Bureaucracies Never Die

A while back, I lamented all the work it takes in some states to get a liquor license.  Most liquor license laws stem back to the emergence from prohibition, when states wanted to purge organized crime from the liquor business.  What the heck, then, are they trying to do today, other than limit competition for incumbents, which is the typical role of licensing?  Before I go on, I can't help quoting Milton Friedman again about liscencing of all sorts:

The justification offered is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason
is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for
the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are
invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of
the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone
else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is
hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary
motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who
may be a plumber.

Anyway, here in Arizona, it takes a load of paperwork even to change the manager of a licensed facility (even regulation-happy California does not require this).  For each manager, a multi-page application, personal history, proof of training, and fingerprint cards (yes, really) have to be submitted, and an FBI background check has to be completed (to make sure they never worked for Al Capone, I guess).

Today, I got my new managers application back from the license bureaucracy a second time for corrections.  This time, here are the two errors they found:

  • For the year when the manager was full time RVing (that means living the nomadic life with no permanent home, roaming the country in his RV) he didn't show a permanent address.  Yes, we explained his lifestyle then, but the form requires a permanent address for the last five years and can't be processed without it
  • For a period of time when the manager was unemployed, he did not fill in his own home address where it asked for his employer's address

That's it - after sitting in their hands for weeks. After already returning the application to me before with another flaw, and never mentioning these flaws.  No phone call to get the information, just rejected out of hand, requiring the whole process start over again. 

After dealing with these folks for years, it is absolutely clear to me that they have totally lost sight of what the original mission of their organization might have been, and have substituted the mission "uncompromisingly ensure the rigorous compliance with all forms and processes adopted by this organization in the past".

One Comment

  1. Matt:

    The original mission of their organization has been to prevent where possible, and deter where absolute prevention proves impossible, the expansion of the supply of entities providing alcohol to consumers. In this mission they're pushed forward by the unholy union of neo-prohibitionists (who want access to liquor itself reduced or eliminated) and incumbent licensees (who have no problem with liquor, but would like to use the coercive power of the state to burn the ladder they climbed up on).

    They haven't _forgotten_ it at all. It sounds like they're being rather successful in their mission.

    Of course, whether that mission is a legitimate function of government (or bears any resemblance to the "mission" they openly articulate in public) is another matter entirely. :)