What Are Blue Laws?

Sunday trade restrictions (or Blue Laws) were commonly enacted during the colonial period in America, and well into the 1800's. They were justified on "Old Testament" grounds.1 However, as one author suggested, "While it is easy to think of economic reasons why God might have commanded us to stop working from time to time, it is not clear why He commanded us all to rest at the same time."2

What Is Their Purpose?

During the later part of the 19th century, these restrictions began to be challenged by merchants' associations and by 1970 only 25 states still had Blue Laws. This number had fallen to 13 by 1984.3 As one economist suggests, positive externalities can arise from resting or enjoying free time collectively; however, negative externalities can also result from synchronized economic activity. This is especially true for retail activities which by definition require some to work while others do not.4

How Change Can Impact

Today, 11 states either prohibit or restrict hunting on Sunday. Were these states to eliminate these outdated restrictions, and simply allow hunting on all Sundays within the dates of the current hunting season, it is estimated that over 27,000 new jobs would be created. These are good jobs, paying over $730 million in wages, and contributing about $2.2 billion in additional economic activity to the states in question.

1 Price, Jamie and Bruce Yandle, Labor Markets and Sunday Closing Laws, Journal of Labor Research, 8:4, Fall 1987.
2 Burda, Michael, and Philippe Weil, Blue Laws, Unpublished Working Paper, October 2005, ftp://ftp.cemfi.es/pdf/papers/wshop/BurdaBlue.pdf
3 Op cit. Price.
4 Op cit. Burda.

The removal of bans on Sunday hunting in all 11 states analyzed could result in over 27,000 new jobs being created, paying over $730 million in wages, and contributing about $2.2 billion in additional economic activity.

View the full report: The Economic Impact of Sunday Hunting


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