BY THE WAY

Wanted: A More Intelligent Design

From this corner, intelligent design isn’t too intelligent. By intelligent design I mean the so-called alternative to the standard, Darwinian theory of evolution. Backers of the intelligent design explanation for homo sapiens origin argue that life on Earth is too complex to have evolved through natural selection. What does this ardently discussed political hot potato have to do with StateWays and the future of the control state system? Maybe it’s unrelated, but we think it represents a dichotomy of thinking quite familiar to those of us who make our living in some way that is related to governmental control of beverage alcohol distribution.

We began a lighthearted but not unserious examination of this matter when we became aware of the national (not to speak of international) spotlight coming to rest on U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III as he presides over a critical intelligent design court case in Harrisburg, PA. At the time he became a Federal judge in August 2002, John Jones had served seven years as chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Jones’ tenure was notable for substantial changes streamlining and shortening liquor licensing procedures. He also earned accolades for his efforts to bring beverage alcohol education programs to bear on the problems of underage drinking on college campuses and drunk driving. Many of you know that at the time of his appointment to the Federal bench, Jones was also president-elect of the NABCA.

In short, John Jones brought to his Pennsylvania post a very intelligent design, although almost surely not the same one he will hear referred to in his courtroom. But our industry is facing a parallel challenge to this latter day Monkey Trial. On the one hand, we have our own version of intelligent design. We call it the control state system. We also call it the three-tier system. And we call it the public’s interest and welfare. In any case, it is a body of intentionally (and mostly intelligently) designed rules and regulations that hold back the foreseeable depredation of unregulated commerce. The difference (in my model) between what’s happening in Harrisburg, PA, and what’s happening in beverage alcohol is that in the case of beverage alcohol the side of the true saints and angels — that’s me and, I hope, you — is the side of those intelligently designed rules and regulations that we have in place.

We don’t know what will happen in Judge John Jones’ courtroom. But on our own daily battlefields, we think that natural selection has no place. We think that the needs of economic stability, public welfare and even public safety, favor a regulated environment, albeit one leavened with the kinds of progressive, common sense freedoms and incentives that make a great industry as enjoyable as possible for all. That’s our system of intelligent design. What’s yours?

 

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