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alcohol

“California has a state law that prohibits for-profit companies from using volunteer labor.” That spelled doom for little Westover Winery in Castro Valley, which cleared around $11,000 in profits a year for its owning couple and used unpaid volunteers, many of them amateurs who wanted to learn the wine business. The state hit the business with $115,000 in fines and wiped it out, to the unhappiness of some of the displaced volunteers. [Scott Shackford, Reason; Rebecca Parr, Daily Review/San Jose Mercury News] More: A Debra Saunders column. And I mention this episode, along with the one linked below about a California law combating off-books contractors, in a new Cato post about how licensed and compliant businesses often support making government more powerful and invasive so as to go after the other kind.

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Alcohol roundup

by Walter Olson on August 22, 2014

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George Leef reviews a new book by John Compton, political scientist at Chapman University, on how evangelical anti-vice campaigns against gambling, liquor and other social ills helped undermine the Constitution’s curbs on centralized power, paving the way for later Progressive gains.

The tension between moral reformers who insisted on a virtually unlimited view of the “police powers” of government (i.e., to regulate in ways intended to protect the health and morals of the citizenry) and the Constitution’s framers, who feared the results of allowing factions to use government power for their ends, was crucial in shaping constitutional law during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The book shows that by the time the New Deal’s aggressive expansions of federal power came before the Supreme Court, its earlier decisions in favor of approving legislation against liquor and lotteries had so undermined the defenses of property rights, contract, and federalism that it was nearly inevitable that the Court would cave in.

For example, when the Court decided the 1934 case of Blaisdell v. Savings and Loan, gutting the former understanding of the impairment of contracts clause, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes cited an earlier decision on interstate shipment of lottery tickets which had acquiesced in a new extension of the police power, on the grounds that a previously sacrosanct constitutional barrier could be “qualified” when a state needed to “safeguard the interests of its people.” [Forbes]

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Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Utah ban package sales on Independence Day. [Reid Wilson, Washington Post] Whether or not you live in one of those states, have a happy Fourth of July.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on June 16, 2014

  • The federal school lunch initiative as experienced by school districts in rural New York [Sarah Harris, North Country Public Radio]
  • Europe’s Ugly Fruit movement wants to reclaim for consumers tons of food rejected for appearance, sometimes by marketers and sometimes by regulators [NYT]
  • Expect uptick in food labeling suits after Supreme Court decision approving suit in Pom Wonderful v. Coca-Cola [Glenn Lammi, WLF; FedSoc Blog; more, Mayer Brown]
  • “Biggest secret” of glutamic acid, of umami and MSG fame, “may be that there was never anything wrong with it at all” [BuzzFeed]
  • Cottage food win: New Jersey lawmakers unanimously back right to sell homemade goodies [Institute for Justice]
  • Celebrity-driven “Fed Up” film is “strident stalking-horse for a Bloombergian agenda” [Jeff Stier, Baylen Linnekin]
  • Young persons, especially college students, drink much more than they used to. Right? Wrong [Michelle Minton, Andrew Stuttaford]

Works for me: “Started by Kathleen Belfont, Blotto Gelato is a small ice cream business that includes alcohol in all of its products. Belfont reached out to Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, when she realized she could not get a liquor license.” [WBOC via Laura Collier]

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  • Blockbuster “web accessibility” issue, with potential for massive disruption of online life, continues to drag on without action in Washington despite urgings from academics; but at Ninth Circuit’s behest, California Supreme Court will decide whether state’s Disabled Persons Act covers websites [David Ettinger, Horwitz & Levy] More: Amy Alkon and commenters;
  • Federal district judge (E.D.N.Y.), suspecting foul play in multiple ADA filings, sends staff to investigate, but that’s a no-no as the Second Circuit reminds him [Josh Blackman]
  • Noting “continuing paranoia and obsession,” Vermont Supreme Court rebuffs bar applicant claiming discrimination on basis of mental illness [ABA Journal]
  • Just fine and dander: optician’s shop in suburban Detroit turns down worker’s request to bring service dog for generalized anxiety disorder, will pay $53,000 in settlement [EEOC]
  • Attack on “sheltered workshops” fits into multi-front effort to extend reach of federal wage-hour law: “Landmark DOJ settlement with RI provides road map to disability-law compliance for 49 other states” [ABA Journal]
  • Coalition politics counts: prominent disabled-rights groups [AAPD, DREDF, Bazelon Center, etc.] favor driving up cost of at-home attendants at expense of their own putative constituents [Benjamin Sachs, On Labor, on Harris v. Quinn amicus]
  • “Alcoholism and the ADA: Not as clear-cut as you think” [Dan Wisniewski, HR Morning, on Crosby v. F.W. Webb Co.] “Playing golf and having sex are major life activities under the ADA” [Eric B. Meyer]

