In Defense Of Anti-Drinking Laws

I was in Utah last week for vacation, and wow that state is incredible. Their local government has a monopoly on the sale of alcohol, putting some intense restrictions on your drinking regimen. For example, grocery stores can only sell light beer, meaning no beer with more than 3.2% alcohol by volume. Or, say you’re thumping at a club and you’ve thrown down for bottle service — they won’t even let you pour your own liquor! Really.Your server must pour it for you… using an electronic meter to ensure the cup never has more than 1.5 ounces of hard liquor in at a given time.

As someone whose drinking habits have by some been described as “alcoholic,” you can imagine how these laws really cramped my style. On my first night there, I tried to get a drink after 10:00pm — it was nearly impossible. I had to get a cab to the biggest hotel in the area, buy a bottle of wine there at the bar, and transfer it back to my hotel, to consume by myself in my room. When I told my cab driver what I was up to, he began a big rant about Utah’s drinking laws.

“This is America,” he said. “The land of the free. I should be able to drink what I want, when I want, as often as I want to.” His point was that the Mormons are the reason these laws are in place, and there should be more separation between church and state.

I didn’t say anything. It’s not my place. I don’t live in Utah so my opinion doesn’t really count on any practical level. But the more I listened to him rant about how much he hates Utah’s drinking laws, the more I began to wax philosophical in my head about how much I love them.

I mean, sure, I get it: I should have the unrestricted freedom to get myself drunk is fine logic. But what about the freedom for a community to restrict or prohibit drinking or whatever else? Shouldn’t we honor both freedoms? What makes one freedom better, or more important, than another?

The typical superficial response: The former is better because it encourages freedom, while the latter restricts it. A smarter retaliation: If you can’t opt to restrict freedom, you’re not free. Or, in more obscurantist language: The key — no matter what door it opens — always confirms the prison. Just think about that esoteric bomb of wisdom for a minute.

Get what I’m saying? I can appreciate that Utah has its own culture, even if it’s a culture very largely against alcohol, just as I appreciate New York for its very loose and liberal drinking laws. That’s what makes the United States so cool, that we have diversity of cultures and laws.

I want Utah to be the Vatican of the USA, governed by magical and weird thinking. Las Vegas, its complete antithesis: commercial paradise regulated primarily by capitalism and hedonism. And ideally all across the USA, with each city a new world: not the same place, but a different place — with different values, different types of government, different layouts, different advantages, different disadvantages.

I don’t want universal laws. Universal just means the same. Where’s the fun in that?

I want a country of double standards. No, I want a country with a billion different standards. A moving target of standards for every single person! I don’t want organization and fairness. I want the beauty and excitement of chaos. I want difference! I want relativism par excellence! I want multiculturalism! I want Kenny Powers to have his state. I want Judith Butler to have her state. I want Barack Obama to have his state. And Patrick Buchanan, too.

But, of course, at the end of the day: I want us to be the United States. United in our belief that in the USA, it’s about your freedom to live in the community of your choosing, where you can do what you want, when you want — even, yes, restrict the freedom of others.

Stay weird, Utah. TC mark

image – mangostar


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  • Zachary Stern

    The freedom to restrict the freedom of others is just a nice name for “the tyranny of the majority.” 

    It’s the exact opposite of freedom, you’re just rationalizing the position.

    Just because life is more “interesting” this way, does not mean it is “better”.

    • Rog

      lol dude. 

    • POLT

      Isn’t the tyranny of majority just another name for democracy?

      • Anonymous

        A true democracy will make sure to protect the rights of the minority

  • Domino

    Uhm…. no, not really. There really must be more separation between church and state and the thinking of Utah and the Vatican is far away from ‘magical’, and there is absolutely no beauty in a country/state with double standards that restricts your freedom.

  • Guestropod

    where, praytell, is Judith Butler’s state

  • Daniel Horowitz

    …I’m pretty sure the ‘community’ as a whole, as reflected in the cab driver, is not okay with the restriction. I don’t see how this is magical in the slightest. 

    • Andrea

      That’s a pretty big extrapolation!  But maybe. Though, I hear the Mormons are still the bulk of the population. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad you’re not the President.  

