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August 2018

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A Political Rant

For this post we are going to take a brief detour from the beer and beverage worlds to enter that most daunting of all arenas… politics.  I realize in polite company this is one of the few topics which should be avoided at all costs… and I probably should heed that advice.  But sometimes you need to scream I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore… so damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  If it costs me a client or two, so be it.

 

And please don’t think I’m cheerleading for either major political party… they both have more than enough faults.  Both political parties use raw partisanship to play us as saps… to blind us to what is really happening.

 

What has brought this rant to a head?  Well last week was the annual NBWA Legislative Conference in DC, our annual suck-up to lesser men and women who have far too much power over all of us.  This is not a knock on Craig and NBWA, I think they do a pretty dang good job and sadly, ANY industry in this country had better be in DC (and every state capital)… if you are not you are a fool.  That’s just the way it is today.  In a regulated industry like ours, the imperative is even greater.

 

But I also spoke to MANY distributors who had to bite their tongues and not tell their esteemed Representatives and Senators how they really felt about what is going on in DC right now… DC currently being the most dangerous place in the world for the well being of the entire planet.  Once again, not a knock on Craig, the purpose of these visits are to accomplish the industry’s goals and Lobbying 101 says stay on target and only on target… but it sure is tough.

 

The entire episode has me disheartened and distressed... and yes, mad as hell.  The weather was beautiful so I walked about and visited many of the awe inspiring memorials.  The words of Lincoln, Jefferson, and Kennedy echoed in my mind.  The horrors of the Holocaust museum brought more than a few tears to my eyes.  The honor, courage, and sacrifice of those represented at Arlington, the Vietnam Wall, Korea, WWI and II memorials brought even more tears… and a questioning of my own worth and gratitude for these others.  That these individuals gave their all for this country, in most cases for the freedom of others shook me to my core.  It is one thing to fight for your own freedom; it is a damned sight different thing to fight and die for another’s freedom. 

 

Yet today we hear from many elected representatives that we must change the very foundation of this country… that we voted for “change” and the old rules don’t apply.  I have yet to understand how going from having 95% of the country employed to having 91.5% of the country employed (the national rate as of 04/03/09), a difference of 3.5%!!, is cause for a remaking of the very fabric of our society.  That we can spend our way to prosperity.  Churchill famously said

 

I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

Seems fairly obvious to me.  Has any society ever taxed its way to prosperity?  Or regulated its way to prosperity?  Or borrowed its way to prosperity?  If it were possible would there ever be a country which wasn’t prosperous?  Look around.  Look at history.  Is this the case?  Why doesn’t government just send us all a check for a million dollars and then we’d all be rich?  There are realities we confront, whether we like it or not.  Just as science is a constant search for the truth, the focus of our political system should also be the search for the truth, not raw political power.  But politics and government today operate with a truth be damned-type of mindset.  Our very lives are put at risk by this arrogance.  The entire planet is put at risk by this arrogance. If you spend the time and effort you will find that every economic problem we are currently facing has government’s fingerprints all over it.  Let us never forget Tolstoy’s statement:

 

Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.

 

Or that font of wisdom, P.J. O’Rourke...

 

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys

 

The old Soviet Union failed because its economic system failed.  It simply didn’t work because it contradicted reality… and reality is a pesky little thing which bends for no person… regardless of how much one might hope and dream.  China is successful because it has embraced free (er) markets.  Some have suggested that the US is heading towards European-style socialism (with some looking forward to it and some dreading it).  Both miss the mark.  Without the US being the US, European socialism isn’t possible in Europe, let alone the US!

 

Let us take a little stroll down memory lane.  At the end of World War II, the US had a tremendous transfer of wealth to Western Europe.  They have used this to luxury to build social systems which are forecast to be unsustainable in only a number of years… from handouts of hundreds of millions of dollars to unsustainable social welfare in a little over 60 years!  They have allowed this social system to become a wealth consuming beast… Western Europe doesn’t even have money (or desire) to even defend themselves!  They basically have given up having any type of effective military, instead being happy to hide under the protective cover of our military might.  Defense of the country is one of the primary reasons to even have a federal government.  Instead they fund an unsustainable social system as they race towards the abyss.

