Constitutional Law

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Yesterday I noted the Institute for Justice's First Amendment challenge to an inane Dallas ordinance that limits businesses to window signs that no one will see. Today I.J. is launching its "Free Speech for Small Businesses" protest, which involves posting window signs that say "End the Dallas Sign Ban" and add:

The only reason we are allowed to put up this sign is because it is political speech and doesn't communicate commercial information to our customers. The First Amendment makes no distinction between commercial and political speech. Neither should Dallas.

You can download your own copy here (PDF). I.J. also just released this infomercial-style video that concisely explains the city's bizarre sign decree:

City officials offered an anti-crime rationale for the ordinance: Visibility from the street, which could be obscured by signs, discourages robberies. That justification is obviously paternalistic, since you'd think store owners would be at least as concerned about deterring robberies of their businesses as the city council is. And it does not jibe with the details of the ordinance, which neither requires windows nor demands that they be uncovered. It only insists that whatever covers them cannot have anything to do with the products or services sold by the business.

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  1. They banned commercial signage specifically because commercial speech isn’t protected by the first amendment, and because that’s what businesses are likely to put up. You don’t see many political statements or artistic expressions in the window of a 7-11. There are no requirements that businesses have windows because they are going to have windows anyway so that potential customers can see the products available for sale inside.

    you’d think store owners would be at least as concerned about deterring robberies of their businesses as the city council is.

    There’s this thing called insurance that you may not be aware of. And I’m sure businesses have calculated that the extra profits from window advertising balance out the premium increases they would face in the event of a robbery. What doesn’t enter into the calculation is the safety of their minimum-wage employees, the undue burden placed on law enforcement, and the ill reputation a city and neighborhood get when robberies occur there.

    1. They banned commercial signage specifically because commercial speech isn’t protected by the first amendment…

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

      Bold text added for reading comprehension-impaired morons. Be sure to re-read the first five words a couple times until the meaning sinks in.

      1. Oh, so laws against perjury and threatening phone calls are unconstitutional? Looks like every court that’s upheld a conviction for one of those crimes is packed with “reading comprehension-impaired morons”. BTW, if you’re going to fail to use hyphens you should do it consistently.

        1. In threatening, verbal assault, perjury, fraud, libel, etc., it’s the results of the speech that are illegal, not the speech itself. Even child pornography is illegal because the child’s inability to meaningfully consent, not the magical criminal properties of the images themselves.

          There are no illegal results of a window sign, notwithstanding the idiotic excuses of the police.

          Aesthetics is not a reason to curtail speech.

          1. Thrasymachus himself would be proud of your sophistry. What are the “illegal results” of perjury and threatening phone calls, that are separate from the speech act itself?

            1. It’s fairly obvious that the direct harm from the speech is what is illegal, not the speech itself.

              Enjoying a right does not remove you from the potential damages resulting from the use of it.

            2. Threatening phone calls are coercion based on the implication of violence. Perjury is breaking the oath of truthfulness to a court.

              Sophistry and an argument are not the same thing.

              It’s snide shit that that that makes you a troll, not the disagreement.

              I’m done with you. You may go.

            3. This is MNG, right?

        2. Sug, you’re a brave man. I don’t think the troll even deserved a response. Chony lives, apparently.

          1. Every once in a while, I crave isometric intellectual exercise. It will pass quickly.

            1. I shall expropriate this at once! :^)

          2. Oh, I get it. Anyone who expresses an opinion contrary to the libertarian doctrine is a troll now.

            How about engaging my arguments instead of passive-aggressively hiding behind a (marginally) more intellectually honest person in the reply tree?

            1. How about you eat shit and go back to buttfucking that dead dog that you keep in the bathtub? Don’t let that rigor mortis go to waste, trollboy.

            2. “Oh, I get it. Anyone who expresses an opinion contrary to the libertarian doctrine is a troll now.”

              Yes. Thanks for playing. Tell him what he’s won, Suger.

        3. Thats not very nice, I agree with you 100% but i dunno what a hyphen is…unless you meant hymen? I don’t get it!

          -Nick

    2. Re: Forrest,

      They banned commercial signage specifically because commercial speech isn’t protected by the first amendment, and because that’s what businesses are likely to put up.

      That doesn’t explain why the city mandated this, you only said that they did it because they can.

      You don’t see many political statements or artistic expressions in the window of a 7-11.

      This is a red herring – there are no provisos in the 1st Amendment about what constitutes speech.

      There are no requirements that businesses have windows because they are going to have windows anyway so that potential customers can see the products available for sale inside.

      You’re begging the question – you are just assuming what the writters of the ordinance were thinking regarding windows, but you cannot know this.

