Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Missing the point by a furlong.

Interesting article today on Drudge, regarding the increasing frequency of cities shutting little kid's lemonade stands over permits. Titled "What’s the point of regulating lemonade stands?" the author argues thusly:

The main risk of a tougher approach to children running food stands — and especially demanding that kids comply with costly licensing and strict city zoning laws — is that children will lose out on the entrepreneurial experience of running their first business, serving customers, and making money. If we want to have an entrepreneurial culture, where people innovate and take risks to build businesses, there has to be a certain amount of freedom and space for the young to learn these skills.

While navigating bureaucracy is definitely a useful entrepreneurial skill, expecting kids or their parents to fork out hundreds of dollars for a license to run their first business is punitive and anti-entrepreneurial. And every hour and dollar spent on inspecting or shutting down children's lemonade stands on technicalities is an hour and dollar not spent on inspecting food safety in actual restaurants, food processing facilities, and stores — places where a lapse in food safety could expose hundreds or thousands of people to illness.

And while city zoning laws are useful for keeping heavy industry away from homes, selling lemonade or girl scout cookies is really a residential activity. Many of the world's most famous businesses — Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, Hewlett Packard — were started in garages. An entrepreneurial culture requires the freedom to start a business at home. If we stop businesses and businesspeople from developing, we lose the benefits that come down the road, like job creation and innovation (not that little Suzie's lemonade stand will likely grow to rival Tropicana, but you get the point...).

The sooner cities and counties realize this, and stop wasting resources going after the entrepreneurs of tomorrow, the better.

I've rarely seen a point missed by a wider margin. "The main risk of a tougher approach to children running food stands... is that children will lose out on the entrepreneurial experience ..." Uh, No. The main risk is that regulators are overstepping their bounds and transgressing not only common sense but common decency. They are becoming a greater danger to the welfare of the general citizenry than the public health threats they were organized to prevent.

Picture it. Your kids set up a card table on the front lawn and play store. Then the cops come and make them stop. Then the city sends you a letter threatening a lawsuit should your children continue their play store. Delivered by cops. At your house.

Really? Is this what we expect in a civilized and supposedly free society?

No. We expect if the cops come by they will play along and buy a lemonade from the little kid's play store. We expect a grown man or woman with a position in the city government to behave themselves in a manner respectful of the basic freedom of the people who's taxes pay their damn salary. We expect them to be able to make a distinction between a kid selling lemonade and some kind of ad-hock business improperly situated in a residential area. By volume, if nothing else.

We do NOT expect them to search through the towering piles of regulations to find a legal fig leaf that will allow them to bully and intimidate us and our children. We do NOT expect the city legal department to back them up with expensive lawyer time and etc. We do NOT expect the health department to behave as if this is an everyday occurrence, and that OF COURSE you would purchase all the very expensive vending and food permits before letting your kids play store on the front lawn.

Its called "mission creep" in the military. The tendency for a regulatory bureaucracy to slowly expand its reach until it is doing things it has no business doing at all, regulating things that not only should not, but MUST NOT be regulated.

The fact that I'm even writing about lemonade stands indicates the canary already died in this coal mine. The absurdity is extreme, except for the fact that they're really, truly doing this shit all the friggin' time these days. Imagine how much money an actual business burns through dealing with this type of rules-lawyering crap from multiple regulatory agencies in multiple levels of government.

That's your money they're wasting boys and girls. Money you pay to companies to cover costs, and money in taxes to pay the schlubs that are doing it. You get nailed on both sides of the fence. Hard.

This concludes my lemonade rant for the day. Next rant: guns.

The Rantin' Phantom

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