According to reports last week, the LCB has just begun allowing Pennsylvanians to harness 20-year-old technology and 80-year-old liberties to order booze online and have it delivered to their homes. Previously, customers could order only for pickup at State Stores.
Of course, this being an LCB production, there are a few caveats. First, home delivery is available only for specialty products that amount to less than 10 percent of the state's catalog.
And to avail themselves of this convenience, customers will be charged a delivery fee of at least $14. Keep in mind, however, that in 1933 dollars (possibly the agency's benchmark), that's only 80 cents.
The board's partner in this endeavor is UPS - which, ironically, happens to be a private company successfully competing with a government monopoly that, whatever its flaws, retains infinitely more goodwill and utility than the LCB. And yet most companies making and selling wine and spirits in the rest of America remain legally prohibited from competing with Pennsylvania's liquor leviathan in any way, including through online sales and home delivery - in some cases, the courts have found, in violation of a prouder product of Pennsylvania statesmanship, the Constitution.
This is not to say that the antiquarian alcohol ministry has learned nothing from such failures as its experiment with automated wine vending, which unleashed an army of buggy booze-bots on the state's innocent supermarket shoppers. In contrast, and wisely, the latest initiative was launched, as press reports had it, "quietly" and with "no fanfare." (Though how much "fanfare" could possibly have accompanied such a nonevent?)
As it fends off the latest lurching effort to consign it to the past in which it's permanently mired, the LCB faces an almost pitiable quandary: It is so utterly behind the times, and so completely devoid of sense, that every feeble attempt to correct its woeful deficiencies serves only to highlight them.