The Record’s Sunday Business section (Feb. 2) contains two articles on the front page, “Foes of blue laws gear up again,” and “Minimum-wage battle could cost GOP candidates.” Both articles highlight two laws that reveal how the government abuses its powers to address two economic issues. In addition, the Opinion section published about two-dozen letters to the editor about gun control and the Second Amendment, most of which criticize the ownership of so-called assault weapons and firearms ownership in general.
What do blue laws, minimum wage laws and gun control have in common? Plenty. All three laws were created to “improve society” by restricting commerce on Sunday, by raising the wages of low-income workers and by reducing crime by allegedly keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals. Instead, all three laws violate individual rights—rights that are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, state constitutions and natural law.
A good example of how far we as a country have strayed from our philosophical roots can be found in the article on blue laws. Bergen County has one of the strongest blue laws in the nation and Paramus has one of the most restrictive blue laws of any municipality probably in the world. What’s the rationale for not allowing peaceful, voluntary exchange on Sunday?
As reporter Joan Verdon writes, “Any attempt to eliminate the laws, however, will have to overcome strong opposition from residents of Paramus, and other Bergen County residents who say the Sunday laws have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with their right to have one weekend day free of traffic.” (Emphasis added)
There you have it. People believe they have a “right” that is sacrosanct, “the right to be free from traffic one day of the week.” This so-called right is as bogus as a three-dollar bill. There is no such right, never has been, but the people of Bergen County and especially Paramus, believe the law should be used, like a sledgehammer, to prohibit commerce on Sunday.
But there is commerce in Paramus on Sunday, movie theaters, restaurants, gas stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, etc., are opened. What the people of Paramus really object to is having any of the malls opened on Sunday. The residents love the ratables the malls provide but prohibit them from conducting business on Sunday so traffic would be diminished on Route 17 and other roads. In other words, the blue laws are grossly discriminatory. All places of business should be closed on Sunday if the blue laws are to be in effect. Or conversely, if some businesses can be opened on Sunday, then all businesses should have that option. That is called freedom.
Moreover, Paramus residents do shop on Sunday. Just stop by Trader Joe’s on Route 17 North in Paramus. It is mobbed. So obviously, Paramus residents want their cake and eat it too—no general shopping for everyone in Bergen County but some shopping to suit their preferences. There is a word for that, hypocrisy. In short, blue laws violate everything we supposedly hold dear, free enterprise, property rights, and individual liberty.
Minimum wage laws fall into the same “feel good” category—raise by law the wages of lowly paid workers so they will have more money in their paycheck. As noble as this may sound to some, minimum wage laws violate fundamental economic principles, notably the law of supply and demand–the method by which all factors of production, including labor, are used to achieve the best outcomes for consumers. Raising wages for low skilled workers tends to reduce their demand in the job market. If the proponents of minimum wage laws are so confident that mandating a minimum wage has no effect on employment, why don’t they propose a $100 per hour minimum wage law so everyone could jump into the upper middle class?
When politicians interfere with labor markets or any other market in the economy, adverse consequences occur. That is not an “ideological” statement; it is a fact of life. Government intervention creates distortions and no amount of tacky political rhetoric by legislators or anyone else can alter the fact that free markets allocate resources better than any government mandate, law or half-baked scheme. Minimum wage laws are no exception. If employers need unskilled labor and cannot obtain it at the rate they are offering, they will pay higher wages. This happens all the time in sectors of the economy that are in better shape than others.
Minimum wage laws, in the final analysis, prevent the lowest skilled workers from getting a job in the first place, thereby reducing their opportunity to learn valuable skills on the job so they can move up the ladder. Not only should the minimum wage laws not be increased, they should be repealed.
The horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook in December has unleashed the anti Second Amendment proponents in full force. If we accept the premise of the critics of firearms ownership and take it to its logical conclusion, namely that severely restricting or banning the ownership of an inanimate object, a handgun or rifle, will reduce crime, then we have to severely restrict, if not ban, automobile ownership, swimming pools, alcoholic drinking, smoking, gluttony, etc., because hundred of thousands of Americans die each year from non firearm related deaths.
Can the law reduce and/or eliminate life’s risks? To ask the question is to answer it. Nearly 100 Americans die on the nation’s roads and highways each day, many of them children. President Obama does not go before the cameras at the White House and shed tears for these victims and propose we must do something to end the carnage. Yet more children die each year, about 700, from drowning than from the acts of clearly deranged individuals who have used a firearm to commit mass shootings. There is no national angst over these deaths.
It would be magnificent to live in a world of no mass shootings. It also would be wonderful if our government did not send our military to invade countries that have never been a threat to us. And our federal government’s actions have led to the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Where is the outcry for the innocent children overseas?
The most basic right all individuals posses is the right to self-defense. Eliminating or severely restricting that right is the most blatant attempt to solve a problem, individuals who use firearms to commit crimes, with a greater evil, the disarmament of individuals who want to protect their lives, their loved ones and their property.
Murray Sabrin is professor of finance at Ramapo College and president and co-founder of Conger LH, the world’s first Lubrihibitor.