Surprise! Poor people like drinking too

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on how Washington state officials are frustrated by the fact that, despite efforts to ban the beverages favored by the brown bag and park bench set, poor people still find ways to knock a few back:

In late 2006, the state prohibited grocery and convenience stores from selling certain alcoholic beverages in most of central Seattle and the University District, including all or portions of downtown, Belltown, lower Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, the Central Area, the International District and Sodo. The city had requested the move, an expansion of an “alcohol impact area” ban that had previously only applied to Pioneer Square.

The restricted booze is mostly relatively low-cost, highly fortified beer and wine that officials think is favored by the people who are chronically drunk on city streets and sidewalks.

These days, though, alcohol distributors are skirting the ban by selling the same products under different labels, Scales said. For now, the state Liquor Control Board should add additional products to the prohibition, he said. The long-term solution requires the ban be driven by a formula based on alcohol content, not brand names, some city officials say…

“There are thousands and thousands of beer and wine products out there, and to use a formula base, that’s a very broad brush that could impact thousands of products,” [Liquor Board chairwoman Lorraine] Lee said. “There’s no one formula that’s going to capture exactly what the (chronic public inebriates) are drinking.”

This isn’t the first time that Seattle has lamented that drinkers find substitutes when access to their first options is restricted. And as Radley Balko has noted, there’s an undeniable tinge of classism to this kind of legislation.

Comments

  1. Ben says:

    (Note, this is clearly not the same Ben who commented on your “gin budget” post.)

    Prohibition doesn’t work. Granted.

    But am I the only one who finds this whole situation tragic? I’ve seen the effect alcoholism has had on people’s lives, especially homeless people. It cripples their ability to escape homelessness and makes them even more of a pariah to “respectable” middle class folk who just want to avoid them.

    I know, I know. We can’t ban these things….Prohibition (and its cousin the War on Drugs) create greater evils in their attempts to ban social evils. And clearly people will skirt any ban, as shown by Seattle’s experience.

    But something about Radley Balko’s attitude just pisses me off. Can we stop pretending that opposition to this ban is somehow fighting on poor people’s behalf? It may be fighting for the principle of limited government, but it doesn’t evince any concern for the poor. It’s not fighting for something to improve their welfare; it’s fighting for their “right” to self-destruct. And the whole damn thing is just so tragic.

  2. Matt says:

    If we had more government programs protecting and educating people in the first place, then we’d have a lot fewer people in these bad situations, and we wouldn’t have to interfere with their right to self-destruct. So really, even Libertarians should be getting behind bigger government…

  3. Ahh yet another worthless opinion says:

    Having a controlling hand in yet another issue of personal choice as in how alcholic beverages are made, or where it is sold? Another attempt to ‘clean’ the streets and alleys, under passes and every other nook and cranny of the ‘unsightly debris. Like ‘casting the leper to outer most undesirable parts of town’ Where ‘regular’ folk don’t go. The ill doesn’t exist or affect (or infect) when hidden?
    Cheaper and “more bang for your buck” ANYTHING is appealing to lots of people of all different levels of income, for various reasons. “Choice” is of a personal business nature. That’s why Garage Sells and Thrift Stores remain appealing and popular to NOT just the poor. Choice and the freedom to choose is VERY important to the people of this country! And only dreamed of in some countries. Cigarettes are still being manufactured, sold, bought and smoked… and high profits being made, by the very one’s dictating where one can and cannot smoke them. Choice and the Freedom of Choice? I think it was part of a mindset of thousands of people in doing away with “Prohibition”, there was by the way still plenty of wreckless embibbing going on way back then..breaking the law to do it too by the ‘classiest’ and ‘richest’
    It would be nice to see all the money that goes to ‘studies’of such and the dollar amount of those costly hours and hours spent, with “considerations around the long table” getting no where slowly. Put back into education and encouragement of the HUMAN of such ‘afflictions’ Perhaps reopen Cedarhills Treatment Center?? Close the ‘drunk flop house’ downtown that provokes the abuse, the addictions and gives a warm comfy place to do it, and proven costly with ongoing nightly ambulance calls alone. We can’t hide the hideous, sad affects of addiction and abuse…it won’t go under the rug and stay there…..it’s not a new problem to be ‘studied, researched’ to be ‘understood’…remove them from the parks and sidewalks a little at a time, back to a place like CHAT, where the intention was always direct, respectful and fully aware that ‘addiction’ being a disease was the monster…not the alcohol…or the producers of it…if just one out of a 100 stayed sober for just 6 months….the spiderweb affect of those 6 mos would far reach more than 100, and contributes more positive than not…and if just one out of 100 never drank again.. that one sober life…how many additional lives were changed for the better due to that one sober life? How much money saved? Statistics can be easily distorted to prove or disprove…one HUMAN is so much more than a statistic. Many lives were changed forever for the better through the spiderweb affect at Cedarhills. Seems, no one cares where the ‘unsightly annoying’ go if ‘we can just get them to stay out of the public areas, off the sidewalks, out of the parks, out of sight. Hurting the city’s “Business” and all….Here’s an idea. Put convicted murderers, rapists and the like full to the brim in prisons, eating very well, bathing daily with hot water and soap, watching movies, pumping iron, getting medical attention when needed, having teeth fixed, using computers, reading books, doing hobbies, warm at nite, pillow and a blanket…put them on beans, bread and water…get rid of all the other ‘fluff’ leaving just the basic humane existance in place(more than they gave their victims)….Take all that money saved…invest in treatment centers designed and directed by understanding and knowledge to ‘free the man of the disease’ through education and awareness, respecting the human, giving them hope and hunger for a better life they can see within reach. Show them a new addiction, addiction to life. If even for a little while…it’s a ‘taste’ some never forget even when ‘going back out’..only to return and try again.(because Hope is very much alive there) For awhile sober..touching other lives, not yet sober….something positive is at work…slowly growing, spreading…not a quick fix, or an over night solution and not without costs. Profits cannot always be measured by counting the ‘leftover’ cash. Cost is applied in one way or the other. if through ’cause and affect’ Why not through the ’cause’ of the “never give up” positive approach and mindset to human life? Freedom isn’t Free. (no matter what you want to be free of)

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