This week we saw yet another round of government intrusion on the private sector in San Francisco (where else?) when municipal authorities passed a ban on the sale of “real fur.” This wouldn’t just apply to fur coats, hats or stoles, but even fur-lined gloves, boots and other articles of clothing. The ban goes into effect next January, with a one year grace period for retailers to eliminate their existing stock after that. (Time)
San Francisco has become the largest U.S. city to ban fur sales after the city’s Board of Supervisors voted on legislation Tuesday.
The ban will go into effect on January 1, 2019, and gives retailers until January 2020 to sell of their existing fur stock. The fur prohibition applies to clothing items and accessories that contain real animal fur.
With Tuesday’s decision, San Francisco becomes the third California city to ban the sale of real fur, after Berkeley and West Hollywood.
This selective outrage nibbles at the edges of man’s ability to engage in animal husbandry, making use of animal products for food, clothing and other applications. Leather bans are less popular because much (though not all) of the leather comes from animals we eat. California has banned the sale of certain snakeskin products for decades.
But can they really do that? You couldn’t be faulted for believing that the first duty of the government is to protect its citizens from harm or prevent them from doing harm to others. But those limits don’t stop state and local governments in particular (thanks in part to what’s left of the Tenth Amendment) from restricting all manner of human activities.
For example, an oft-cited hypothetical question is whether or not the government can ban dancing. If you’re just dancing because you’re happy and not harming anyone else, surely the government can’t stop you, right? Actually, It’s been illegal to dance in bars in New York City since 1926, at least in the bars without “cabaret licenses.” (A law that was only repealed this winter.)
There have been fights over government bans, such as moves to ban trans fats from food products. But those rarely end well for opponents of the ban.
The government bans all manner of products all the time and the courts seem perfectly willing to let them do so. There are sensible cases of bans (or at least restrictions) on the sale of things which may be harmful. These include alcohol, weapons, tobacco products, poisons, explosives… the list goes on. But fur isn’t dangerous to the consumer. That doesn’t matter. We’ve had a ban on the sale of ivory products for a long time now. That’s yet another case of restricting trade in something because it’s a socially popular concept, not because it’s a threat to the health or safety fo the consumer.
So even if the rule is challenged in court, San Francisco will likely be able to keep their ban on fur sales. The only other avenue to combat such government interference is to change the government by voting out the meddling tools who keep enacting these policies. Fur is a thriving business and local retailers are going to be driven out of business or forced to move to a new city or state to survive. But that won’t stop people from shopping elsewhere and still wearing the furs in San Francisco. So much the same as how they drove their last gun shop out of business a while ago, nothing really changes. This is a destructive decision to private business which changes nothing in the end, but makes the politicians feel better about themselves and wins them a few more votes among the liberal base.