Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The State has a Hammer and You are a Nail

On Saturday, the Chronicle reported that Spec's Liquor gave up its fight over its Washington Avenue store. A city ordinance prohibits liquor stores from being within 1,000 feet of a school. The store in question is about 665 feet from a school. Spec's previously received permission from both the city and the state to build the store, but the city changed its mind a short time later. While the Chronicle got these facts correct, the paper got the story completely wrong, stating:
Lawyers for Spec's agreed to voluntarily surrender the licenses at an administrative hearing Friday.
There is nothing voluntary about this. The state was holding a club, and was poised to use it against Spec's. Apparently, had the business pursued the matter through the appeals process, Spec's faced an "unpleasant" consequence. The county's prosecutor told the Chronicle:
The district court judge could have prevented him [owner John Rydman] from getting a license anywhere in the state for a year. I think he did a risk/benefit analysis and decided we are going to give our permits back here. We had a much bigger hammer.
It is bad enough that the company had to grovel at the feet of petty bureaucrats for permission to build a store. It is bad enough that the city erects an arbitrary barrier to businesses--what is so magical about 1,000 feet? But it is even worse when government officials openly threaten a business. So what was his risk/ benefit analysis? Give in and keep my business, or fight and risk being destroyed. The state must be so proud of itself for its ability to threaten businessmen.

The state certainly has "a much bigger hammer", and it waived that hammer menacingly to beat Spec's into submission. Do it our way, the state implied, or we will make it impossible for you to open a new store anywhere in the state. Toe the line, or regret the day you ever thought to question the state's authority. Surrendering the permits in the face of such threats can hardly be called voluntary.

Rather than protect the rights of Spec's owner John Rydman--the protection of individual rights is the only proper purpose of government--the state is acting exactly like the thugs it should be protecting Rydman from. The fact that the state does so under the guise of law does not change the nature of its actions. The fact that it does so in such a brazen and open manner is beyond disgusting--it is a warning to all Texans to shut up and do as we are told. Or else.

I do not know what asinine excuse the city used to draft its arbitrary limitations on where liquor stores may locate, but I am sure it had something to do with protecting children. As if the mere proximity of a liquor store and a school will somehow be harmful to the little ones. Illiterate adults have a right to procreate like rabbits, booze it up at home, and send their tykes off to public schools to get brainwashed, but if you locate a liquor store near their school you are an ogre.

The hypocrisy goes even further. While allegedly protecting children from imagined evils, the city gleefully places shackles on adults. With accelerating frequency, the city is regulating, restricting, and controlling the actions of adults. We are supposed to believe that the city's children will somehow be better off if their parents are prevented from acting as they choose. We are supposed to believe that enslaving adults will somehow lead to better children--who can then be enslaved when they reach adulthood.

I do not fault John Rydman for surrendering his license. The state make it very clear who would win. They threatened to destroy his business--if they could deny him permission to open a new store, they could just as easily revoke previously granted permissions. Oh wait, that is exactly what they did in this instance, so I don't need to speculate about what the state can or would do. If they could do it for one store, they could do it for dozens more.
Mr. Rydman violated nobody's rights when he opened his store. He jumped through all of the inane hoops erected by city and state officials, which was a violation of his rights. And when city officials discovered that they had made a mistake, they made Mr. Rydman pay for their error.

Mr. Rydman has a lawsuit pending against the city and the county for the violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution. But much more is at stake in this suit. A victory for Mr. Rydman means that Texans retain some protection from arbitrary government edicts. A victory for the thugs means that it is open season on all Texans. It means that you are a nail, and they have made it very clear that they have a large hammer.

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