Bring Back "Blue Laws"?

Interesting article in, of all places, the New York Times about the effect of the repeal of blue laws on happiness in women. To nutshell it, the study indicates that a repeal of the blue laws (which, among other things, dictated that retail stores be closed on Sundays) led to a decline in church attendance and a decline in female happiness.

This, in and of itself, is interesting, but it also allows one to open up the subject – have the repeal of the blue laws improved our society? This study tends to indicate there is a concrete, measurable detriment to society in such actions. Lots of suggestions are made in the article as to why this should be – I go with the suggestion that a open store as a temptation to stay away from church leads to unhappiness as we human beings are supposed to be turned towards God. Turning away from Him in order to get 15% off at the mall is inherently disastrous. But even leaving aside such matters of faith, I still believe that the blue laws should be re-instated.

Our modern, always on the go society is suffering from what amounts to a spiritual hernia. The demand for the instant and for the inexpensive – ginned up by advertising campaigns which stimulate both our greed and our self-regard (how many commercials have you seen where it is asserted you “deserve” some item? Truth is, as Shakespeare put it, if we were treated as we deserved, none of us would ‘scape whipping) – have turned us in to a people of no time. No time to pause and reflect. No time to just sit and read a book. No time for family. No time for anything except working to earn the money to spend – and then borrow when we don’t have enough to spend at the moment.

I experience this at my own employment for a major, international financial firm. I will be at work tomorrow, on a Sunday. Because it is felt (quite erroneously, given the state of the economy) by senior management that there might be a flood of people looking for credit for purchases. I’ll also work on Monday, a holiday, for the same reason. There are people at my employer working right now – and there will be people working there ’round the clock, every day of the year (they do graciously still allow us off on Christmas and Thanksgiving day – but we have foreign outfits who can take the calls on those days). While I’m not there at the time,, I do come across the people who had called or e mailed at 2AM their time asking for a credit limit increase. If you’re looking for money at 2AM, then you’re doing something you shouldn’t…but, we’re there for you! Bankrupt yourself – exhaust yourself; you’ll always find one of our friendly people available to help!

This is good? This is necessary? No, it isn’t. What is necessary is time for human beings to be just that: human beings. And that means taking some time off. Even in the days when most humans worked from dawn until dusk in backbreaking, agricultural work, there were still plenty of holidays (which, by the way, should be noted as a mere contraction of Holy Days…feast days of the saints, and such, added to the Sabbath, so that everyone got enough time to rest and relax). We should be by and large closed for business on Sundays. And on holidays.

To be sure, the business of life does require that some work be done every day of the year. And, of course, you’ll never get Las Vegas casinos to close (though they really should – I mean, seriously, how much money is the casino really taking in at, say, 4AM on a Tuesday morning? Is it really enough to justify keeping the staff up all night?). But we should strive for a general stoppage of work at least one day a week – and as we are a nation of deeply Christian background, the logical day for it is on Sunday. And we should do a bit of enforcing holiday closures – don’t have people’s holidays wrecked because a company decides it can squeeze out 0.01% more profit if they open up at midnight, Thanksgiving rather than waiting until 9AM or so on Friday.

Old fashioned? You bet – but as has been pointed out by men much wiser than myself, if you’ve gone wrong then some times the only way to get back on track is to go all the way back to where you messed up. We messed up in becoming a relentlessly consumerist, 24/7 society. It is time to step back and become more human – and more happy as a result.