Feeling 'blue' after trip reveals joys of unrestricted shopping

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Feeling 'blue' after trip reveals joys of unrestricted shopping

by Ari Armstrong

The following article was originally published by The Pueblo Chieftain on June 24, 2007.

Well, Republicans can't say they weren't warned.

In his 2006 book, The Elephant in the Room, Ryan Sager warned that the GOP was in danger of losing the West with its "big-government conservatism" of more tax spending and intrusions into our personal lives.

Sager noted that, "The battle is on in the West, and Democrats are making a play for the libertarians. They've appropriated the language of small government, lower taxes, balanced budgets, efficiency, privacy, responsibility," and so on. (We'll leave aside the ambiguity of the term "libertarian.")

While Colorado Democrats have largely failed to make good on such rhetoric, they haven't done much worse than many Republicans, who gave us things like smoking bans, expanded welfare and higher taxes.

To prove their seriousness about capturing the West, the Democrats will pour into Colorado next year to select their presidential candidate. A line from the April 29 Denver Post about this caught my eye: "The libertarian streak that sets some Western Democrats apart will also be part of the national dialogue. Such Democrats shun government intrusion in 'your house, car, doctor's office and bedroom,' [Rep. Alice] Madden said."

One way Democrats could show their seriousness about such statements is to repeal Colorado's "blue laws," which prevent people from purchasing cars and alcohol (from liquor stores) on Sundays. Other laws prevent the sale of most alcohol in grocery stores anytime. Such laws have no place in a free society. They clearly establish government intrusion in our houses and cars (and my wife and I have even been known to share a drink in our bedroom).

I was reminded of Colorado's nonsensical blue laws when my family recently traveled to the Oregon coast. My wife succinctly summarized some differences between the states' laws, noting that in Oregon "it's illegal to pump your own gas, but you can buy wine in Target." Yes, we were delighted to see our favorite wines on display amidst the giant red circles. In Colorado, that's a crime.

Of course, Oregon has its own craziness: while grocery stores can sell wine, the state has "the exclusive right to sell packaged distilled spirits" to approved retailers, according to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Apparently what politicians of neither state can stand is to let consenting adults make their own decisions.

True, many liquor and car stores complain about facing competition on Sundays. But so what? The proper purpose of the law is to protect individual rights, not grant some business owners protectionist favors that cost the rest of us extra hassle and restrict our freedom of contract. Nobody's forcing any store to be open on any particular day.

In 2005, a liquor lobbyist explained to the Rocky Mountain News another reason why liquor stores don't want Sunday sales: they fear that will prompt grocery stores to ask for the ability to sell liquor. But grocery stores legitimately have the right to sell liquor; and their customers have the right to buy it; and politicians should stop criminalizing "capitalist acts among consenting adults," to invoke the phrase of philosopher Robert Nozick.

Democratic State Sen. Jennifer Veiga of Denver told the Rocky in 2005, "I've always thought the ban on Sunday sales on booze is silly." And silly it is. But the blue laws also violate our basic economic rights. And that's not funny, at all.


Ari Armstrong is a senior fellow with the Independence Institute, the editor of FreeColorado.com, and an unaffiliated voter.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com