A Brutal Takedown of Anti-Alcohol Minions

takedownThere is a lot at stake in the battle in Pennsylvania to privatize wine sales and allow the free market to deal in wine, rather than continue to have the state government control all aspects of wine sales. The biggest stake, of course, is money. People drink wine. They pay good money for it. The producers, wholesalers, and retailers who do the selling all are in a position to earn millions and billions of dollars.

But there are others who have a stake. Here I’m thinking of those who currently tend to the business of selling wine in the Pennsylvania: the unionized workers who move and sell wine in the state. By their measure, their livelihoods are at stake if the sale of wine goes private.

Whenever this much is at stake, the stakeholders tend to pull out the big guns to protect or advance their interest. One of the biggest guns in politics is “the study” and the horror-inducing statistics that tend to back up “The Study”:

“Studies have shown that if we allow same sex marriage the sun will bear down on the planet at an increased intensity of 1.35%, thereby killing upwards of 2/3 of all life on the planet according to a study conducted by the Society of God Fearing Astrophysicists.”

You’ve seen the citations.

Well, the studies are being dragged out in support of stopping PA Governor Corbett’s proposal to privatize wine sales in that state.

“This reckless scheme will put alcohol on every street corner and increase crime,” says an ad now being run by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in PA in their attempt to stop privatization. The claim is being backed up by Deb Beck, the president of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers of Pennsylvania who has told lawmakers,  “I’m a clinician, not a politician, and I don’t think we should privatize because I think it will work – there will be an increase in alcohol sales.”

Here’s where the “Study Thing” comes in. Ms. Beck’s claims are based on the findings made by the Community Preventative Services Task Force of the Center for Disease Control. After examining numerous studies on the impact of alcohol privatization, the Task Force concluded, “based on strong evidence that privatization results in increased per capita alcohol consumption, a well-established proxy for excessive consumption and related harms.”

One of the reasons studies are such particularly good weapons in the service of politics is that their findings appear authoritative simply because they are the result of work done by academics. And academics are smart. Additionally, their effectiveness comes from the fact that often conclusions based on studies by academics require advanced knowledge of any number of fields in order to truly understand them, making them difficult to debunk by the layperson.

So here is the payoff for all of the above. In the annals of study-based alcohol politics, I have never seen a study used to advance a position so successfully and brutally taken down as the study being used by  CDC Task Force, Ms. Beck’s and the Union. In Forbes article written by Trevor Butterworth entitled, “The CDC Goes to War Against Wine”, nothing is left of the claims being made by the CDC’s Task Force, Ms. Beck and the PA Unions.

I’m a supporter of unions. I’m a supporter of good, solid academic work that aids us in our understanding of the world around us. But I’m also a supporter of reality. In the case of Mr. Butterworth’s article and the claims being made that the world will descend into chaos if wine sales in PA are privatized, reality is laid bare and that is a good thing for PA consumers, politics and wine.


4 Responses

  1. Jeff Cox - May 14, 2013

    The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board members ought to come out here to California, where alcohol is sold in gas stations and gun shops. Their heads will explode. And good riddance.

  2. Tom Wark - May 14, 2013


    We are clearly debauched out here! There’s no other explanation.

  3. Terroirist: A Daily Wine Blog » Daily Wine News: Exploring Terroir - May 15, 2013

    […] Trevor Butterworth writes a brutal takedown of Pennsylvania’s anti-alcohol minions. (H/T: Tom Wark.)   […]

  4. David Vergari - May 15, 2013

    “This is an astonishing abuse of data in the service of trying to sway legislation – and one which points to an agency being driven by politics and ideology, and not by science.” IMO this is a smack-down and a well-deserved one!

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