 

In the 1970’s began another huge transfer of wealth to the oil producing nations, generally in the Middle East.  A lot of these dollars were recycled back to Europe, thus helping them sustain their socialist life style.  Around the same time the Detroit automakers (and the wonderful UAW) were in the process of committing industrial suicide by their construction of some of the worst cars ever produced in this country (along with completely unsustainable union contracts).  Thus began another tremendous transfer of wealth to Japan and later to the Asian Tigers.  At least these countries used this wealth transfer to create successful, modern, and wealthy economies.  And again, a lot of this wealth was recycled back to Europe.  And this oil related transfer continues to this day… again feeding the European social disaster.

 

Take the US economy out of this equation and NONE of this is possible.  If we become European socialists, the whole world-wide equation changes… and not for the better anywhere on the freaking planet.  You probably often hear about how the US consumes a great deal of the world’s energy… what you don’t hear is how much of the world’s wealth is created here.  Medicine, technology… things that make the entire world a better, wealthier, healthier, and more peaceful place. 

 

That’s a fact, Jack.  And what of this thing we call government?  We seem to forget that words matter.  Our emotions, our opinions, our very integration with the world around us are all influenced by words.  But words are just that, words.  No matter how much one might hope, they have no influence on the real physical world.  Yet we often use words as though they represent real, physical things.  Government is such a word.  Both political parties habitually speak of government doing this or that… often in almost mystical terms; much like God intervening in our puny little lives and magically transforming reality.  Government will do this, government will solve that.  But this thing we call government is an abstraction. 

 

In this fashion it is just like a corporation, an artificial entity created by other words.  Lord Haldane’s classic quote regarding corporations says it all:

 

"My Lords, a corporation is an abstraction. It has no mind of its own any more than it has a body of its own; its active and directing will must consequently be sought in the person of somebody who is really the directing mind and will of the corporation, the very ego and centre of the personality of the corporation."

 

This also defines the government.  This is not a moral statement but rather a physical fact. Governments don’t do anything since they don’t exist… the people who are either elected or work for governments do these things.  Again a fact.  These people are held to the same natural laws which exist for the rest of us—and they have no higher wisdom or moral authority.  In fact you could make a strong case that far too many of them are moral and intellectual inferiors.  William F. Buckley noted…

 

I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 2,000 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.

 

Well I know beer distributors and I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to ANY 2,000 owners or employees than to the present band of clowns we both elect and hire to operate the government of this great nation.  The next time you read about how government is going to do this or that, replace the word with any company name, like Microsoft and see if you think it still makes sense.

 

This is not to imply that governments or corporations are static, passive things.  Far from it.  Although they are artificial entities, once created they behave much like a living entity.  They seek to sustain themselves, to protect themselves, and to grow.  A for-profit corporation’s existence is limited by profit… how effectively they can convince individuals to freely part with their money.  Government knows no such bounds. 

 

Many years ago, H.L. Mencken noted the reality of government (and sadly our current situation… especially the last quote)…

 

“The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods”

 

The legislature, like the executive, has ceased to be even the creature of the people: it is the creature of pressure groups, and most of them, it must be manifest, are of dubious wisdom and even more dubious honesty. Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle—a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game…. If the right pressure could be applied to him he would be cheerfully in favor of chiropractic, astrology or cannibalism.”

 

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

 

Unfortunately for us all, our governments and political processes operate as though they are immune from any reality other than pure political power and the proper spin of the masses.  Today we hear how government is going to stimulate the economy.  So this abstraction called government is going to stimulate (whatever that means) another abstraction called the economy.  The economy is the sum of literally billions and billions of individual decisions and transactions made each and every day.  How do a handful of government employees plan to “stimulate” these transactions?  How do they know better than the individuals voluntarily making the transactions?  Hayek called this “The Fatal Conceit”.  It seems government can either:

·                    Take money from someone and give it to someone else, or

·                    Borrow money and give it to someone, or

·                    Print more money and give it to someone

 

I fail to understand how any of these will “stimulate” these billions of transactions which make up the economy.  

