It was recently reported  that the Morgan County BOC  is seeking to enact an ordinance that would regulate garage sales. This proposed ordinance is absurd. The reasons for it are so ludicrous I thought perhaps the article was a satire. It was reported that a mere 12 complaints (0.06% of the county population) a year about garage sale signs in part prompted this proposal. The next issue was that “unregulated outdoor sales annoy citizens.” So, I suppose regulated outdoor sales would not annoy them? The bar is awfully low if mere annoyance is sufficient to prompt regulation. Another cited issue is “traffic congestion.” The most “traffic congestion” I’ve ever seen is through downtown Madison around 5 pm… where it might take an extra 2-3 minutes to get through town. Even this “congestion” is not worthy of regulation.  The final reason is an embodiment of ambiguity:  “disrupt the local residential environment.” A statement so broad that it can apply to virtually any “annoyance” is the regulator’s best friend.

So, I suppose regulated outdoor sales would not annoy them?
In order to qualify for the “privilege-that-used-to-be-a-right” of having a garage sale one would seek permission of a bureaucrat who could arbitrarily deny a request based on the most nebulous of reasons – i.e. “would not be in the interest of the public health, safety and welfare.”  Since that phrase can be interpreted to apply to any denial then decisions are based merely on subjective whims. Furthermore the ordinance would micromanage the sale itself, as it would “deal with how items can be displayed and the sizes and number of signs”. So, is the cash strapped county now going to pay people to go out and inspect garage sales to ensure they are in compliance? We certainly wouldn’t want items displayed incorrectly!

 

What’s next? Will the county require sellers to warranty goods for a certain period of time? Would they regulate the maximum price of an item? If this ordinance is enacted then it will become that much easier to justify new regulations by using this regulation as a precedent. Perhaps birthday parties should be regulated as well? Perhaps any kind of gathering at one’s residence should be regulated? Nearly all the issues cited in support of this ordinance also apply to such gatherings, why not regulate them too? This is a classic slippery slope. The goal of regulations should be the protection, not violation, of natural rights. This regulation violates the property rights of the seller by limiting their ability to sell their own property. If a seller does happen to violate the rights of others in their sale then they should likewise be cited under EXISTING laws. There is no need for a new patchwork of “pet peeve” regulations.