Friday, July 06, 2012

Conventional Wisdom Backwards on Wet-Dry Issue

 The conventional wisdom on allowing liquor sales may be all wet.

Arkansas has about 40 counties that are "dry" counties.   That is, they do not sell alcohol except by the drink at private clubs.   Benton County, world headquarters of Wal-Mart, is one of the "dry" counties.     This November residents are going to vote on whether to keep or overturn the ban on selling bottled alcohol in that county.  

Since the possession and consumption of bottled liquor brought in from adjoining counties is perfectly legal, there is no serious liberty issue on this question.    The financial issue is dominating whatever discussion is occurring, but I have been shocked at how simplistic and one-sided such discussion has been, even among sophisticated residents of the county. 

All anyone is talking about is how much money the dry county is losing to the wet counties.   They are focused on the lost tax revenue from alcohol sales.    This is bogus accounting because they are looking at the costs of staying dry, but making no attempt whatsoever to consider the economic benefits of staying dry.   If you look only at the times you win, and ignore the times you lose, even a trip to the casino seems like a good deal.

While you miss out on the taxes from the sale of alcohol in a dry county, many theorize that crime and accident rates are higher in wet counties, and that more law enforcement is needed when in a county where inhibition-reducing liquor is sold.   Add to it that a certain slice of the population, those whose lives are dominated by alcohol, will preferentially stay out of your county.  Such people usually bring a whole load of other costs.   How much tax revenue is worth it if it means in the average year three more school children in your county are killed by drunk drivers?

But all that is theoretical right?  Well, it was, until a very dedicated fellow named Bob Hester of Jonesboro actually went to the trouble to compile the statistics.    He actually measured the differences in several areas between wet and dry counties in the state between the years 1998 and 2010.   In some cases, on the crime statistics, his figures are from 2008.   Here are ten surprising facts about wet vs. dry counties in this state-

1) Wet counties in Arkansas have 60% more law enforcement personnel per capita than dry counties.
2) Dry counties had a 245% higher rate of population growth than wet counties.
3) DUI's were 35% higher per capita in wet counties.
4) Aggravated assaults were a whopping 180% higher per capita in wet counties
5) Prostitution was a whopping-er 263% higher per capita in wet counties
6) Robberies were an astounding 299% higher per capita in wet counties
7) Rape was 59% higher per capita in wet counties
8) Murder was 107% higher per capita in wet counties
9) Life expectancy was 18 months greater in dry counties
10) 65% more drug/narcotics use in wet counties


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Local jurisdictions within wet counties may be dry, and as you pointed out, alcohol is easily brought across borders.

There are likely even more confounding factors, (urban areas vs. rural areas) but these are big ones.

3:24 PM, July 14, 2012  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

The rural vs. urban spread is not as significant as you think. For example Benton and Craighead counties are far from rural, but they are in the dry column.

One thing that I can think of is that people whose lives revolve around alcohol are a lot less likely to choose a dry county, and they are a lot MORE likely to do those other things.

I also consider that the counties that choose to vote to go dry in the 1940's were probably more moralistic and straightlaced than the rest, and these current results are simply artifacts of an original more law-abiding population.

9:13 PM, July 18, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except you fail to provide any sources for yours or Bob Hester's "statistics". Anyone with a computer can keep a blog these days.

9:03 AM, December 24, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:50 PM, February 02, 2013  

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