Poland: Man 1, Market 0
Polish MPs have approved a bill that will phase out Sunday shopping by 2020.
Initially proposed by trade unions, the idea received the support of the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party, who want to allow workers to spend more time with their families.
The Sejm, the lower house of Poland’s parliament, passed the bill by 254 to 156 to restrict Sunday shopping to the first and last Sunday of the month until the end of 2018, only on the last Sunday in the month in 2019, and to ban it totally starting in 2020. It will still be permitted, however, on the Sundays before major holidays such as Christmas. Some bakeries and online shops will also be exempt.
It is startling to Americans vacationing in Europe to see that many countries have store closing laws that make things inconvenient for shoppers. But “inconvenient for shoppers” is only one way to look at it. These laws make it convenient for shopkeepers and workers who would like to have a normal family life, or at least not to have their lives controlled entirely by the demands of consumer commerce. The barbaric orgy of consumerism that takes place every Black Friday makes one aware of how important it is to draw and defend these lines.
It was Pope John Paul II, I believe, who said, “The market was made for man, not man for the market.” Poland’s law is humane.
I found out about the Polish law by reading Patrick Deneen’s Twitter feed. A decade ago, when I was an editorial page editor at The Dallas Morning News, I commissioned an essay by Prof. Deneen in which he discussed lessons he believed that Americans — especially American conservatives — can learn from the European way of life. His wife is German, and his family spends time in Germany every year with their kind. The essay is no longer available in the DMN archives, but I found these small bits of it elsewhere online:
Because of laws governing closing times and zoning restrictions, family businesses and small companies still dominate the landscape. Owning the stores in which they work, proprietors are far more knowledgeable about the products they sell than one typically finds among minimum-wage workers in American retail megastores. And in many cases, families live above the businesses they run.
In America, it is our liberals who praise the liberties of Europe while overlooking the conservative impulse of its self-restraint. Meanwhile, our conservatives condemn the statism of Europe without understanding that efforts to conserve – to be conservative – require the active support and laws of government in order to combat the tendencies of markets to produce waste and undermine thrift.
It is hard to imagine Americans, given our culture, agreeing to a rollback in what it considers to be consumer freedom. But I hope I’m wrong.