor stores located within 1,000 feet of the store. That would be quite a twofer, since it would enable the big boys to eliminate neighborhood competition and would, whether the legislature wants to admit it or not, make the purchase of alcohol easy, convenient and cheap.
Such a measure might advance the corporate interests of the four major chains that operate in Colorado, but it would effectively close hundreds of small businesses, make it more difficult for Colorado’s famous craft brewers to sell their wares, and remove whatever stigma may attach to the purchase of alcohol.
Vodka!! You’ll find it right down the aisle, next to the diary products. It’s just food – and it makes you feel so fine!
If I lived in Utah, I might rail about that state’s restrictive liquor laws, but I’d be thankful that those puritanical legislators base their decisions upon the public weal. That’s what lawmakers ought to do.
So the next time you hear one of our legislators prattle sanctimoniously about drunk driving, ask him/her how making liquor easier and less expensive to buy serves the public weal.