 

We seem to be in the process of voluntarily giving away the freedoms (and the wealth and prosperity these freedoms allow to be created) that our forefathers gave their very lives to create and defend.  Will future generations curse us for the damage we did?  Will they wonder how we could so casually abandon the freedoms that exist no where else on the entire planet?  Is our generation going to be the one which proves the following quote…

 

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

·         From bondage to spiritual faith;

·         From spiritual faith to great courage;

·         From courage to liberty;

·         From liberty to abundance;

·         From abundance to complacency;

·         From complacency to apathy;

·         From apathy to dependence;

·         From dependence back into bondage


Is our time up?  Our going back to bondage will leave the world aflame.  May God have mercy on our souls is we allow this to pass.  Perhaps some late night, when all the tourists have abandoned the memorials, our political “leaders” of all stripes should sneak down and have a quiet talk with John and Abe and Thomas.  Read what they said… what they did.  Perhaps they should run their hands over the names on the Wall.  Perhaps they should weep at Arlington.  The words are right there:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price - bear any burden - meet any hardship - support any friend - oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”


“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom.  In the hour of maximum danger I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it”


“… It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men. We...solemnly publish and declare, that these colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states...And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” 

 

Re-read that last quote.   The individuals who formed this country really did risk those things.  But today, do our political “leaders”, who swear a sacred oath to this country – not to this or that political party – actually believe those words?  Or have those words simply become a suckers game?  Where the creation of and fight for political power is all that matters?  Where sacred honor is laughed at?  Where fortunes aren’t to be risked but rather to be made?  And where only those who believe such outdated sentiments put their lives and honor on the line?  Disheartening indeed.

 

For those who take the path of handing over their very lives to the lesser men and women whose only claim to greatness is their ability to get elected, I leave you with the words of a famous American patriot (and home brewer!) who did put his life, fortune, and sacred honor on the line, Samuel Adams…

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsel of arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen


I for one will lick no hands.  I will not live in servitude.  I will never forget or forgive those who casually attempt to take my God-given rights away.  Nor should you.

 

Beer and Beer Wholesaling

Rather than just throw stones, here is my argument for both - and I’m not even a beer wholesaler – just a black-hearted, mercenary management consultant ;-)


A quote from the prohibition days….

Tell us Senator, what is your opinion of alcohol?  Well, if by alcohol you mean that hearty spirit which brings laughter and livelihood to social gatherings, which lubricates the gears of business transactions, which makes life’s hardships easier to bear, then I say hurrah for it and I support its legal sales and consumption.  However, if by alcohol you mean that evil essence which robs the family budget, which is a toxin to the body and mind, which causes men to assault one another and fail in their professions, then I say fie on it, and I will work with all my power to prevent its sale and consumption.


This industry has made a mistake by focusing on the last part of this quote rather than the first.  We sell and distribute enjoyment, a minor pleasure of life.  If we are going to win the long-term battle we need to start it on the emotional side.  The sad reality is that many (most?) Americans respond to their emotions rather than facts and logic.  We need to accept this and take charge of the emotional message. 


Beer is a wonderful product.  So are wine and spirits.  We don’t need to have any apology following that with  “…but of course it can be abused or use in moderation”.  Do you say that when you state your grandma’s cookies are good?  Yeah and if you eat 20 lbs of them per day you’ll get very fat and most definitely damage your health. Does this need to be said?


We don’t need to apologize and there is nothing to apologize for.  But over the past 30 or so years we have let our enemies define the argument.  A handful of single issue zealots have almost completely controlled the emotional message and they have done a very good job of it.  Now much of this thinking is ingrained in the general media’s and general population’s mind – see Phil’s comments on our “dangerous and addictive” product.  Even those on our side use these terms.


But truth is on our side.  We sell light-hearted enjoyment, we sell fun.  When my 72 year old mother enjoys a couple of glasses of wine or a gin and tonic she does not turn into a dangerous raving lunatic and she does not need to be controlled.  When my 80 year old father drinks a few cold beers or a couple scotch and waters, neither does he.  They have nothing to apologize for.  And we need to start saying it loud and clear.


