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Greetings from the worker's socialist paradise of New Hampshire!

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.



Comments (11)

The second smallest state o... (Below threshold)
Eric T:

The second smallest state of Delaware is pretty good at the same. The only tolls on Delaware roads are at it's borders. Add to that the revenues that come from all the out of state incorporations. There is no need for a sales tax there since non-residents pretty much pick up the tab.

Having grown up in Maine I ... (Below threshold)

Having grown up in Maine I am well familiar with both state run liquor stores and the New Hampshire I95 Liquor outlets. It was customary for anyone who would be driving through New Hampshire to take orders from their friends who also wanted to avoid Maine's sales tax.

Maine has since abandoned its state run booze business and you can find your favorite brand of Gin in aisle 5 of the local supermarket. Raisins are in aisle 8.

You had better quit the fre... (Below threshold)

You had better quit the free adverts for your state.
Otherwise whatcha gonna do when all the rest of us workin' stiffs from the REST of the U.S. of A. decide to immigrate to your great state? :)
It's too bad that some of the other almost ran great states don't take a page out of your book on state governance role model book.
If I ever decide to move, I think I'll check N.H. out first.

Idaho has also been quite s... (Below threshold)

Idaho has also been quite successful at taxing at Utah via the state lottery. The most successful lottery outlets are those right at the border.

The State Stores are one of... (Below threshold)
Dear Johns:

The State Stores are one of a dozen reasoins I left Pennsylvania right after college and moved to Southern California (OK, it was mostly the weather). This little piece of socialism is hard to justify now that I live where I can pick up a bottle of Scotch and a Riesling for the wife by stopping at the supermarket.

As far as the idea of not advertising for state is concerned, many people in Los Angelese believe Orange County is backwards and culturally barren and we in Orange County try as hard as possible to ensure they continue to believe this. We don't need any more people coming here, thank you (kind of the "shut the door behind you" mindset).

So, be sure to point out that, while the good things you said about your state are true, there are also lots of vampires and land sharks about.

Jinkies I donít know whethe... (Below threshold)
God Bless America:

Jinkies I donít know whether to applauded their ingenuity or decry their methods.

I lived in Manchester for a... (Below threshold)

I lived in Manchester for about 5 years recently. My first drive north on I-93 through the Hooksett tolls caused me to laugh out loud in disbelief at the sight of the rest stop/liquor store combo. Actually, I chuckled a bit every time I passed through those tolls on my way north/south.

The thought of the free peo... (Below threshold)

The thought of the free people of the Republic of New Hampshire drawing bucks from their pinkish neighbors makes me grin.

Government liquor stores? Like you I hate the very thought, but the state has to get at least some revenue from somewhere. Is there a workable proposal on the table about how NH would replace the revenue if it privatized the stores?

One envisions specta... (Below threshold)
jack rudd:

One envisions spectacular car crashes and grisly deaths among Massachusetts liquor pirates veering drunkenly along I-95. Liberals would blame New Hampshire politicians for this, but the true culprits are the political tax fiends in Massachusetts.

Ironic that the libertarian... (Below threshold)

Ironic that the libertarians moved in as the state is trending increasingly blue.

"If I ever decide to move, ... (Below threshold)
John S.:

"If I ever decide to move, I think I'll check N.H. out first."

Well, there's one little thing we left out. It's already below freezing here and the temperature will drop another 50 to 60 degrees over the next 12 weeks. Spring will be back in May.






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