Tuesday, August 30, 2011


"Who stands to lose from a couple of six-year-olds selling lemonade?"

Another kid's stand was shut down by bureaucrats, this time an iced tea stand in Massachusetts.
There's been a lot of shut down lemonade stands lately, and while I've written about a few, I haven't gotten them all. Forbes has a roundup of these stories:
And they missed a few. If there is anything utterly American it is the lemonade stand, with a little kid selling cold drinks to passers by for a few pennies. The idea is iconic and every time I see one I buy a glass just to give the kids encouragement (and its usually really good to drink, too). They're rare, though. Most kids are busy playing video games or browsing on the internet and don't have any ambition to make money or sit at a booth for hours. If anything we should be encouraging kids to do more of this, not cracking down on them with the full force of the law.

So why on earth is this happening? A few weeks ago I had a quote of the day that went like this:
"The political classes may be a lot of things, and they believe themselves to be many things, but one thing they will not accept under any circumstances is being irrelevant."
-William L Anderson
The truth is, for agencies such as the various commerce and market bureaucracies around the world, taking action justifies their existence. They are around to control business and the economy, they only exist because the government feels the need to be in charge of this area. Someone working for government is going to be the last person to admit that they might not be necessary; that would damage their budget, maybe even cost their job.

I suspect strongly that these sorts of regulatory and control agencies tend to attract the sort of person who wants to control everything and everyone. You don't get The Dude from Big Lebowski working at the Food and Drug Administration, you get Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter.

These sort of people cannot let something slip by or go under the radar or it threatens their existence and importance. The more they have power over and act upon, the more important they, and their agency becomes. The more important they become, the more money and power they get.

The truth is, this is a perfect example of the death of wisdom. Instead of understanding that regulatory agencies exist to stop misuse, fraud, and wrongdoing, they take the letter of the law and apply it injudiciously to all circumstances. The law says you have to have a license and fill out forms to open up a food stand of any kind and size regardless of age and so that means everyone, including you, 12 year old girl. Stop crying, lawbreaker.

Wisdom would understand the difference between a weekend of a kid with a pitcher of lemonade and a new restaurant opening up, or even a food truck. Wisdom would distinguish between a kid's little temporary stand (shutting down when the pitcher runs out) and the latest Starbucks opened on the corner.

Yet lawsuits make this distinction difficult to hold to. If you get a bellyache after drinking Johnny's Ice Tea, you won't sue Johnny - there's no money in it. You sue the city; and the city lawyers advise that its better to just shut down these things so there's no exceptions than face some jackass with another lawyer. All it takes is one miserable wretch who claims he got sick from a lemonade stand and wants a billion dollars to ruin it for everyone.

And ultimately, entrepreneurs challenge the left's ideas. A single, solo, unfettered businessman means there's someone, somewhere not being controlled and commanded by the wise, enlightened glorious commissars who run the government. You can't allow any exceptions on the way to the utopia that socialism will bring us all (no really, honest, this time it will work!). Its hard to avoid the impression that the fact that the lemonade stand is so very American does not offend this sort of person.

A kid who grows up thinking he can make money without the help and control of the government is one more kid who thinks socialism isn't necessary and good. That simply cannot be. Best to crush their spirits before they get too far. Get in line Johnny. Stop crying, Rush baby.

Finally, there's the hideous specter of cronyism involved. These stands tend to set up in high traffic areas; near events, special shows, fairs, and so on. Now, if you run an event or are a business that's in the event, the last thing you want is competition. No corporate juice factory can compete with a cute little kid selling lemonade for 25 cents. Not only is the kid able to operate at a loss with his parents subsidizing the whole affair, but he has no expenses. That simply cannot be allowed.

And when businesses work with government to create laws, they do so to crush potential competition. Its no problem for the latest Nabisco restaurant abomination like Olive Garden to comply to regulations that are applied if they help write the regulations; they'll be a step ahead and every restaurant in the chain will be set up for it. Little Cristina on the street is not so lucky, so when overzealous agency drone shows up indignant at the little jerk stepping out on his own, Cristina doesn't stand a chance.

Stop crying. You're getting in the way of progress.

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