Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lessons inadvertently taught

So, a couple little girls in Georgia decided they wanted to go to a water park. Rather than going to their parents and whining until the parents caved in, they decided (either on their own, or from mom's suggestion...I don't know which), to run a lemonade stand to raise the money.

Except, apparently, unlicensed lemonade stands are dangerous.

So the cops shut them down - unless they coughed up $50 a day or $180 a year for a permit. (I wonder what the water-park tickets cost...)

So they shut down the stand. As one girl said: "We have to listen to the police."

So they turned to yardwork to earn the money.

Okay, the intended lesson from their parents was: Work hard, and you can earn the things you want.

The lesson they got from the cops: The government runs the show; under zero-tolerance we will harass kids with an innocent lemonade stand just as much as the burger joint that doesn't keep clean. They don't care that you're little girls.

Another lesson, I think: Don't bother becoming an entrepreneur; it's easier and you'll get less harassment and rules heaped on your head to just be a laborer. (Don't try to be a landowner; just be a serf?)

And then, at least according to what I heard on the radio, the water park came through and gave them free tickets. Which is partly a win: the private sector being generous when the public sector has overreached. But I think it's also partly a fail, as the girls didn't really get a chance to earn those tickets. (And I think too many unearned rewards is bad for a person).

And yes, I know: without permitting and health inspections and what-not of EVERYONE we'd all be eating roach-burgers down at the local diner. Or at least that's what proponents of this kind of zero-tolerance thing say. But there's a difference between three girls selling lemonade for a couple of days, and someone running a business where they are selling all kinds of food.

(I think in some districts school bake sales are banned for similar reasons. Or they're only allowed to sell pre-made, "commercial" food, like those already-made-Rice-Krispies treat squares. Which are nowhere as good as the homemade kind, and which probably have all kinds of preservatives and artificial flavors in them).

I don't know. With things like lemonade stands or bake sales or hot dog carts or things, I kind of think it can be "buyer beware." I would probably buy a cup of lemonade from a group of little girls wanting to earn water park money; I might not buy a hot-dog from a guy in a dirty-looking trailer.

The government can't legislate that we're all 100% safe, as much as they might like to. Sure, the little girls might be pint-sized Borgias who are trying out their new poison on random people, and the guy in the dirty van might have the best and safest hot dogs in the world. But those are so unlikely that most people are smart enough to trust their experience and intuition.

While I appreciate the Pure Food and Drug act, so I know that bag of flour I'm buying isn't mostly plaster dust, I think police going shutting down a lemonade stand is an over-reach.

I know I tend to see patterns in things that I maybe should not, but I can kind of see a connection between the police coming to the lemonade stand and saying, "Unless you pay for the permit, you are breaking the law and will be in trouble" and a TSA agent looking at a little old woman and deciding she needs a more thorough pat-down.

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