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Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on May 3, 2014

  • Correctional Officers Bill of Rights (COBR) of 2011, developing out of AFSCME efforts to defend prison guards in western Maryland, and role it played in Baltimore jail scandal. Vital reading [Charles Lane, City Journal, Sasha Volokh; earlier; related Kevin Williamson on incident at NYC's Riker's Island in which mentally ill inmate was permitted to roast to death, responsible officer drawing 30-day suspension]
  • Narrowly defeated effort to enact state False Claims Act becomes issue in Senate GOP primary [Frederick News-Post, earlier here, here]
  • Citing federal guidelines, Howard County schools restrict special-event food [Ellicott City Patch]
  • Judge rebuffs lawsuit by Montgomery County police union seeking to invalidate legislative measures inconsistent with its contract [WaPo] County council race “a ‘battle royale’ between the government employee and school system unions” [Seventh State]
  • “Maryland Puts Up Roadblocks to Online Ed” which just happens to protect the state’s UMUC (University of Maryland University College) [The American Interest, Arnold Kling]
  • Will Montgomery County finally get out of the liquor distribution business? [Bethesda magazine]
  • And speaking of MoCo monopolies, its taxi near-cartel needs to go: “Uber provides a better service even without the regulation” [David Lublin, The Seventh State]

“The age-21 rule sets the U.S. apart from all advanced Western nations and lumps it with small or repressive countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Congress was stampeded into this puritanical law by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.” — Camille Paglia in Time on why the national minimum drinking age law “must be repealed. It is absurd and unjust.” Related: “A drinking age of 21 infantilizes adults who are otherwise able to serve in the military, marry without permission, enter into business contracts, buy tobacco, vote and run for public office. It forces college administrators to be babysitters rather than educators. And it doesn’t achieve its stated goals.” ["ABC debacle should stir debate on Virginia’s drinking age," Rick Sincere, Richmond Times-Dispatch] Earlier here, here, here, etc. Plus: Relevant political thoughts from Glenn Reynolds last year.

Related, if distantly: study in Britain finds liberalization of bar closing hours associated with decline in traffic accidents [Jeffrey Miron, Cato]

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I spoke on Thursday to the Bastiat Society chapter in Charlotte with some observations rooted in public choice theory about the “three-tier” system of state liquor regulation familiar since Prohibition. A few further links for those interested in the subject:

Fraternities and liability

by Walter Olson on February 23, 2014

Caitlin Flanagan’s piece in The Atlantic is getting quite a build-up, but Glenn Reynolds concludes that “overall … [it] doesn’t deliver insight commensurate with its length.”

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on February 22, 2014

  • Reminder: SB 353, which would ban bringing of knives and other weapons onto private school property whatever the school’s wishes, up for hearing at 1 p.m. Wed. Feb. 26 [text, Senate, related Virginia] With Ninth Circuit’s Peruta decision, Maryland now one of only six holdout states to resist any recognition of gun carry rights [David Kopel]
  • Slew of labor proposals moving through Annapolis would require employers to offer paid sick leave, push unionization on community college employees, and require employers to pay interns’ transportation costs. Study finds boosting state’s minimum wage would cost jobs [WaPo]
  • Supremely irresponsible: state already hobbled by nation’s slowest foreclosure process, but NAACP, Casa de Maryland and Legislative Black Caucus demand six-month foreclosure moratorium on top of that [Washington Post; earlier on Maryland foreclosure law here, here (couple spends five years in million-dollar home without making mortgage payment), here, etc.]
  • Review of recent developments in asbestos litigation in the state [Lisa Rickard, Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
  • Goodbye to another Free State tradition? Senate votes ban on sale of grain alcohol, with urging from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg nanny crew [Washington Post]
  • Just say no to the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority [Mark Newgent, Baltimore Sun]
  • Sen. Zirkin “litigates dog-bite cases on behalf of plaintiffs” and is player on dog bite bill [Insurance Journal]

