Liquor Quicker?

Blue laws, debunked


Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and many other jurisdictions prohibit liquor stores from operating on Sundays. The antiquated bans, known as "blue laws," have shown astonishing staying power in a country that has generally ceased to honor the Christian Sabbath, at least when it comes to buying and selling. One common justification for the practice: Making it harder to purchase a bottle of Jack Daniel's one day a week means people will drink less. 

Not so, according to a January study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Economists B. Douglas Bernheim of Stanford University, Jonathan Meer of Texas A&M University, and Neva K. Novarro of Pomona College compared states where liquor is available from retailers on Sunday to states where it is not. They found, to their "considerable surprise," that overall consumption is not higher in states where liquor is liberated seven days a week.

Instead, they write, "the observed pattern coincides with predictions for time-consistent consumers who have rational expectations and low costs of carrying inventories." Translation: If local authorities ban liquor sales on Sunday, people are smart enough to remember to stop by the store and pick up a bottle on Saturday.