Whenever progressives interfere with the constitutional right to liberty of contract, there are invariably consequences that they intend, and consequences they did not intend.
Thus, when they raise the minimum wage, they intend to jack up the unemployment rate. What they don’t intend is that people will switch from the legal job market to working for cash instead, don’t pay into the Social Security system and then discover, at the age of 65, that they aren’t entitled to full Social Security benefits because they weren’t paying into the system.
And the same is true with the progressives’ latest infringement of liberty of contract — the prohibition on smoking in taverns.
Their intended consequence is to destroy Wisconsin’s working-class tavern culture. They don’t like it that the local tavern is a cornerstone of the community in our state. They want it to be something else.
I’m not really sure what they expect to replace the taverns. Shopping malls? Starbucks? Churches? We don’t live in Texas, so it’s not as if the community is going to gather around the local high school football team.
Their other intended consequence is putting a lot of bar owners, bartenders and waitresses out of work. I suppose they’ve figured out that destroying the livelihoods of proud, autonomous workers makes them easier for the government to control.
But there are unintended consequences as well. Taxes on booze are high in this state; revenues will drop in the wake of the new prohibition.
Some people will drive long distances to get to those few taverns that will flout the law. Thus, there will be more arrests for driving while intoxicated and auto accidents, which is good for attorneys.
Some young people will stay home instead of going out to the tavern, drinking, and meeting new people, so the unwanted pregnancy and STD rates will drop. That will cut the welfare rolls and health care costs, I’m sure.
But perhaps the progressives foresaw and did intend all these various consequences.
Nevertheless, there will still be some consequences they could not have imagined. Here’s one.
Because of the prohibition, taverngoers have been spending a lot of time hanging out in the parking lots of taverns, where they can smoke, rather than sitting around the bar.
In case you’ve never noticed, the parking lots of taverns and restaurants are prime breeding grounds for stray cats. Congregate lots of people and stray cats together in parking lots, and you’re going to get adoptions.
So it was while I was smoking in a parking lot last week and a hungry little kitten came around, hoping someone would give him some food. I couldn’t do anything but take him home with me.
Unfortunately, he was already very sick, and the veterinarian couldn’t save him.
But, he was such a good little kitten. He followed my brother and me everywhere; he slept on my shoulder, and nuzzled my face. I named him Axl, after Axl Rose from Guns & Roses.
And for the final days of Axl’s life, he was, for the first time, well-fed and comfortable.
We loved little Axl, and he loved us. So, although the progressives certainly never intended this consequence, I thank them for it anyway. Now, we just need to get down to the serious business of repealing this infringement of our liberty.