Government regulation: Lemonade Day done wrong
Nicolas S. Martin of the LA Times has written an op-ed about his attempt to have his child participate in National Lemonade Day. His story is a great lesson of how over-controlling our big government has become today. Here’s his story:
My 8-year-old recently got the lemonade stand itch. So we started laying plans to enrich her college fund by enticing passers-by with white chocolate-pistachio cookies and juice from organic lemons. Fortunately, our property backs onto one of the busiest paved urban trails in America, bustling on weekends with cyclists, rollerbladers and pedestrians. Visions of dollars danced in our heads.
Googling for the perfect lemonade recipe, we soon found a site promoting a May 1 “national” event called Lemonade Day. This event, organizers say, is an “initiative designed to teach kids how to start, own and operate their own business — a lemonade stand.” What better day to begin building our lemonade empire?
After shopping for her raw materials, I gave my kid a bedtime primer about starting a business. How much profit do you make after expenses? How should you promote your business? Give the customer a great product. She soaked it up and went to sleep all inspiration and smiles. Then I got to thinking about something I hadn’t discussed with her: government regulations.
The next morning I began a three-day phone trek through the maze of government agencies that regulate businesses and food sales, and I watched my child’s All-American plan crumble like fresh-baked cookies.
My first call was to the parks department, which maintains the trail. That agency is a sponsor of the local Lemonade Day, but, alas, does not permit lemonade stands on its properties any other day of the year. It especially doesn’t allow them alongside the trail. Why? They would be “dangerous”; accidents would happen. Do they expect any accidents on Lemonade Day, I asked? “No, we are confident nothing bad will happen that day.” Poof! Our best option for a profitable lemonade stand was gone.
My next calls were to the health department, where I eventually found an official who cheerfully told me that, except on Lemonade Day, no child can legally operate a lemonade stand in our city. Nowhere. No time. As far as she is concerned, Lemonade Day itself is just food poisoning waiting to happen. What the Lemonade Day organizers should teach the children, said the health official, is about the importance of learning and obeying the government regulations that prohibit lemonade stands.
Learning to be an entrepreneur “starts with a lemonade stand,” say the organizers of Lemonade Day. But they don’t want to talk about the regulations that make it impossible for my kid to become a lemonade stand entrepreneur. They tell me it is “silly” and “beside the point” to focus on the regulations. I am told that Lemonade Day is about kids learning to “give back to their communities,” “do better in school” and “open bank accounts.” It is not about something so self-serving as making a profit by selling a good product. That is the old American way, but the new way is living with rules that banish the lemonade stand to one government-approved day a year.
Nicolas concludes with “Next year they should rename it Regulation Day.” That would apply to everyday of the year in today’s era of big government.