Monday Open Thread: Stupid Law Edition

As always, with an open thread, any topic is open… But I’ll start it off with a theme:

One subject that is near and dear to my heart is beer. I brew it, I drink it, I hang out on the forums to discuss it. Since Prohibition, few other topics have generated as many stupid laws as alcohol.

Two stupid laws in general:

1) States that don’t allow Sunday sales of alcohol. I’ve lived in Illinois, California, Indiana, and Georgia, two of which don’t allow Sunday sales. It’s nothing more than pandering to the religious right, as Georgia’s recent attempts to overturn the ban have shown.

2) Up until 1978, homebrewing beer was illegal. The one good thing Jimmy Carter ever did was legalize homebrewing. Now, it’s legal to brew up to 200 gallons a year (50 in Georgia, a law I broke last year). But really, why set a limit? If you’re going to regulate commercial enterprises, that’s one thing… But what if I’m not selling it? But what if I want to brew and drink 300 gallons amongst myself, my family, and friends. Is there any point to having a limit at all?

What are your favorite pet peeve laws or other governmental stupidity?

  • David T

    The blue laws (as we call them) that prohibit Sunday beer sales are pretty goofy. All it ever meant was that folks purchased alcohol in greater quantities on Saturdays so as to have enough for Sunday.

    As for the limitation on 200 gallons – I think it would be hard to brew that much and reserve it strictly for personal consumption; my suspicion is that brewing 500 gallons would indicate an intent to sell some of it, which is probably the reason for the restriction.

  • Gunnar

    >> It’s nothing more than pandering to the religious right

    Presenting a democratic decision as “pandering” seems to imply a disconnect in or a disgreement with the democratic process itself. Are not the religious voters too?

    As for government stupidity, let’s consider that Roe V Wade is now widely regarded by left and right as a very bad legal decision, since it has no connection to the constitution or the rule of law. In a democratic republic, controversial decisions should be made by the people. The court should only “judge” if a certain situation fits existing law, or determine that an existing law is not compatible with constitution. It can never lawfully make up law where none exist.

  • Brad Warbiany


    I’ve got all sorts of disagreements with the democratic process itself… Here’s one for starters: when did it become legitimate to vote away my liberty to placate your morality, when I’m doing nothing that violates your rights?

  • Gunnar

    >> when did it become legitimate to vote away my liberty to placate your morality, when I’m doing nothing that violates your rights?

    In my opinion, hardly ever. But understand that all laws are implementing the authors’ moral system. The best way to explicitly define a moral system is to express it as a system of rights.

    Your liberty entails the right to do with your life and property what you want, as long as you don’t violate other people’s rights.

    But this right cannot be absolute. Can you project a huge 3 dimensional sex scene? Can you use your property for dog fights?

    There seems to be no way to decide such questions, except by relying on a process of democracy. I personally think that technology has made representative democracy unnecessary, but that is another question.

    Personally, I’m more worried about democracy running amok, than in the opposite. So, rather than complaining about the laws that the public has passed, shouldn’t we try to formulate some rigorous means to determine the proper limits of liberty, and then figure out a way to persuade the public of its wisdom?

  • Stephen Littau


    “Democracy is the road to socialism.”
    -Karl Marx

  • Brad Warbiany

    shouldn’t we try to formulate some rigorous means to determine the proper limits of liberty, and then figure out a way to persuade the public of its wisdom?

    No thanks… How about we define strict controls on government power, and leave everything else to individuals?

    I’d much prefer we create an outer bound on government, not an outer bound on citizens…

    Of course, we already tried that, in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Which was trampled on and destroyed by… wait for it… Democracy!

  • Stephen Littau

    Brad, I’ve got one for you.

