as the recession deepens, i've heard more about rolling back those "blue laws" that ban sunday shopping for automobiles, alcohol, and other commodities. because blue laws have ancient roots, researchers focus on accounting for their (putatively anachronistic) persistence as well as their passage.
i learned via time and reusse that economics professor david laband has published a monograph on blue laws, tying their demise to a long-term rise in female labor force participation and, more immediately, to economic contraction:
"[Sunday sales legislation] always comes bubbling up when the economy goes south," says David Laband, an Auburn University economics professor who authored Blue Laws: The History, Economics, and Politics of Sunday-Closing Laws. Blue laws, which restrict shopping of any kind on Sunday, date back to the colonial era, Laband says. However, those laws gradually died off as economic forces made some states realize that they could stand to gain by having stores open on Sunday. For example, the entry of women into the workforce in World War II made weekend shopping a necessity.
"Slowly and systematically we've seen these laws lifted in past century, even more so when there has been an economic downturn," Laband says. "States realize that consumers will migrate to a place where they can buy what they want. And whatever their reasons are for not wanting to sell on Sunday, these states realize they're paying a price for it in foregone tax revenues. So once the economy goes bad, then the cost of their policies are apparent to them."
i like the labor force and economic strain argument, though i suspect that many sociologists would also point to urbanization and shifts in religiosity to account for the demise of blue laws.