Blue Laws and Sunday Alcohol Sales Updated

posted at 11:45 am on February 16, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

In the state of Georgia, the next chapter is playing out in a divisive story which has been going on in many states since the end of prohibition. Lawmakers are looking to roll back some of the blue laws which have remained on the books for generations, specifically the restrictions on selling alcoholic beverages on Sundays. The efforts, however, are facing stiff resistance from some Christian conservatives.

The latest attempt at Sunday alcohol sales legislation in the state Senate appears to be in trouble.

Opposition, especially from Christian conservatives, could prevent a Senate vote this year on a bill that would give Georgia communities a vote whether to allow Sunday beer, wine and liquor sales at stores.

Only a few weeks after giving it a strong chance of passing, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers said Monday that he’s not sure it will reach the Senate floor this session.

At Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis finds the idea not only “silly” but contrary to libertarian, small government principles.

Here’s an idea. If you don’t like the idea of buying beer, wine, or liquor on Sundays, then don’t buy beer, wine, or alcohol on Sundays. There is no rational basis for religious conservatives to force their own ideas of how Sunday’s should be spent on the rest of society.

This is one reason why focusing solely on national politics when it comes to issues about how closely allied libertarians/fiscal conservatives should be with social conservatives is a mistake. The power of social conservatives to implement their agenda at the national level is actually pretty limited…

At the state and local level, though, the ability of social conservatives to use the force of the state to enforce their vision of the “moral” society is far more prevalent.

I’m not sure that this is a situation where we need to pit social conservatives against fiscal conservatives, nor the religious right against secular activists. It’s really more a question of consistency.

Christian limits on Sunday activity aren’t quite as rigorous as, for example, some Jewish laws regarding work of any kind on the Sabbath. If you don’t want to return to prohibition and bar the sale of alcohol entirely, there doesn’t seem to be much of an argument in saying you only want it sold on six out of seven days. Further, it’s a rather pointless law to begin with, as most drinkers can and will simply buy a bit more on shopping day and make sure they’re stocked up for the football game on Sunday in advance.

Less clear is whether or not total sales would actually increase, spurring small business activity, with the lifting of such a ban. And that’s for precisely the same reason mentioned above: people simply stock up rather than running out to buy a small supply seven days per week.

Perhaps the bigger question for us to tackle is that of states which currently restrict all sales to state owned and operated stores. These are the ones which seem to impose the greatest inconvenience on shoppers. Further, such systems fly in the face of free market principles. Surely private business owners would find ways to deliver the products more cheaply and create more jobs than the state government could ever manage.

UPDATE: From more readers in the comments than I could list here, another pressing question. From the perspective of the liquor store owners, is six days per week actually better for business, as it allows them to make the same sales in six days without incurring the overhead costs of running on Sundays? Is the government actually doing them a favor by not allowing others to cut into their sales by running on a day when they are closed? Not sure how that addresses the free market principle of the issue, but it’s a valid question.

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