Yesterday the Sutherland Institute posted an article on its blog written by Paul Mero. In the article Mr. Mero poorly argues that “No liberty is violated by Highland’s Sunday closures”. The article talks about an existing ordinance that prevents certain businesses from operating on Sundays. In this coming election the citizens of Highland will vote on a proposition that has the potential to restore liberty by allowing people to make their own decisions about if they want to go shopping or operate your own business on Sundays.
After I read the article I couldn’t help but to wonder: Is Paul Mero for real? Is his opinion, the opinion of Sutherland Institute? I have to say that if the Institute’s ideals and goals are in sync with Mero’s opinion in this article that it would make it easy to see where the institute stands on topic of liberty.
I am a different kind of Republican because I am a Republican who believes in the Constitution. How can anyone state that there is no violation of liberties with the current Sunday business closures? What if the only day I have to do some shopping is on Sundays? I’d be out of luck. Well but not really, because not all businesses in Highland close on Sundays… so the closure law is only important for some businesses but completely unimportant for other businesses? Mero states that he believes that property rights are the basis of economic freedom yet he also believes that the property owners don’t have the rights to sell their goods whenever they want, including on Sundays. I find it interesting how selective Mero seems to be as to when liberty should be applied. I guess it makes sense to him for the ‘law’ to have double standards.
Mero starts his article by saying that his point of view is merely intellectual but in his next sentence, which to me is not intellectual at all, he states that there aren’t liberty interests at stake. An intellectual conversation about liberty actually requires understanding what liberty is and in my opinion this article shows that Mero lacks that understanding.
Anytime, under any circumstances when the government oversteps the powers given to them by the Constitution, they are infringing on someone’s liberties. Anytime the government removes anyone’s liberty to choose, they are preventing liberty from being exercised. Anytime the government chooses on behalf of the people, like in this instance – when to shop, the government is taking away the people’s liberties to shop on Sundays if that’s what they want to do. The mere fact that a law that prohibits property owners from operating their businesses on Sunday exist is an intrusion on the owner’s liberty to open his own store whenever he or she wants.
At a certain point Mero argues that it is “entirely appropriate to pass just laws that reflect the common will of the people”, then he gives an example that it would be “good public gesture” for “non-essential” businesses to be closed on Sundays if a hypothetical predominantly LDS community thought so. But then he later admits that “communities are constantly in flux” and that “Determining a community identity is fluid, and so we have ongoing public conversations.” In other words we pass this law now because this community believes in X, even though that community over there doesn’t believe in X, they believe in Z, but who cares… let democracy, let the majority dictate what happens. Well Mr. Mero that doesn’t work. What if the majority decides that they want for the businesses to only be open Monday thru Friday? Or what if the majority decides that they don’t want that one store there any longer? Because communities are in “flux”, they change, and 5 years from now that community will no longer be the same, then based on your argument we will have to change the law again to accommodate the will of the majority of this new community and so on… while all along we just ignore the existing law, i.e. the Constitution and the liberties it already provides to the people, instead we go about our marry way creating new laws that only prune these said liberties. Remember Mr. Mero, the law is already set, it’s called the Constitution. Let the people choose. If I don’t want to shop on Sundays I won’t, but if I change my mind and decide I want to shop on Sundays I’d love to have businesses willing to have me as a customer, which brings the next set of choices, if I don’t want to open my store on Sundays I won’t, but if I do, I’d like to have the liberty to do so. This matter is to be decided between the property owner and the customer, but through persuasion, not through government coercion. I may approach the owner and say: Mister, I am willing to shop here on Sundays and I know that many of my friends would shop here on Sundays too, then the owner may decide (or not) to open his business on Sundays. At the same token, if the owner opens his store on Sundays and he is losing money by doing so, then he’ll have the opportunity to decide to close the store on Sundays. But again, that will be their own decisions as a consumer or as the owner and not a liberty tearing decision made by the government.
Furthermore Mero refers to a secular interest in preserving a day of rest. While “intellectually” writing, he fails to recognize that different religious groups adopt different “days of rest”. How do we reconcile that? Are we going to write laws that are religious specific? Some stores in this region will be closed on Sundays because of the beliefs of this religious group over here, but some other stores on this other region will close on Saturdays because of the beliefs of this other religious group over there. What a mess!! I despise his notion that the government has the role (or is even capable) of insulating us, (as Mero suggests) “against the negative effects of modernity”. That is not the role of the government. The excuses used to justify such anti-liberty ordinance may be many and I didn’t want to dive too much into that but I can tell you that I don’t shop where and when I don’t want to. I am not ‘forced’ to shop on Sundays just because a property owner using his Constitution given liberty decided to open his business that day!
I’ll end saying that I am a worthy member of the LDS church and that having businesses operating on Sunday does not affect by ability to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
Please restore the property owner’s rights to choose when they want to open their stores. Please restore the people’s rights to shop whenever they want to shop.
Liberty is freedom to choose. If you take away my liberty to choose you are violating my liberties.