Our enemies talk about how bad our products are and I think they have some of us brainwashed too.  Lots of products can be misused.  Almost every product or activity can be destructive if done to excess (even sex! – or so I’m told).  Everything can be abused – we don’t need to keep apologizing and restating that our product can be abused (of course in advertisements this may be necessary since all business actions must be viewed with a fear of tort lawyers and their lawsuits anymore, or so it seems – but that’s a rant for another day).


Go back to the quote I started with; sex, chocolate, exercise, everything could be framed in the same manner.

Ultimately our argument is about freedom.  Do people have the freedom to choose?  Do they have the common sense (and right) to make these choices for themselves?  Or do a handful of individuals (both unelected and elected) reserve for themselves the power to determine our rights… our choices… our freedoms? 


If we continue to let our enemies define the argument we will continue to go backwards, we will continue to see attacks and losses – we will continue to see falsehoods become ingrained in everyday thinking – we will continue to see brainwashing that defies logic, but is real just the same.

A handful of single issue emotional zealots are driving this discussion and long-term, if we want to win we had better start to take control of the battle – pointing out the hypocrisy, pointing out the illogic.

This is not just something for beer wholesalers to do. Brewers, wine, spirits, retailers – all need to join in this battle.  And yes this requires the wine and liquor folks to stop pushing for equivalency – it is the most divisive issue the industry confronts.  The competitive landscape has already adjusted to the present tax situation – which in most cases has been in effect since prohibition.  To change it now, to be “fair”, is only an attempt to enact a short-term pricing gain on their products versus beer.  The market is where the market is – this is not an attempt to build the market, the wine and spirits folks are simply attempting to attack a market member.  And to then think you are going to get cooperation from the group you are attacking is simply stupid.  It forces beer people to respond.  The wine and liquor people need to think about this.  What is more important?  Defending the entire industry against an assault which is well under way – and the other side is winning! – or attempting to change a 73 year old tax policy as an assault on an industry member.  If one of us goes down, we all go down.  We truly are in the same boat – if it sinks we all drown, it doesn’t matter who is drilling holes in the boat or who’s bailing – if the boat sinks we go down.  This silliness should stop. 

Now if this law had been passed in the last couple of years, one could make the argument that it was wrong and needed to be changed, disrupted the market etc.  But that is not the case.  This is just a frontal assault on the beer industry – and how do they think Congress would respond if their argument won the day?  Will their tax rate be lowered or beer’s raised?  Of course beer’s would be raised substantially.  And then you want to be friends?  Please.  It is divisive and it needs to end.  The wine and spirits people have to give up on this one since they’re the only ones bringing it up.  And at the same time the beer people don’t need to be pushing the message that a drink is not a drink – although as any drinker knows from experience – drinking beer is different than drinking shots.  It simply is.  But is this the message we want to spend our time and energy on?  There is only so much “message space” we will get.  This is the message that we and our industry partners want to waste resources on?  All while our real enemies are laughing all the way to the bank?  Beer, wine and spirits people need to fight, but fight for consumers, for retailers, not fight with each other through the powers of Congress and state legislatures.


And how about those various rules and regulations that apply to beer and alcohol products?  Wholesalers don’t need to apologize for anything – either in the generation of these laws or seeking to maintain them.  A great deal of what happens in Congress and state legislatures around the country is this or that group either trying to get something out of government, or using government to help them and hurt their competitors.  We are unique in that often when we go to DC we just ask to be left alone.


Right now banks and credit unions are rushing to the bulwarks to stop Wal-Mart from entering the banking business.  Does anyone really think this is some altruistic call to arms to help protect the poor consumer? 


Milk, much more important to families and kids than beer, “is marketed and sold under a highly complex system of federal and state rules and regulations. These programs were created in the early 1930s when milk prices fell in half as a result on the Great Depression. It was believed that only government intervention could settle the milk strikes and confusion that ensued. Congress intervened and created programs aimed to enhance milk prices by setting minimum prices and temporarily suspending competition.”  All milk prices around the country are set by a crazed set of rules depending on how far you are located from Eau Claire, WI ! This costs the average family many dollars a year, yet it is still in place – and vigorously defended.


Or how about agriculture subsidies?  The Heritage Foundation notes that “farm subsidies are America’s largest and most expensive corporate welfare program.”  And the VAST majority goes to corporate farming operations, not the family farmer.  These subsidies cost the average family hundreds of dollars a year, yet they are still in place.  Does the 3-tier system cost families hundreds of dollars a year?  Not remotely. 


