Last spring I was riding my bike to work, a little after 8AM, rolling through Perry Square park, and passed a guy sitting on a bench with a freshly opened case of Milwaukee’s Best.
My first thought was: Milwaukee’s Best?? Including the word “Best” in your beer’s name is like wearing a “World’s Greatest Lover” tee shirt to the unemployment office: the crowd you’re advertising to isn’t interested in the claim you’re leading with.
OUR CAVIAR IS “THE FRESHEST”.
But my second thought was: is this guy actually intending to sit in front of the fountain all day slowly killing an entire case of something one might loosely call beer? Is this legal? What are the sociological/economic implications of this for a town trying to revitalize itself?
I lean Libertarian, so none of those questions are exactly rhetorical. I think I was mostly wondering about the legal aspect.
It turns out that, unlike most places I’ve lived, publicly drinking one’s weight in “Best” is perfectly legal in Erie parks. This struck me as curious.
Yesterday I came across a local news story that went something like this: Erie officials table discussion of public alcohol bans. Why? Over concern that it might predominantly target the poor and homeless.
I know most of my friends—and I assume most reading this—agree that unfairly targeting the poor and homeless is generally a bad thing. Broadly speaking, I concur.
Unless you’re targeting them with a hotdog gun.
But am I the only one whose brain, annoyingly fussy about intellectual honesty, chimes in and says: but since when do we tailor laws based on the demographics they may impact?
Just to briefly entangle you in the type of mind I live in, let’s imagine some alternate versions of the getting-legally-sloshed-in-the-park story:
Highway patrol tables discussion of speeding in school zones over concern that it might predominantly target people with driver’s licenses.
Federal Trade Commission tables discussion of unfair lending practices over concern that it might predominantly target rich white bankers.
UN tables discussion of international piracy over concern that it might predominantly target international pirates.
But then my internal woke liberal (somewhat malnourished, admittedly) jumps in to say “those comparisons don’t work because there is no equivalence between the underprivileged and those other groups. Anyone can have a driver’s license, but the poor/homeless are predominantly minorities. Rich white bankers are privileged, therefore don’t deserve special protections. And pirates are lawbreakers by default, whereas IT’S NOT A CRIME TO BE HOMELESS OR POOR.“ (My internal woke liberal screams a lot).
At which point my internal angry conservative (old, demoralized, with hilariously unkempt eyebrows) starts hyperventilating into his MAGA hat before shouting (with a lot of spit) “Thanks OBUMMER!”
My brain is basically one folding chair away from being the Jerry Springer show.
Pushing both of them aside, with difficulty, I’m still confused. Isn’t justice supposed to be blind? Isn’t that why she is always personified as a blindfolded figure with scales? We are comfortable with the idea that the blindfold means she isn’t partial to the rich. But doesn’t that also mean that neither is she partial to anyone else? Even the poor and homeless with terrible taste in beer?
If justice is truly blind—if all people are equal under the law—then I’m curious about the legal argument that works for tabling laws that tend to impact poor minorities but that doesn’t work for laws that tend to impact old white dudes.
And peeling back the layer a bit further: I feel like if I was a poverty-level minority type, I’d be offended at the idea that a law about not getting tanked under the statue of Oliver Hazard Perry was specifically aimed at me. I think I’d be like “thanks for the low expectations, stereotyping white-guilt do-gooders! Hows about focusing on the frat dudes stumbling through the park after an Otters game taking leaks on the war memorials? Eh? I don’t hear anybody lamenting how public alcohol bans unfairly target the forty-year-old accountants tailgating outside Erie Arena.”
Anyway, all this to say that, honestly, I don’t have any dog in the fight about park drinking. While I’m no fan of dudes spending their days publicly swilling in the park while kids splash in the fountain, neither am I a fan of meticulous regulation of what should be mere common sense. So on this issue my response is mostly a big sighing shrug.
I am mostly interested in the intellectual argument for justifying not passing a law based on the community it might impact. This seems, on the face of it, to fly directly in the face of how laws are supposed to work—that justice is blind, and not expected to contort based on demographic implications.
What think you?