      There’s this thing called insurance that you may not be aware of. And I’m sure businesses have calculated that the extra profits from window advertising balance out the premium increases they would face in the event of a robbery.

      That’s not how it works. Insurance PREMIUMS are based on risk. Anything the owner of the shop can do to minimize that risk will translate into LOWER PREMIUMS, so it would make sense to have unencumbered windows IF IT WERE TRUE they deter robberies. It is obvious that they DON’T.

      What doesn’t enter into the calculation is the safety of their minimum-wage employees, the undue burden placed on law enforcement, and the ill reputation a city and neighborhood get when robberies occur there.

      All these are red herrings. There is no reason to believe that windows covered with advertisements are going to encourage robbers to hold up a business. There is no reason to believe having unencumbered windows will make the police officers more effective – they would have to be the luckiest bastards in the world to be passing by in the exact moment a robbery is being committed, which is NOT the case almost always.

      If in fact unencumbered windows were a deterrent, then there would not be ANY brick and mortar businesses. All of them would be built like fish bowls.

      1. Re: Forrest,

        And I’m sure businesses have calculated that the extra profits from window advertising balance out the premium increases they would face in the event of a robbery.

        This also tells me you have no idea how businesses are run. ANY savings go to the bottom line, so ANYTHING the owner can do to lower HIS RISK will translate into savings. So NO, the owners are NOT thinking about a tradeoff between higher premiums due to robberies and advertising – if removing advertising actually REDUCED his risk, he would find other ways to advertise that allowed him to make more business AND save in insurance premiums. Since owners are NOT doing this, it is clear that unencumbered windows make NO DIFFERENCE when it comes to the risk of being robbed.

      2. More non-sequitor than red herring, but ya, ya.

      3. There’s this thing called insurance that you may not be aware of. And I’m sure businesses have calculated that the extra profits from window advertising balance out the premium increases they would face in the event of a robbery.

        That’s not how it works. Insurance PREMIUMS are based on risk. Anything the owner of the shop can do to minimize that risk will translate into LOWER PREMIUMS, so it would make sense to have unencumbered windows IF IT WERE TRUE they deter robberies. It is obvious that they DON’T.

        Unobstructed views probably do reduce insurance premiums because they do reduce risk, even if a cop isn’t driving by a robber is going to be more likely to rob a place where he cannot be seen from the street by the police OR anybody with a cell phone! But lets say unobstructed reduces a premium by 1k a year and the store MAKES 5k a year with advertising covering the windows what are they gonna do? Thats a no brainer for corporations who don’t care about the safety of the little guys. I think anyways, please don’t bash my grammar either I’m not wicked good at it like you are:)

  2. Well, its not getting any easier thats for sure. I mean really.

    Jess
    http://www.true-privacy.es.tc

  3. What doesn’t enter into the calculation is the safety of their minimum-wage employees, the undue burden placed on law enforcement, and the ill reputation a city and neighborhood get when robberies occur there.

    I wonder why low-skill, high-risk jobs only pay a nominal wage….Hmmmmm, I wonder. More than likely, you’ll see the owner of a store working in the place. I’ll also bet that that there is a policy in place to just give the thieves what they demand.

    And, by all means, let’s base everything that we do so that the police have an easier time of it. Don’t want them to pull a muscle or something.

    1. They have timelock safes the low wage kids can’t open, no more then $100 supposedly in reality they might have 2-3 hundred but almost all the cash is totally un-accessible to the common criminal…those safes are BIG!

    2. They have timelock safes the low wage kids can’t open, no more then $100 supposedly in reality they might have 2-3 hundred but almost all the cash is totally un-accessible to the common criminal…those safes are BIG!

  4. Great headline for this article!

  5. I few years ago I was helping a friend set up a business. We went to a used furniture store in Livonia, near Detroit. It was a separate building with a parking lot on both sides. The name of the store was on both sides of the building.

    We waited to talk with the owner as he was instructing some laborers to remove the store signs and put one of them on the front of the store. I told the owner that we found it much easier to see the sign from the side.

    He told us that he had been informed that he was in violation of city ordinance, which states that the name of a store can appear on the building only once.

    What a bunch of morons.

  6. It only insists that whatever covers them cannot have anything to do with the products or services sold by the business.

    Which means that the reason given for the existence of the ordinance is an obvious lie.

    Who woulda thunk it, that the gunvermint would lie?

  7. I know a store owner in Santa Monica, California who’s been harassed by their city council for years about the great cartoon characters they have painted on their windows. The brightly painted characters are artistic and colorful and help add flavor to the community.

    What’s not to love?

    The city council’s reason for wanting them removed or minimized: They’re too distracting. Huh?

  8. I love such excellent business way ! So great !

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