Empty Mall on Sunday When North Dakota Blue Laws Were in Effect
In the early 1980’s I spent three months in Greenville, South Carolina working for the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. In those days South Carolina had a law prohibiting the opening of retail stores on Sunday. These laws were known as “Blue Laws” and are often applied to sale of liquor, but in those days shopping malls were virtually closed on Sundays. With the exception of groceries and gasoline there was no legal retail commerce on Sunday.
The vast majority of South Carolinians believed that the Blue Laws were antiquated and needed to be abolished. However, the religiously conservative legislature held on tight. The Sunday after Thanksgiving (I believe this was November 27, 1983) one of the major department stores in Greenville opened all of its’ stores, openly defying the Blue Laws. The word got out quickly and later that day other retail establishments opened. By the following Sunday all retail stores were open for business. It was like the Blue Laws never existed.
No one was arrested, no one went to prison and no fines were assessed. Everyone knew the laws were ridiculous and the government was morally and physically powerless to enforce them. The legislature of South Carolina abolished the retail sales Blue laws shortly thereafter.
The lesson of the retail Blue Laws is simple: Whenever a law unabashedly violates individual liberty; and whenever the vast majority of those being governed are harmed by the law; and whenever it is obvious that the government has neither the determination nor the resources to enforce the law; that law will be repealed or will be forever unenforced.
Today many Americans have patiently obeyed widespread “Stay at Home” Laws, and that has been a good thing. However, as the term length of these orders is expanded again and again, the public is starting to have that creepy feeling that they are “being had.” When enough is enough the public and merchants will take to the streets and the cops won’t have neither the will nor the resources to enforce stay at home laws.
If you can’t stop a man from shopping on Sundays in 1983, you sure as heck won’t stop him from making a living or enjoying a beer with his friends in 2020. Keep your eyes peeled. It is my gut hunch that in many states closures beyond May 1, 2020 will be met with effective protestation on the part of the public. Some public health officials argue that we need more time, perhaps months, to better understand those costs and benefits. That won’t happen. Americans are duty-bound to exercise their liberty and if pushed much farther they will do so in short order. The time for “stay at home” will soon expire. Live free or die.
Irish Democracy. I hope you are right. It has been a sober disappointment how readily willing Americans are to trade liberty for security. I fear we are not the same country that we were in 1983 when Blue Laws were challenged.
Thanks for the reply, Mike. Time will tell whether or not we wake up to the values that have gotten us here.