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Farm and food roundup

by Walter Olson on February 18, 2014

Nanny state roundup

by Walter Olson on February 12, 2014

  • Sock puppets: U.K. and E.U. governments both fund public advocacy campaigns on paternalism themes, effectively lobbying themselves at taxpayer expense. Sounds kinda familiar [Christopher Snowdon on Institute for Economic Affairs studies]
  • Federal government, in the form of the CDC, wishes your doctor would nag you more about your drinking [Jacob Sullum, more]
  • “$10m look into games and gun violence a bust” [Rob Beschizza; Mike Rose, Gamasutra; related, Scott Shackford]
  • Assumption of risk won a round at the California Supreme Court a year ago in a case on amusement park bumper cars [S.F. Chronicle, ABA Journal, related on Disneyland teacups] J.D. Tuccille on motorcycle risks [Reason]
  • As a country Australia is known for freedom, so why’s it a leader in enacting bans? [Vivienne Crompton, IPA "Freedom Watch"]
  • “Maine’s unwise and unconstitutional ban on disclosing the alcohol content of beers” [Jonathan Adler]
  • FDA mandate on removal of nicotine could benefit head regulator’s former client [Jacob Grier] Glaxo SmithKline, Johnson & Johnson also push bans on e-cigarettes, which compete with their nicotine therapies [Tim Carney] AGs from 24 states (AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, ME, MD, MS, MT, NH, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA) write FDA urging ban on menthol in cigarettes [CSPNet] “Cigarette Sin-Tax Hike Could Boost Black Markets” [Steven Greenhut] Brendan O’Neill on secondhand smoke [Reason]

Food roundup

by Walter Olson on December 31, 2013

  • Gee, thanks, NIH: “Taxpayer-Funded Propaganda to Show the ‘Evils’ of Private Alcohol Sales” [Michelle Minton, CEI]
  • “So this summer, under the supervision of officials from U.S. Customs, all three thousand two hundred and ninety-seven pounds of Mimolette were tossed into dumpsters and doused in bleach.” [The New Yorker, Dec. 9, subscription; S.F. Chronicle, earlier on French cheese controversy here, here, etc.]
  • FDA forced to back off FSMA regs, NYC soda ban loses twice in court, and other highlights of the year in food freedom [Baylen Linnekin] “Americans Think They Should Be Allowed to Buy Foods with Trans Fats and Caffeinated Energy Drinks” [Emily Ekins on new Reason-RUPE poll] “The Dangers of a Soda Tax” [Trevor Burrus] Linnekin podcast on FDA’s trans-fat ban [Cato, Caleb Brown interview]
  • “Annals of Closing Statements in Exploding Bottle Cases” [Kyle Graham]
  • “Minnesota says raw milk makes more people sick than recognized” [L.A. Times]
  • It’s for the children: proposals for regulating in-store food marketing [Jennifer Pomeranz via Public Citizen]
  • Federal sugar program devastated domestic candy manufacturing, as WaPo (sometimes) recognizes [Chris Edwards]

It’s illegal to have an open bar at a ticketed event in Massachusetts, and if you overlook that rule the Boston cops might just show up and get you to “voluntarily” turn some of the event’s proceeds over to them. [Clark at Popehat]

Around half the states, including Vermont, ban “happy hour” promotions at drinking establishments. At Watchdog.org, Jon Street quotes me suggesting it’s past time for the Green Mountain State to drop its ban:

Walter Olson, a senior fellow for constitutional studies at The Cato Institute, a libertarian-leaning, Washington, D.C.-based think tank, told Vermont Watchdog, “Why should Vermont insert itself between deals that please restaurants and customers alike?”

“When young people are starting out in the job world, they like moving to the sorts of places where there’s happy hour… It’s good for main streets that don’t want to go dead when the work day ends, good for restaurants trying to reach new customers, and good for tourism. The toll of drunk driving across America has plunged tremendously, both in states that have bans and in those that don’t, and it’s hard to see any difference there,” Olson said.

The happy hour controversy flared up earlier this year in Massachusetts [coverage: MSN, ABC, Consumerist, and Boston Globe (pro-happy-hour column by Farah Stockman)]. Texas alcoholic beverage regulators have a table of state laws here (PDF)

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Labor and employment roundup

by Walter Olson on November 25, 2013

  • Ostrowsky v. Con-Way: “Alcoholic Truck Driver’s Relapse Is Grounds for Firing, Third Circuit Rules” [Legal Intelligencer]
  • “Most minimum-wage workers are members of families with an average income of $42,500″ [Richard Rahn] “Increases in the minimum wage actually redistribute income among poor families by giving some higher wages and putting others out of work” [David Henderson] “Most Americans Favor Raising the Minimum Wage, Unless it Costs Something” [Emily Ekins]
  • Time Warner case: “Is the denial of paid paternity leave discriminatory?” [Jon Hyman]
  • We’d never saddle consumers with the sorts of harassment/discrimination liability we saddle businesses with; let’s consider why [Bryan Caplan]
  • “Special Exemptions: How Unions Operate Above the Law” [Kevin Mooney, CPPC UnionWatch]
  • Should free-marketeers appreciate “alt-labor” (worker centers, etc.) as less coercive than the New Deal union model? [Robert VerBruggen, Ben Sachs, more]
  • Worker hands office colleague an article titled “De-clawing cattiness at work” and nothing good ensues [Employers Lawyer]