No, the problem is not in defending this or that law or regulation.  If I were in your shoes I’d defend them too.  The problem comes about when in the defense of this or that law, our very industry sides with our enemies!  I won’t get into the wisdom of the respective laws, but when in defense of distribution or pricing laws we actually attack our very industry something is wrong.  Damaging the entire beverage alcohol industry as part of a legal defense to support sometimes questionable laws and regulations is short-sighted and does permanent and long-term damage.  This I cannot sit back and silently observe.  Change is the law of life – wholesalers are not immune.  Fight like heck to keep these laws but don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.  Some you will lose, so lick your wounds, adapt your business and move on.  But keep the industry alive and vibrant – not huddled behind a wall waiting for our next loss – fighting with ourselves while our enemies control the message.


Yell out to all that will hear, working for a beer distributor (or a brewer) is one of the best jobs you can have.  A typical sales rep makes anywhere from $35K - $65K, a driver can make $30K to $60K – and they earn every penny. ALL employees are well paid, generally with great benefits. And Costco pays $9/hour with no benefits?!  Costco wants a short-term price advantage over their competitors, nothing more, nothing less.  Wholesalers are one of the strongest and most loyal employers in any community.  I’ll put a beer wholesaler up against ANY employer – and I have worked in every industry imaginable.  No one provides the service levels of a beer wholesaler.  How many beers are consumed in this country each and every day?  And how many of them are “bad” or out of date? Most consumers have NEVER had a bad beer! Wholesalers do an incredible job – let’s tell people.


And let’s talk about kids drinking beer or any alcoholic product.  NO ONE wants their business.  Even the most morally deficient business person wouldn’t want their business.  Why?  Because it doesn’t make business sense.  Marketing and advertising dollars are precious commodities, why waste them on people who 1) can’t legally purchase your product  2) don’t have the disposal income to make the effort worthwhile.  There are much better places to spend your limited sales and marketing efforts.  This is a disingenuous argument that has never stood up to any type of rational analysis.

Let’s take a real look at highway deaths and the issue of alcohol.  As most of us already know, the 40% - 50% figure is an illusion.  Generally most state the true number is around 25%, but some make a good case the real number is closer to 12 – 14%.  Drunk driving deaths are a terrible, terrible thing.  You know what?  ANY accidental death on our highways is a terrible thing.  For the deceased, for those family members and loved ones, whether alcohol was involved does not matter.  The death or injury is what matters.  Although the media acts as though alcohol is the only thing that matters.  And many in the general public swallow this hook line and sinker.

That’s the first thing if there is a fatal accident, was there alcohol involved?  No, then fine and no story.  If there is alcohol involved it is a huge deal.  Not to be crass, but the people are just as dead.  What about the 75%+ of the fatalities that ARE NOT caused by drunk drivers?  What do we hear about those?  Are these deaths somehow acceptable?   Where are the cries for doing something?

I’m certain each of you have seen it too but about a year ago there was a terrible accident here in Colorado.  Four sixteen year olds RAN a stop sign and were broadsided.  All died. Terrible collision, terrible tragedy.  A rather big deal for a media whose moral motto is “it if bleeds, it leads”.  Of course evil alcohol was suspected.  When it was discovered that there was none involved the story died almost instantly.  But gee, they ignored the FACT that drug paraphernalia littered the car.  This was treated as almost a throw-away fact.  The kids were stoned to the gills but that didn’t get anyone excited.  No new calls for stricter laws.  No calls for more roadside checkpoints.  No knee jerk reaction, in fact no reaction of any sort.  Nope, just a sigh of relief that evil alcohol wasn’t involved and the story ended.  We all know how the story would have proceeded if an empty 6 pack was found in the wreckage.

