New Hampshire has long had a tradition of conservatism, libertarianism, small-government, leave us the hell alone philosophies. While we have “the third largest parliamentary body in the English speaking world” with 400 Representatives, we only pay them a hundred bucks a year — we want them to have to go out and have a REAL job, so they don’t have as much time to bother us by making more laws. The Free State Project, a move by libertarians to move in and establish their ideal of a state government, picked US as their destination. (It hasn’t worked out too well yet — we don’t quite trust these flatlanders — but that’s only to be expected.) We are the only state that has neither a general sales or a state income tax, and woe to the candidate who doesn’t take “The Pledge” to oppose them. We don’t care if you’re running for Governor, Senator, or dog-catcher — you don’t take The Pledge, you ain’t getting elected.
But while we revel in our iconoclastic state, mocking our liberal neighbors to the west, east, and south, odd bits of outright socialism sneak in and take root. I’ve written before about the rush to embrace the benefits of government price controls on prescription drugs by laundering them through Canada’s socialized medicine system without having to actually do the icky work of controlling prices ourselves. But I was reminded recently of another instance of outright socialism in New Hampshire.
In many states, the sale of hard liquor is tightly regulated. People who want to sell booze have to jump through all kinds of hoops to run a liquor store, and it’s expensive as hell. But not in New Hampshire.
Here, we don’t bother with any of that nonsense. Nobody has the time or the resources to properly do all that, so we simply don’t let them. The New Hampshire State Liquor Commission runs about 70 liquor stores around the state, and is projected to contribute about 115 million dollars to the state budget. And in a state with as small as us (roughly 1.1 million people), that’s hardly chump change.
But it gets worse. The liquor commission lists it’s ten most profitable stores. Prominent are the Hampton North and South stores (1 and 2), located at rest areas along I-95 (one of New Hampshire’s two toll roads). The third slot is taken by the one at the Portsmouth Traffic Circle, also right off I-95. Stores number 4, 5, 7, and 10 are all in communities bordering notoriously-high-taxed Massachusetts. Checking in at 6 and 8 are the Hooksett North and South stores, also in rest areas along New Hampshire’s other toll road (I-93). And rounding out the top ten, West Lebanon takes spot 9. I feel I should point out that the West Lebanon store has the advantages of 1) being next door to Vermont (another high tax state) and 2) just south of Hanover, home of Dartmouth College.
(Aside 1: I lived in Lebanon for several years. The locals have renamed Dartmouth’s (the alleged inspiration for “Animal House”) home town “Hangover” in honor of the students.)
(Aside 2: Every now and then Massachusetts gets fed up with it’s subjects — er, residents — sneaking across the border and buying their booze on the cheap in New Hampshire and cracks down. At one point in the 70’s, they had undercover state troopers sitting in parking lots and radioing in license plates of customers to be busted when they crossed back into Massachusetts. That tactic was ended after New Hampshire’s governor at the time ordered New Hampshire cops to arrest the Mass. troopers for loitering.)
One definition of alcoholism is when a person has reached a point of dependency on alcohol to the point where they suffer when it is withdrawn. Is there a term for a state that is dependent on the revenues of alcohol, and would suffer greatly if it was taken away?
It seems that New Hampshire will cheerfully embrace the benefits of socialism, as long as we can get other people to do the dirty work and pay for it.