After some research it appears that blue laws may benefit the areas where they are enacted. Or at least the opposite is true: areas that repeal the laws see jumps in participation in vices (legal and illegal).
A study from Jonathan Gruber of MIT and Daniel Hungerman of Notre Dame found that when blue laws were eliminated church attendance dropped, while drinking and drug use rose significantly. The biggest changes happened to those who frequently attended religious services.
When the blue laws were in place, 37% of people attended religious services at least weekly. Once the shopping ban was lifted, it dropped to 32%. While they weren’t going to church, they were going astray. Marijuana use increased by 11% among church attendees, compared with those who never went. Cocaine use went up 4%. Heavy drinking was up 5.5%.
What the study didn’t show was why this brought about the change in the formerly religious.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Hungerman said. He suspects that keeping businesses open on Sunday means that some religious young people have to work or choose to go shopping, which apparently increases their exposure to sinners or otherwise weakens their resistance to the dark side.
Personally, I think blue laws should be up to local areas to decide. A community should have the right to establish their joint morality. If a small town in Mississippi wants them, but New York City doesn’t. That should be okay for both. Once you move to statewide and especially nationwide, it would completely lose my support.
But regardless of your personal stance on the issue, the study is interesting.