Social Engineering Watch: Would Renewed Blue Laws Be Good For America?

Curiously, it appears that some liberals are showing an interest in seeing the return of blue laws to America (laws instituting no work on Sundays). Perhaps there are a lot of conservatives who would join them on this:

My own take is that this is a form of nostalgia that would have to ignore the demands that modern 21st century capitalism places on nations to always strive for increases in productivity. Obviously, any nostalgia for blue laws is precisely this: a rebellion against modern economic realities. One source of growth in gross domestic product (GDP) is the fact that global economies hum 24/7. The idea that it would be good for blue laws to return is akin to the idea that it would be good for women to withdraw from the marketplace and return to the home: both ideas would actually make the running of a modern economy less efficient and reduce, on the whole, human opportunities for leisure. Work that is not done efficiently requires (by definition) more work.

As much as some of us might like the fantasy of everybody doing the same things together on a single day, the modern world runs on worker availability and worker specialization. Everyone, male and female, for purposes of productivity and efficiency, picks, for monetary compensation, one job, profession, or skill on which to focus. It is the calendar rhythms and demands of that particular job, profession, or skill that then sets the individual’s calendar.

Thus, if you don’t want to work on Sundays, the solution is to pick a career that gives you that choice. But if we are to have a globally plugged in capitalist society, not everybody will have the leisure (or want) to join you. Sorry. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes capitalism does not sit well with utopian or religious vision, and then you have to choose.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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