A while before that two 20 somethings were doing 95 mph in a 45 mph zone at night.  But their lane is closed due to construction – car careens through the barricades and goes airborne, flips in the air and both die.  The driver’s blood alcohol level was .0015%  Yes that’s right, not .015% but .0015%.  What is this?  Perhaps one beer, maybe an orange juice?  Yet the media portrayed it as a drunk driver death and the regular characters jumped in with calls for stricter DUI enforcement, more road side sobriety check points, etc.  Guess what?  Having one beer (or quite a few for that matter) does not make you into a crazed loon.  This driver was simply an idiot who made what for him was a fatal mistake.  I don’t celebrate his death but it had nothing to do with alcohol.


And a comment on road side sobriety check points – I won’t bother getting on my conservative/libertarian soapbox about how the whole concept of check points goes against the ideals this country was founded on.  They are simply a lousy way to catch drunken drivers.  Most police forces have stopped publishing the number of vehicles stopped and alcohol arrests made since the number of arrests is generally below .5% of the vehicles checked!  And very, very few of even those are drunk, but rather have simply been drinking and are not intoxicated.  But police forces have discovered they are great ways to raise money.   They ticket lots of people, and arrest a few – just not for drunk driving, all while filling their coffers.  This is now the dirty little secret of road side check points.


I say the following somewhat with tongue in cheek, but if the goal is to save people’s lives let’s do something about caffeine related accidents.  Let’s test after the accident.  Were you driving while wired?  Anyone who drinks caffeinated products has over-consumed – we’re talking about almost a 100% “abuse” rate!  We all know the symptoms and they are VERY real.  Yet I don’t hear, nor do I believe there should be, calls for stricter regulations of caffeinated products.


What percentage of road rage incidents are caffeine driven?  What percentage of all accidents are caffeine fueled?  I don’t know about deaths but I’ll bet everything I own that there are many, many more accidents that are “caused” by caffeine than alcohol.  Please notice also that I put caused in parenthesis – pointing out how language has been distorted to change its very meaning.  Caffeine of course doesn’t cause accidents – people making mistakes, people not paying attention, this is what causes accidents – individuals.  Guess what, the same is true for alcohol.  It does not cause accidents – individuals do.  Following too closely, speeding, driving aggressively, driving recklessly, not taking time to look clearly – how many people do these things because they are wired on caffeine?


Or how about alcohol versus drugs?  No one wants teenagers drinking beer or doing drugs.  But let’s get real.  One is profoundly different (and more destructive than the other).  You have to be pretty hard core to go slam a six pack before school in the morning – not so with weed and many other illicit drugs.  You have to be pretty hard core to pound a couple forties over lunch break – not so with weed.  You have to be pretty hard core to be drinking from the time you get up until the time you go to bed – not so with weed.  In fact marijuana lends itself to just the type of teen and pre-teen abuse that is the most damaging to the child.  Sneaking a beer or two on a Saturday night does not do the same damage as becoming a regular dope smoker – smoking dope is so much more insidious since you can (and perhaps will) do it almost anytime – not so with ANY alcohol product.


I grew up in Colorado and back in the days of sanity, had an 18 year old drinking age for 3.2 beer.  At 21 you were legal for “real” beer, wine, and spirits.  I met a few kids from California in the 3.2 beer joints and they all said the same thing – they wished CA had the same sense.  Instead they had a 21 year old drinking age and until then, almost everyone smoked dope – it was sooooooooo much easier to get than a 12 pack of beer.  This was and is insane.  Sure we’d rather kids do neither but if they are going to be stupid, at least minimize the damage their stupidity can do.  And yes, I freely admit to being stupid as a kid – I think that is one of the definitions of being a kid and growing up.  I’m still not beyond being stupid but that’s another story.


Yet we quietly watch the world where restrictions on alcohol are becoming stricter, driven by a handful of single interest zealots, while marijuana becomes more legal each and every day.  Is something wrong with this picture? Although many wholesalers may disagree with my following point, as a matter of honesty I must admit that I favor some sort of legalization of illegal drugs.  Prohibition simply doesn’t work and the damage done by the drug wars far exceeds that done by letting folks simply live their lives – but also forcing them to live with the consequences of their actions.  People’s lives are their own – they can do with them what they will and live with the consequences of their actions. 