    The small Texas county where I grew up, Ochiltree, is what is known as a “dry county” (I’m not sure how many people even know what that is but believe it or not there are still some parts of the country still living in the prohibition era). This means you cannot purchase alcohol anywhere in the county. To buy beer, you have to drive about 10-15 miles to the Texas-Oklahoma border where there are several bars with drive-up windows if you want to bring some back (if you want to purchase hard liquor, you have to drive about 45 minutes away to either Liberal, Kansas one direction or Pampa, Texas in the other). As a result, there is who knows how many people driving intoxicated back into town. This is a very dangerous stretch of two-lane highway, especially on weekends.

    Despite this, there is no movement that I am aware of (I don’t follow the politics there since I no longer live there) to change the law. I have been told that Ochiltree county was the “reddest” county in the in the whole nation in the 2004 election; it is very much a Christian conservative community.

    There are however, 2 or 3 bars in town that which makes use of a loophole in the law. They get around this by calling their bars “clubs.” People who want to join the club can pay a $5 to $6 membership fee which will last the whole year (which really isn’t that bad of a deal). However more people seem to go to the bars on the border so they can buy some beer to bring home.

    The whole thing is so backward ass and stupid.

  • Brad Warbiany


    Doesn’t surprise me a bit… I was at the Jack Daniel’s distillery about a year and a half ago, which is a distillery in the middle of a dry county, of all places. I used to live in a town called Wheaton, IL, which was dry for most of my childhood, but there was one bar in town that was grandfathered in because the family had been operating it before the ban.

    And as I’ve pointed out, here in California you need to join a cigar club in order to be able to smoke indoors. It’s legal because it’s a private club. And that’s in a “liberal” state! This is why I don’t refer to these people as liberals, I call them authoritarian socialists… True Liberals would allow the market to dictate whether or not smoking establishments exist.

  • Stephen Littau

    I agree, the word liberal is such a misused term. Most “liberals” are really socialist progressives. We are liberal, though most people do not understand this meaning of the term.

  • Gunnar

    >> Democracy is the road to socialism

    Yes, but non-democracy is the road to fascism and communism. Clearly, democracy has a place in electing executive positions and deciding such things as immigration policy, tax policy, etc.

    >> No thanks… How about we define strict controls on government power, and leave everything else to individuals?

    Well, that’s what I meant. Of course, there is still the problem of property with covenants. Thinking about it just makes me want to go sail the open seas.

  • tarran


    Id like to point out that the 19th century, when Europe was dominated by monarchies were probably the most peaceful period on that continent in recorded history, while the 20th century, with its massive wars and slaughters were definitely the product of the rise of democracies.

    World War I was prolonged by democracy: having propagandized the electorate to see the enemy as subhuman savages, politicians found themselves unable to initiate negotiations: they feared what the masses would do to them if they showed any weakness in resolve. Hell, the Nazis were elected into power via the Democratic process.

    I frankly don’t see democracy as being an improvement over other systems of government; it encourages short term thinking on the part of the electorate and the politicians, and is corelated with war and misery.

    Before you explode, I am an anarchist, so I am not a big fan of monarchies either. Any system that would allow Czar Nicholas to play toy soldier with live human beings is unacceptable. However, monarchies are often far superior to democracies.

  • Stephen Littau

    I would also like to point out that the U.S. government is not a democracy but a representative constitutional republic. This is an important distinction. In a democracy, its about the “rule of men” or “mob rule.” Whatever is popular at the time wins the day without respect for the rights of those with the less popular ideas.

    A constitutional government respects the “rule of law.” While its true that this system is a type of democratic process, policy cannot be changed on a dime like in a democracy. The framers understood that pure democracy is dangerous; this is why no one branch has all of the power. This is also why one of the branches-the judicial branch is not elected. The justices are required to follow the laws on the books and are not accountable to popular opinion (at least not directly).

    The rule of law recognizes that all are to be treated equally under the law whether one is the POTUS or a garbage collector or anything in-between(well, in theory at least). The U.S. Constitution also recognizes certain rights of the individual and restricts and defines the role of government.

    What I am trying to say is that unless I violate your rights, you cannot take my rights away even if you can marshal enough people to take your side. My rights of life, liberty, and property are immune from “majority rule” provided I do not violate these rights of anyone else.