The Fourth of July is a day of celebrating freedom and the sacrifice of many to create the nation we live in today. The Mackinac Center interns are certainly among those who are daily thankful to live in America. However, they are also aware of the government’s influence in their lives, even over things they do on Independence Day.
Red White and Brew – Evan Fryzelka
For many of us, a Fourth of July celebration would not be complete without a few ice cold beers. It is ironic then, that on the day that we celebrate liberty and independence, the process by which that ice cold beer is delivered to us, is anything but free. Brewers cannot simply sell their beer to any retailer who is willing to buy it. They must first sell it to licensed wholesalers who will then sell it to licensed retailers. The brewer must also make exclusive territory agreements with each of his wholesalers. This is called a three-tiered system and it is meant to prevent over-promotion and bring order to the market. What it really does is create convenient government-sanctioned monopolies to ensure that distributers will never have to compete with each other. The belief is that competition will lead to over-promotion, and because we as free individuals cannot make the right choices for ourselves, this will become a detriment to public health. In the spirit of Independence Day, our government should unleash the free market on this old and outdated system. Producers should be allowed to compete and consumers should be allowed to decide where, when and from whom they will buy their next ice cold beer.
Sea to Shining Sea – Todd Flynn
My favorite part of 4th of July is swimming and boating on the lake. Being from Traverse City, this has been a common 4th of July activity my whole life. My parents and relatives take the boat out each day, and find the lake much more crowded than usual. There are boats everywhere, and with that comes sheriffs. These law enforcement officials are out in full force on the 4th. They are out to make sure that nobody is driving drunk, and that each boat is generally following other laws as well. In the state of Michigan, the driver of a boat must be no younger than 12 years old, and must be carrying a boater’s license issued by the DNR. Additionally, each boat is legally required to have a fire extinguisher, a throw-able floatation device, and an additional personal floatation device for each passenger on board. Boats are also required to give each other a berth of 100 feet when operating at speeds over 5 miles per hour, among other passing regulations. Sheriffs are the most prominent regulatory influence on my 4th of July.
The Rocket’s Red Glare – Shelli Cammenga
I can’t imagine the Fourth of July without fireworks! The bright bursts not only feed my excitement in the celebration, but the image of “bombs bursting in air” reminds me of the sacrifices which were made for the freedoms we enjoy today. But when it comes to figuring out where, how and which ones I am allowed to set off, I don’t feel quite as free. Until the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act of 2011, Michigan had banned any consumer fireworks except ground based devices and hand-held sparklers. Not surprisingly, the motive behind the 2011 advancement may have had to do with the sales tax and 6 percent safety fee collected from vendors, as well as the cost of permits to sell the consumer fireworks in state, which can cost a retailer between $600 and $1000. The legislature estimated that the new revenue from tax and licensing fees could range as high as $14 million a year. Though citizens can now use Roman candles, bottle rockets and firecrackers, to assure legality they must use them on private property and on the days immediately surrounding a holiday, when state law trumps any local ordinances against them. Even then, local authorities may have the power to restrict their usage during nighttime hours. According to the Detroit Free Press there was no spike in injuries after these new laws, and the type of firework with the highest percentage of injuries reported nationally remains the sparkler.
Though there is no doubt that many of these rules are aimed to protect people and create order, they are also proof that public policy touches all of our lives – even on the day we most celebrate our freedom.