Post-liberalism’s renewed efforts to recover the day of rest
While some businesses voluntarily close on Sundays, a new brand of right-wing politics has reignited the decades-old debate over “blue laws,” which require nonessential businesses to close for the Sabbath. Many states already have blue laws restricting alcohol sales on Sundays, but some conservatives argue that these restrictions should be extended more broadly to other economic activity.
Among post-liberal intellectuals, the recovery of the Sabbath rest by means of blue laws has surfaced as a potential source of coalition-building within the American right. Post-liberals tend to focus their arguments on the good of workers. In The American Conservative, contributing editor Sohrab Ahmari explains that the allure of the Sabbath “speaks profoundly to the restlessness and misery that is the lot of millions of Americans.”
He writes: “The erasure of the boundary between toil and rest is something felt as much by white-collar professionals as by working-class Americans, albeit in different ways. America’s blue laws were abolished in the name of freedom, but it turned out to be freedom for Jeff Bezos and other large employers. Not freedom for workers or families.”
According to Patrick Deneen, professor of political science at Notre Dame, post-liberals prefer this argument about freedom for working-class families not only based on its rational appeal, but also thanks to its strategic value, telling the Rover: “This is not an attempt by the aristocracy to force religious convictions upon [secular workers], but a push to give working-class Americans a day of rest.”
Other conservative intellectuals, however, are skeptical of this policy. In National Review, law student Tal Fortgang argued that “reaching into the past to find potentially re-moralizing policy ideas does not conserve so much as it restores—and that distinction matters.”
He cautions: “Discordant obligations, which impose, from the top, rules on a population that neither wants them nor is prepared to alter their habits to abide by them are at worst tyrannical. At best, they are recipes for disaster … Importing policy ideas from a past that bears little cultural connection to the present is no better than borrowing policy ideas from a foreign country with its unique norms, traditions, and customs.”
Some companies remain closed on Sundays without the influence of blue laws, Chick-fil-A prominent among them. The Chick-fil-A website explains: “Our founder, Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and honor ideals he deemed more important than business.
On Notre Dame’s campus, Chick-fil-A is one of several restaurants closed on Sundays. However, other nonessential Notre Dame stores remain open, including the Hammes Bookstore, Starbucks, and Subway.
Some argue that Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, should mandate nonessential business closures on Sundays. Deneen said, “As a Catholic university, the case for closing on Sundays is even easier than on the national level.”
The Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, which once closed on every Sunday except for graduation, decided to instead stay open twenty-five years ago and has remained open on weekends ever since.
University spokesman Dennis Brown, and Director of Strategic Initiatives Gracie Gallagher did not respond to the Rover’s request for comment on this topic.
Colin Smith is a freshman from Nashville, TN majoring in political science and theology. When he is not discussing St. Thomas Aquinas or watching The Blacklist, he can be found playing board games in Duncan Hall. You can contact him at email@example.com.
Photo credit: CFA Properties, Inc.