Early voting has already begun for the November 2 election in which citizens will be able to vote on constitutional amendments and local propositions. One of the measures on the Erath County Ballot is Proposition A which, if passed, will allow “the legal sale of all alcoholic beverages including mixed beverages.” It deserves voter support.
Supporters of Prop A argue that “Based on our population, studies show we could be gaining as much as $10 million a year in additional sales, nearly 100 new jobs and generate another $200,000 in local sales tax revenue.” The sources for these figures are reliable and the figures are probably accurate. But even if Prop A’s passage generated no new revenue in either sales or sales tax, or created a single additional job, its passage would still be beneficial because it would increase the fairness and freedom with which we conduct our business and our lives.
I’ve been involved with economic development issues in Stephenville for 18 years—14 as a city council member and Mayor Pro Tem, and 4 as a member of the Stephenville Economic Development Authority Board of Directors. I’ve always thought the government can best support economic development with policies that promote:
- A reasonable tax rate, high enough to finance quality city services, but not so high as to drive businesses away;
- A level playing field on which all businesses of a similar nature can compete for customers; and
- A simplified set of rules which legitimately promote public health and safety, but which neither impose onerous burdens on businesses nor favor any one competitor over another.
Passage of Prop A will advance all three of these principles. The projected revenue, for example, will ease our tax burden and help finance quality services and infrastructure, not only to the benefit of the restaurant and retail industries, but to everyone who patronizes them or otherwise pays taxes and uses city and county services.
Moreover, Prop A supporters note that currently restaurants which sell alcohol operate under “burdensome” rules which “prohibit our on-premise establishments from purchasing their inventory locally and the private club rules [which] add on costly expenses.” Some research indicates that the additional expense may range from $3000 to $20,000. The added burden to “private clubs” competing with other restaurants is clearly unfair. Removing the burden levels the playing field while promoting greater free-market competition for customers.
But the most important reason for supporting Prop A, for me at least, is that it expands the freedom not only of local restaurants and retailers, but of We the People as well. As both an economic and a social libertarian, I’ve always thought that adults should be able to pursue whatever lifestyles they choose, other than those that hurt others or lead to an abdication of personal responsibility for one’s actions. With this in mind, as a city council member I supported each application from the owner of a bar or restaurant to sell alcohol, even though I myself am a strict teetotaler. I also spoke, in a public debate, for the passage of the 2008 proposition which first permitted the sale of beer and wine in Erath County. And although I’m a nonsmoker, I also opposed smoking restrictions in restaurants and private property, believing that the property owners should have the right to determine the degree, if any, to which adults could smoke on their premises.
Proposition A, to the extent that it expands the right to buy and sell alcohol in Erath County, is of a piece with these other measures to expand the right of adults to live their lives their way, as long as nobody gets hurt. Proposition A imposes no obligations on those who, like me, don’t drink. It expands choices and rights and rights for the interested. And its passage will strengthen the libertarian principle that our lives are ours to live as we sit fit without endangering others, and that whatever lifestyles we choose are ours by right.
Government at all levels is growing bigger. Higher taxes may finance better programs, but they reduce our power to spend our money our way as individuals. More rules, however beneficial they logically they seem, may reduce our personal freedom as well. Voting for Prop A is one way we can push against these trends. So:
Vote for Fairness.
Vote for Freedom.
Vote for Prop A.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.