  • Emil Caillaux

    “But, of course, at the end of the day: I want us to be the United States. United in our belief that in the USA, it’s about your freedom to live in the community of your choosing, where you can do what you want, when you want — even, yes, restrict the freedom of others.” 

    You know that just linking to the Second Amendment on Wikipedia doesn’t (a) validate your argument and (b) make a lot of sense (since the right to free speech and all that is in the First Amendment) right?

    • Andrea

      I’m not really arguing anything.  I’m doing a thought experiment.

      I link to the second amendment  to make a point about the bill of rights: the first amendment guarantees  freedom of the people.  The second amendment helps enforce this.  If someone is truly restricting you’re freedom, you can overthrow them.  There’s an interesting overlap there that I just noticed.  

      Thanks for taking the time to read it. 

      • Emil Caillaux

         Fair point. You’re right – there’s a continuity between the first and second amendments.

        Oh, and before I forget, I thought it was a good piece. Just because I didn’t necessarily agree with the premise does not take away from that fact.

      • Andrea

        Thanks man.  Appreciate that.  Honestly, I don’t even know if I agree with the premise.  I was just musing. 

  • Evilguk

    It’s cool that Utah has weird laws for you because you went there for a few days to visit, it wouldn’t be so cool if you lived there, hey  North Korea would be kind of ‘cool’ to visit and see all of the Stalinist police and starving people…

    • Guest

      “I don’t live in Utah so my opinion doesn’t really count on any practical level.” -so says the author 

  • eff sox

    using your logic, i assume you also believe abortion and gay marriage should be up to states too? birth control? 

    • Andrea

      I have no opinion.  That question is too abstract and, honestly,  out of my league. 

      • eff sox

        the point i’m making is that if you let states make all their own rules, they are going to inevitably screw over a lot of people, especially underprivileged people. 

        “state’s right’s” was the south’s argument for slavery and later jim crow laws, and is still used as an argument by republicans all the time for the issues i mentioned above. 

      • RACHAEL

        Your assuming the world is fair and just.

      • Rachael


      • Rebecca

        lol, you don’t have an opinion on birth control and abortion, issues that you consider abstract?? Who are you? Being in control of your reproductive cycle or having the power to choose not to have a child are way more concrete issues than your pseudo-intellectual/philosophical bullshit regarding the freedom to limit other’s freedom.

  • Rachael

    Lol try living in Pennsylvania. They aren’t allowed to sell any beer in grocery stores here. The only place you can get liquor is the “state store” called Wine & Spirits or at a bar, which close at 9pm M-Sa and I think 5pm on Sundays. Then there are a bunch of beer stores that only sell beer.

    • Rachael

      state stores close at 9, not bars obviously.

    • katie b

      Utah and Idaho are the same with the state liquor stores. I have lived in both states and lost my mind when I moved to Nebraska and you could buy Captain Morgan at Walmart.

  • Rebecca

    “I want us to be the United States. United in our belief that in the USA, it’s about your freedom to live in the community of your choosing, where you can do what you want, when you want — even, yes, restrict the freedom of others.”

    So people who are sentenced to death are justly sentenced because they “chose” to live in a community/state that still frequently sentences people to death? Same goes with someone prevented to abort due to specific restrictions imposed by their state. They simply “chose” to live there. You clearly speak from a narrow-minded, classist perspective if you think that most people “choose” to live wherever they live because they agree with the morals of their community/states. Most do not have the luxury to choose where they live, nor do they have a say in the restrictions that their community/state imposes on them. That is by no means “freedom.”

    • Andrea

      I was speaking in a dreaming way: ideals, not realities. 

      • Scott


  • Guest

    This really makes no logical sense, even on a theoretical level…

  • Scott

    wait guys, is this a satire?

    • Andrea

      Yes, a little bit. 

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  • Haley F

    I liked the post until I read in the comments that you don’t have an opinion about abortion laws because the topic is “abstract”.

    • Andrea

      I love abortion. It’s really made my life a lot easier (and cheaper). But, I don’t have an opinion on abortion laws.  I’ve never even thought about them on any serious level. This piece is about ant-drinking laws and how it’s cool that their are different cultures and laws all co-exising in the United States.  It’s a celebration of diversity, not a diatribe on politics. 

  • Ryan O'Connell

    this is retarded lol

  • Guy

    Yea, this was kinda terrible.

  • tyler

    *bam: thinking bones

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