No doubt many denizens of Iowa’s bastion of liberalism, Iowa City, are rooting in favor of gay marriage in the Varnum v. Brien case now before the Iowa Supreme Court. Unfortunately liberals, just like conservatives, seek to expand freedom for their chosen groups while seeking to restrict it for others. Iowa City officials are currently advancing their jihad against alcohol drinkers in general and bar owners in particular.
Facing a “crisis” of binge drinking because of all the young folks attending University of Iowa, city officials are pushing for an ordinance to end drink specials such as the age-old “happy hour” wherein drinks are cheaper. Iowa City Mayor Regenia Bailey said, “Our objective … is to reduce price specials and pricing that encourage excessive drinking,” reported the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Wednesday. Iowa City already bans two drinks for the price of one and all-you-can-drink specials. Not happy with just throttling bar owners in their own town, city officials are also leaning on the state legislature for a similar state-wide ban.
Gazette columnist Todd Dorman, on his blog, predicts that at least the statewide ban faces bleak prospects in the Iowa legislature this time around. Since the legislature has spent the last couple of years doing everything except waterboarding bar owners, Dorman states that legislators may be reluctant to give the businesses “another kick in the shorts.” A similar ban failed in the Iowa Legislature in 1997.
No doubt the city ordinance will go through however. And when it comes to pushing for laws to make us Iowans healthier (and less free), the liberals are a tenacious bunch. Iowa City was one of the first to ban smoking and started the trend that is now a state-wide ban. We can expect to see similar bans on drink specials introduced every year until they get their way.
As I see it there are three primary reasons to oppose this ban.
Firstly, it impedes the right of business owners to run their businesses as they see fit and the rights of patrons as well. Bar owners already must navigate a labyrinthine set of government regulations, zoning laws and licensing procedures. They don’t need more red tape and more potential fines.
For bar patrons, the ban restricts their right to live their lives as they see fit, even if that involves getting plastered. Raising prices to control people’s choices is just paternalistic government overreach. As long as patrons are of legal drinking age, aren’t causing problems or getting behind the wheel of a car, it’s no one’s damned business if they drink too much. Legal drinkers might want to use one of the liberals’ own favorite catchphrases against them: “My body, my choice!”
Secondly, this is an unnecessary infringement on the private market. (This might just be another way of stating my first objection.) Many folks like myself belief that the government shouldn’t interfere in the market unless there is some coercive or non-consensual activity involved, such as fraud or theft. If bar owners were holding guns to the heads of patrons, forcing them to drink excessively, the government should get involved.
Bureaucrats should not be controlling the prices for drinks or any other consumer product, the market can set prices just fine. Looking at their balance sheets, bar owners will set drink prices appropriately low to get people in the door, but high enough to turn a profit. Since politicians from Iowa City to Des Moines to D.C. don’t seem to mind meddling in the free market, this argument is probably a lost cause.
Lastly, the ban probably won’t help much. If you chase binge drinkers out of the bars, they’ll just drink elsewhere, probably in less structured environments. That’s if it chases them out at all. I know that in my wild and woolly younger days, my buddies and I didn’t pay any mind to drink prices. The only thing that mattered was when our wallet was finally empty. Even if it did work, any slight reductions in binge drinking would not justify the first two intrusions in personal liberty.
I hope this ban doesn’t go state-wide. First the people controllers went after the smokers. Now it’s the drinkers. Next it will be sin taxes on junk food or God knows what else. That’s when I might have to put down my bag of pork rinds and fight!