One bright warm Spring in the mid-seventies I had a lemonade stand on the sidewalk outside my house, less than a mile from where I live now. You need a hook in the lemonade game, and I had one — I offered free pollywogs from the pond out back, thoughtfully provided in the same cups in which I sold the lemonade. Doesn't everyone like pollywogs?
You see why I am a lawyer and not a businessman.
No one bothered me back then — least of all customers. I'm not sure I could get away with it now, thirty-five years later. There's a war on, you know — a war on lemonade.
Over at The Inductive, Christopher Carr's kid had a hook too — fruit punch and green tea. Maybe that's what attracted the attention of the Massachusetts State Police, who made his twelve-year-old stepson shut the stand on his streetcorner down. Carr also discovered that the Staties have the staff to go about shutting down kids' lemonade stands, but not the staff to answer phone calls from citizens about it. Funny, that.
Now an again it might be reasonable to hold a kid's lemonade stand to the same standard as an adult business enterprise — like when a kid sets up the stand at a commercial venue like a fair to compete with grown-ups. But when cops go about shutting down juveniles' lemonade stands because the law technically permits them to do so, we see the danger in broad, discretionary laws. Regulators tell us that the state can be trusted with broad authority because they will exercise good judgment and discretion. Really? What indication do we have of that?
Years ago, Coyote Blog did a great taxonomy of all the folks who want to run our lives for various reasons. It remains instructive, and it reminds us of why cops and bureaucrats defend shutting down lemonade stands — because the government has our best interests at heart, and knows better, and if the state lets the little things skate, next people will be questioning it on the big things. Might I catch some awful creeping crud from a kid's lemonade stand after the kid used standing pondwater with pollywogs to make the lemonade? Possibly. And God forbid that citizens start to think that maybe I can assess that risk myself, act accordingly, and accept the results.
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