Government Shuts Down Little Girl's Lemonade Stand. Again.

Another day, another story of ridiculous government overreach.

This time, the story comes courtesy of the Orange County government, which deployed its health officials to shut down the lemonade stand of a 10-year-old girl, Anabelle Lockwood. The lemonade stand, “The Loco Lemon,” was built by Anabelle’s father; she set it up as a gourmet lemonade stand and sold flavors including peach and watermelon. She said, “I always wanted to have a lemonade stand. All my friends were talking about it and I thought it was a good idea.”

It was, until the local government got involved.

Now they want her to upgrade her stand to a commercial stand and file paperwork. The total cost: $3,500. The state wants her to purchase liability insurance, a business license, and pay a fee for use. According to local KTLA news, “they have had to turn down a wedding, corporate events, movies in the park and church events until they get the proper paperwork.”

Obviously, this is idiotic.

But for the left, the question is why it’s idiotic. After all, Anabelle may be 10, but she’s engaging in a business. And there’s no reason why she should be exempt from the rules.

For the right, the real question should be why anyone should need this sort of oversight and paperwork. It’s one thing to demand a permit to sell on public property. But health inspections for restaurants mean little or nothing and cost businessowners a bundle – are you really safer having a health inspector show up once per year to look in the kitchen and then slap a letter grade in the front window? Business licenses are idiotic – there are plenty of fly-by-night businesses with licenses, and the barrier to entry for the non-rich is pretty steep in states like California ($800 to get a business license).

But the steady background buzz of big government makes people feel more comfortable even when they shouldn’t. Most Americans no longer believe in the old chestnut caveat emptor – instead, we just assume that everything will be fine, because the government has checked our work. The reason most investors never bother to check out the financial strategy of their banks is that they assume the government already has. The vast majority of Americans never read their mortgages because they believe the government will ensure that no sleazy dealings will take place.

All of that is false, naturally. We’ve seen enough business scandals to know that. We’ve seen enough dirty restaurants and salmonella outbreaks.

More importantly, we know that restaurant-owners don’t avoid poisoning their clientele because they’re afraid of a bad health inspector review. They do so because of competition, and because they want repeat clients. The same is true in other areas of business: the best way of ensuring quality product and business honesty is competition in the free market, not regulation and spot-checking by a bunch of incompetent or corrupt bureaucrats.

Even the government left knows that, which is why they use business licenses and health inspections as a money-raiser for the government. But the public falls into the trap of thinking that without government, we’d all be poisoning one another. We wouldn’t be. Anabelle isn’t about to poison us all with her lemonade. And the government couldn’t stop her if she wanted to.

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