Blue No More: The Joys of Economic Liberty

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Blue No More: The Joys of Economic Liberty

by Ralph Shnelvar, December 15, 2004

Editor's introduction: Recently I wrote a column for Boulder Weekly about Colorado's blue laws, which prohibit the sale of alcohol (in stores) and cars on Sunday. I asked Representative Paul Weissmann, a Democrat from Boulder, "Do you support abolishing the blue laws in 2005?" He answered, "Yes! Why should only two industries be told by law that they cannot operate on Sundays?" Ralph Shnelvar reviewed my article and related some of his personal experiences with blue laws. A December 5, 2003, story in the Christian Science Monitor reports Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania lifted blue laws for alcohol last year. One of my New Yorker friends believes that where he lives "all retail stores can open on Sunday at this time." -- Ari Armstrong

I lived in New York City for 24 years, rarely venturing elsewhere. Then in 1974 I moved to Chicago to be a computer programmer for a professor at the University of Chicago. I moved to Chicago with my girlfriend, Dorothy, who was as provincial as I.

We were in Chicago for two days and relative babes-in-the-woods. We didn't know where stores were or anything.

So we needed some household appliance. As is my habit, I stopped a stranger on the street and asked where we might get the thing. The stranger told us "Sears."

It was noon on Sunday and we asked, "Uh, do you know when Sears will open?"

The stranger said, "Oh, I guess it's open now."

Dorothy and I looked at each other in puzzlement. "Uh, today is Sunday," Dorothy said. The stranger looked at us strangely. "So?" said the stranger.

Dorothy and I figured the stranger was pulling our collective legs. You see, we lived in New York and the blue laws there prohibited Sears, etc., from being open on Sunday. Worse, we thought this is the way it was everywhere.

So I approached another stranger. "Uh, excuse me, is Sears open today?"

"Sure. Is it some sort of national holiday today?" the stranger said a bit confused.

So we drove the two miles to Sears. The parking lot was pretty empty so we still weren't sure that this wasn't some sort of Monty Pythonesque joke that Chicagoans play on out-of-towners.

So we walk to Sear's front door. There are lights on inside and a handful of people walking around. I reach for the front door and...

It opens. We walk in.

We look around. We look confused. Someone says, "May I help you?"

I figured it was security and that they wanted us to leave since they were doing inventory or something.

"Uh, are you open?"

"Of course we're open. Can I help you?"

"We're looking for appliances."

"Over there."

Oh the joy! Oh the freedom! I felt like a kid in a candy store. An enormous weight had been lifted from me. It was a weight I didn't even know I was carrying.

I wish Paul Weissmann well.

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