“Morality” Policies and Political Realities

In Indiana, I cannot buy wine (or any kind of liquor) if I go to Costco or my local grocery on Sunday. Since–like most women in America today–I work during the week, Sunday is my preferred day to shop. Thanks to the Indiana legislature’s determination to protect my morals and their pocketbooks, I have the choice of making an extra trip, or changing my preferred shopping day, in order to buy wine.

As a matter of public policy, this is insane. I do not drink less because of this policy (actually, being a woman of a “certain” age, I pretty much limit my imbibing to one glass of red wine with dinner anyway). My dinner party guests are not deprived of a nice vintage due to this policy. It is simply inconvenient and annoying.

Periodically, there is an effort to change the law that forbids Sunday sales by groceries. We are seeing such an effort now, with advocates of change pointing out that we can drink at restaurants or bars on Sunday, so it seems silly and inconsistent to prohibit the purchase of spirits at the grocery.

What are the policy arguments being made by those defending the status quo? According to my morning paper, those arguments are:  1)Hundreds of neighborhood liquor stores might go out of business if groceries are allowed to compete. 2)There will be more drunken driving. 3) Remember the Sabbath.

Let’s take this one at a time.

  • If liquor stores cannot compete, then they should be allowed to fail. It is not government’s job to protect them, just as it isn’t government’s job to protect the corner hardware store from Lowe’s.
  • I hate to point this out, but the prediction that drunkenness, or drunk driving, will increase assumes that no one is drinking at those restaurants and bars, or buying enough liquor on, say, Thursday, to last until Sunday. This assertion is clearly not grounded in logic. Or reality.
  • Sunday isn’t MY Sabbath, nor is it the Sabbath of 7th Day Adventists, or atheists, or many others. And even if it were, the Establishment Clause prohibits the use of government to advance religion.

Of course, this was originally ALL about “it’s the Sabbath.” It was about reminding us heathens that this is a Christian (Protestant) Nation, thank you very much.  Most states have moved beyond this; not Indiana. Here in the Hoosier state, it has become a source of campaign cash from the liquor store lobby for those politicians willing to protect those stores from competition by making my life just a bit less convenient.

I’m sure they consider it a fair trade-off.