When Life Gives You Lemons, Apply for a Permit

As a kid I played baseball for a company-sponsored baseball team in the spring.  During the games sno-cone, pretzel, or ice cream vendors would come by selling treats.  They were all very unorganized, very delicious, and very unregulated.  Somehow I and my fellow ball players and their families managed to survive season after season without a single case of food poisoning.  As it turns out, snack vendors prosper when they’re not killing off their customers or making them sick with contaminated products.

This sort of free-for-all in rural Pennsylvania in the late 1980s, with its raw, unpolished marketplace, with its lack of formal licensing, with its voluntary participation by vendor and customer, must have caused nightmares for a group of government officials in Multnoma County, Oregon.

You’ve heard of these guys, right?  This is the group of officials who threatened 7-year-old Julie Murphy with a $500 fine because she did not possess a $120 temporary restaurant license in order to operate a lemonade stand from which she hawked her lemonade at a price of 50 cents per cup.

Officials hid behind the classic “rules is rules” argument that I hear all too frequently these days.  The city was just trying to regulate health codes and can’t pick and choose when to enforce rules. One official was quoted as saying that they certainly understand the point of having a neighborhood event to raise revenue, but that the public health must come first.

Is the public so unable to fend for itself that its very safety is threatened by a 7-year old trying to sell lemonade?  The long arm of the law and its muscle must surely be flexed in order to protect an unsuspecting populace from the wiles of a business savvy 7 year old who no doubt intended to spread E coli throughout the community, one 50-cent cup of lemonade at a time.

The local government officials have a point.  The water in the lemonade might be contaminated.  The plastic cups are certainly not environmentally friendly if not recycled properly.  No doubt the stand must have caused some traffic pattern disturbances.  But freedom is not without its risks.  And voluntary participation is key.  If you fear your local lemonade stand proprietor, then your choice is simple: keep driving and don’t buy.  Mistakes in a free society can and do happen.  But mistakes are just that—mistakes.  They’re not opportunities to enact layer upon layer of regulation in a vain attempt to regulate away all of life’s risks in order to appease the interest group with key voter demographics or campaign cash.  Clearly a balance must exist between the right to pursue happiness by running a lemonade stand and the collectivist notion of “the greater good.”

That’s why Freedom Forge Press was created.  We’ll gather the stories like this from around the country (and world) and tell it like it is in an effort to promote maximum freedom and individual liberty as the birthright of all mankind.  These are not gifts of government but inherent rights we possess by being humans.  Governments exist to secure and protect rights—not to create them.  Think of the danger in this.  A government that creates and bestows rights to its citizens is a government that can surely take these same rights away.

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