American Elephants


Learning Early About the Perils of the Modern Marketplace by The Elephant's Child

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From The Economist:

ZOEY and Andria Green, who are seven and eight respectively, only look innocent. With their baby faces and cunning, they managed to lure patrons to their illicit enterprise: a lemonade stand outside their home in Overton, Texas. The girls were in business for about an hour in June, selling popcorn and lemonade to raise money for a Father’s Day gift, before local police shut the operation down. Not only were they hawking without a $150 “peddler’s permit”, but also the state requires a formal kitchen inspection and a permit to sell anything that might spoil if stored at the wrong temperature. As authorities are meant “to act to prevent an immediate and serious threat to human life or health”, the officers understandably moved swiftly in.

They took away the teeter-totters, and the merry-go-rounds, and park playgrounds have become so boring kids don’t want to be bothered. Farmers’ markets proliferate, but who qualifies as a farmer? Goods made in home kitchens are a ‘grey area’. Some states have passed “cottage-food laws” allowing people to sell ‘Non-potentially hazardous food such as baked goods, sometimes permitted, but the rules are odd and fussy, and different locations have different rules. Rhode Island allows farmers to peddle their goods, but bans everyone else. Oklahoma rules apply only to bakers who may sell up to $20,000 worth of breads and cakes as long as the sales take place in their homes but not in a market. Minnesota allows the annual cap at $18,000 for sellers who register with the state and take a safety course. Across state lines, you run into federal law.

Health authorities worry about the risk of unlicensed kitchens, though just what the dangers of lemonade are is unknown. There are lots more cottage food laws, and no increase in botulism.

Alas for the Green girls, lemonade is not covered by Texas’s cottage-food law, as it might spoil if it is not properly stored. But the pair have learned a valuable lesson about commerce and regulation. They discovered that if they gave the lemonade away free, but put a box on the table for tips, they could still make money because the “payments” thus became donations. Their father must be proud.

Powerline outlines the perils of the Administrative State. It’s going to take a lot of unraveling.


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