Blue Laws: The Useless Government Alcohol Blunder

Jack Shields | United States

I recently had to get training to be allowed to sell alcohol and tobacco products for my job. At first, I was fine with the concept of requiring someone to be trained for such a thing. These are products that should not be in the hands of children, thus justifying government involvement. But the concept of not selling such goods to children was a minor part of the training.

A large part of it was concerned with when I could sell certain types of alcohol. On Sunday I could not sell any before noon. In addition, we had to stop selling it at an earlier time than on other days. Not only that, there were certain types of alcohol we could not sell at all that day. It was the first time I have had to deal with the ridiculousness of blue laws. Obviously, the government ought to repeal such laws.

This mess started way back in 1919, with the ratification of the 18th amendment, which marked the beginning of federal prohibition. It was, of course, a disaster. Turns out banning alcohol did not rid America of sin, rather crimes increased as criminals found creative ways to funnel Americans the now banned substance and make themselves a nice profit. The federal government had to find out the hard way people are going to do what they want regardless of what you think about it.

Seeing that prohibition was a complete and utter disaster, the 21st amendment was ratified in 1933, repealing the 18th amendment. However, one part of the 18th amendment provided the path for the legislation of morality to continue. Section 2 of the amendment reads in full, “The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.” This allowed prohibition and lesser regulations of alcohol to occur at the state level, and the states quickly exercised the power given to them.

While the moving of prohibition from the federal level to the state level is a great thing for the principle of federalism, legislating morality is not only wrong of the government, it is useless, regardless of what level of government does it.

The government should not interfere with your actions unless you are violating the rights of others. Doing things people consider immoral in no way violates their rights. Thus, there is no need for the government to ban alcohol. (When pertaining to adults.)

Yet, the government still feels a need to in the form of blue laws. Their logic? People ought to be resting or at church, not buying alcohol. This argument is perhaps the worst argument I have heard to the government banning any substance.

Not even from the legislating morality part of the argument, which is bad in and of itself. But from the efficiency of the law. If something needs to be banned, we should ban it. Ban it in a way where almost no one is going to do that thing, and we can rid our society of whatever we are banning. But blue laws don’t do that.

I can get as drunk as I want with the beer I bought on Saturday. Or I could be completely sober, and not go to church.

And I may not buy the alcohol at 11:59 am, but at 12:01 pm I can buy as much as I please. And if the government attempts to remedy this by adding more blue laws. I will simply work around them. If they ban it on Saturday night, I will buy it Friday night. If they ban it on 12:01 pm, I’ll simply wait until 12:02.

There is a case to be made that people should not drink alcohol or smoke and that they should go to church. There is a case that the government should help guide the moral welfare of the citizenry, and mandate these things. It is not a very strong case in my opinion, but at least there’s a case. But if you’re going to legislate morality, then do it. Ban alcohol or force/incentive people to go to church. Propose such ideas, and see how the people respond. Be clear about what you wish to do.

It makes much more sense for members of government to advocate for the right way of living, rather than just pushing for more laws. They are not useful. If the point of the law is to make me sober and go to church, yet I may still find a way to legally drink and stay at home, the law has failed.

There is no reason to keep a failed law on the books; especially a law designed to regulate people’s moral behavior.  All it will do is cost the taxpayer the money needed to enforce the law, cost the businesses money and time training employees and not getting to sell their goods, and annoy customers who are being prevented from buying a product based on the sole reason it is  Sunday. What it will not do is increase the likelihood the annoyed taxpayers, employers, employees, and customers drink less and go to church more.

When a law’s goal is not only one that opposes the true role of government, but doesn’t even accomplish its own goal while annoying and hurting all parties involved, it is time to repeal the law. And blue laws are the perfect example of an ineffective annoyance in need of removal.


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