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Hooray for cuteness capitalism

Along the curbs of many residential streets this summer, you’ll find a classic piece of Americana as well as free enterprise–the lemonade stand. Stop and drop a couple of quarters, please.

The other day, I was driving back home when three children caught my eye. They were all girls, roughly ages 9-12, standing at a corner, waving signs and yelling out “Lemonade! Lemonade for sale!” I went on my way but once home, got on my bike and pedeled around the neighborhood for a couple of miles before I looped around to the girls.

They were selling two colors of lemonade, the traditional yellow as well as pink. For 50 cents, you could get a 12-ounce plastic cup of wet and sugary goodness.

It was a simple exchange: One girl asked which color I prefered, I asked about the price, gave her the money, and then drank enough of the cup that I could place it in my water-bottle cage for the short trip home.

Reflecting on the exchange, I realized that these girls had potentially run afoul of all sorts of laws and regulations. There were no boys in their company (though a man, I presume to be their father, stopped by). Had they discriminated against boys? Where was the EEOC on this? Did they have a food permit? Was their lemonade-mixing facilty visited by inspectors from the health department? How about an occupancy permit? Was this kind of commercial activity permitted under zoning regulations? Was their father violating child-labor laws? Were they getting paid minimum wage? Did they have an occupational license to sell lemonade? And had AFSCME and SIEU tried to unionize the girls against their father, or themselves?

Lemonade stands are a stripped-down version of a retail business, which may be favorite form of business. Oh, it’s not that I love to shop, but I do love the fact that a retail business obviously gives a picture of what commerce is–the free exchange of goods and service to satisfy the wants and needs of the parties involved.

Of course, regulators, having the disposition to regulate, are not unaware of lemonade stands. Two years ago, officials in several states drew public criticism for harassing young retailers, going so far as to fine them and require them to close up their card tables. These actions, in turn, lead to Lemonade Freedom Day as well as  Lemonade for Liberty, and other efforts to draw attention to overreaching government. Thankfully, a quick Google News search today shows no stories of heavy-handed bureaucrats telling 9-year olds to knock it off.

So go ahead. Next time you see a lemonade stand, stop, even if you don’t enjoy lemonade. Engage in some unregulated commerce among free people. As Katherine Mangu-War has said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with subpar beverages.”