Under Nanny State, We Don’t Feel Like Dancing

The following column originally was published September 3 by Grand Junction Free Press.

Under Nanny State, we don’t feel like dancing

by Linn and Ari Armstrong

The grocer looked incredulous: “What’s 3.2 beer?” While visiting New York City, your younger author Ari had asked about alcohol restrictions in grocery stores, noting that most grocers in Colorado can sell only low-strength beer.

In New York you can buy regular beer in grocery stores, and so far this has not caused social mayhem. (Colorado’s liquor police needn’t worry; New York has plenty of other sales restrictions.)

But in New York it’s illegal to dance in most clubs and bars. Yes, dance, as in, move your feet and sway your hips to music. Politicians couldn’t possibly allow people to freely dance; think of the children. If people were able to dance at will, what might they think of next? It would be anarchy! You can drink a beer, and you can listen to music at the same time, but adding a little jig to the mix, never mind a moonwalk, is entirely out of the question.

“While it sounds like a joke,” LegalizeDancingNYC.com admits, “the NYC Cabaret Law is very real and has for the last several years adversely affected our city’s economy, culture and community.” The organization holds that “dancing is a fundamental right that need not be regulated by government and that a flourishing dance culture is good for the NYC economy and culture.”

While dancing didn’t merit a mention in the Bill of Rights, it’s still pretty important, and certainly politicians have no business restricting it.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has admitted, “We have dance police. This is craziness,” reports the New York Times. However, reports the paper, a 2008 proposal to ease the dancing restrictions fell apart because it threatened other onerous controls on bars. That is unfortunate; the paper notes that the law has been used in the past to thwart interracial dating and more recently to lock up establishments deemed by the authorities to be a nuisance.

The anti-dancing laws are a real problem for the phenomenally talented New York pop band Scissor Sisters. (Ari caught the New York show on August 24; the band will play in Denver soon.) They even have a song out called “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’,” but we dare you to listen to it without at least feelin’ like dancing.

Sister singer and fashion diva Ana Matronic said at the show (we’re closely paraphrasing): “Elect us as mayor and the first thing we’ll do is get rid of the f’ing cabaret license” and free up dancing. (She said the band had a license for the show.)

Maybe if we elected one of the Sisters to office in Colorado, we could finally get rid of the anti-freedom restrictions on liquor sales. Incredibly, the Denver Post reports, some have even proposed reinstating the “blue laws” outlawing Sunday liquor sales because of “the damage to convenience and grocery stores’ bottom lines.”

How about this: let stores sell whatever they want to willing customers. It’s called a free market, also known as liberty.

But at least in Colorado we don’t have Big Nanny forcing businesses to post calorie listings. In New York McDonald’s posts on its menu board that “2 for $3 McGriddles” sport 1120 calories. A big donut at Gristedes market is 450 calories.

We have nothing against restaurants posting calorie notices, so long as they do it voluntarily in accordance with their customers’ shopping preferences. But mandatory postings violate the rights of property and voluntary association.

Moreover, mandatory calorie postings insult the intelligence of shoppers. Do we really need some bureaucrat to tell us that deep fried sugar is bad for you? Consumers can make wise decisions without the “help” of meddlesome politicians.

Indeed, by encouraging people to depend on politicians and bureaucrats for their health and safety, Nanny State laws ultimately stunt people’s independent thinking. Nothing is more dangerous than that, whether for people’s health or the health of the republic.

It’s easy enough to mock Nanny State laws like restrictions on dancing or grocery-store beer sales. But never forget that, once government gets in the business of forcing us to do what politicians think is good for us, it can very quickly cross the line from Onion-worthy headlines to frightening Orwellian-style police-state action.

Consider persecution of homosexuals. The founding members of Scissor Sisters happen to be gay, so, unsurprisingly, their music touches on related issues. But until 1980 New York adults could be arrested and criminally prosecuted for consensual gay sex, and not until 2000 did that state’s legislature formally repeal the sodomy laws. Former Colorado legislator Jerry Kopel points out that our state repealed sodomy laws in 1971.

Throughout much of the Middle East, religious zealots continue to murder homosexuals — as well as women caught in adultery charges — under Islamic sharia law.

The only proper job of politicians is to protect individual rights. If we’re worried about public morality, nothing is so perniciously immoral than allowing some to forcibly control the consensual acts of other adults.