And guess what; almost all illicit drugs are already “semi-legal”.  ANY young adult, ANY college student, ANY high school student, and sadly many junior high students have these drugs readily available.  It is personal choices, not limited availability which stops them from using.  If they want them they can find them and without too much difficulty.  Almost any adult who wants drugs can find them with only a modest amount of effort.  Hell the media and the police regularly tell us where these “open air drug markets” are.  I travel around the country and if desired, anyone could fly into any medium to large city and purchase drugs within an hour or so.  So how freaking illegal can they be?


And as my last point on this long rant, not that I expect a huge push to change the laws but I have to point out the insanity of the national 21 drinking age.  Ignoring for a minute the quaint idea that the words in the US Constitution actually mean what they say – in which case the powers of the federal government are enumerated – they are clearly stated – with all other power reserved for the states or the people, and of course the 21st amendment… it is insane that the men and women of our armed services, individuals who put their lives on the line each and every day for OUR freedoms, individuals who leave their blood on the battle field for US, individuals who are responsible for operating multi-million dollar machines, individuals who operate and control equipment of enormous destructive capacity, individuals who are responsible for the very lives of their fellow soldiers and civilians, individuals with this amount of responsibility are not responsible enough to drink a cold beer!  Bullshit!


In states around the country, a 16 year old girl can legally have an abortion without her parents consent, yet she is still 5 years away from being able to legally enjoy a beer.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Let us take back the message and shout it out loud – the truth IS on our side and we have nothing to apologize for.


John Conlin, President of Conlin Beverage Consulting has been providing operational and financial management consulting services to the beer and beverage distribution industries since 1986.

Have some out there lost their minds?

Have some out there lost their minds?  Across the country, state associations and individual wholesalers are working feverously to defend and strengthen the 3 tier system.  I’ve no problem with that – in fact I support the general goal.  But some of the methods and arguments being used by people on our side are short-sighted to say the least.

In the April 2nd Seattle Times, the executive director of the Washington State Beer and Wine Association penned an op-ed entitled “The Best in Moderation” http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2002903035_satrdr01.html . 

To quote from the first paragraph “Unlike other products we buy in the store, such as potato chips or bran flakes, alcohol is a dangerous and addictive substance, responsible for the destruction of lives due to drunken driving and alcoholism.  And he’s on our side?!

If you don’t think a tort lawyer will sometime in the future being using this quote then you are practicing self-delusion.  Has anyone been paying attention to what has happened to the tobacco industry over the past 30 years?  The class-action lawsuit is just around the corner and we are putting wood on the fire.

What damage are we doing to the entire beer industry (and for that matter wine and spirits) in these attempts to fight changes in distribution?  We are walking the exact same path as the tobacco folks - seeking compromise from our neo-prohibitionist opponents who have no desire for any type of compromise - cowering from an honest discussion about individual freedom and liberty, and the folly of prohibitionist thinking.  Talking about our products much the same as our enemies!  I know the old saying about politics creating strange bedfellows but when we are on the same side as neo-prohibitionists, one of us is WRONG – and in this case it is far too many on our side.  To have state associations talking about how dangerous and additive our products are, how higher prices are a positive thing, how even greater and more restrictive rules and regulations are necessary to protect “the children”.  This is not just a Washington state issue, this insanity is occurring throughout the country.

If I were a politician, after listening to these arguments I would never, ever listen to you again about why I shouldn’t vote to increase excise taxes – perhaps substantially since higher prices are so “good” for all.  And at the same time we’re supposed to go the Washington DC in early May and lobby for the repeal of the 1991 federal excise tax increase?!  Please help me with this logic.  In fact if I were a politician I’m not certain I would listen to much of anything the beer wholesaling industry said.  It seems we will take almost any position in defense of ourselves.

I’m just a management consultant who has worked with beer wholesalers for the past 20 years and for my business’s sake I should probably just keep my mouth shut – but I can’t be silent on the sideline when I witness this insanity.  I’m a strong supporter of the 3 tier system, beer wholesalers, and beer, wine and spirits in general but some of these actions are not thought through.  Change is the law of life.  Wholesalers are not immune.  But in the spectacle that is playing out before us, the attempted cure is probably much more harmful than the disease itself. 

John Conlin, President of Conlin Beverage Consulting has been providing operational and financial management consulting services to the beer and beverage distribution industries since 1986.