When Government Gives You Regulation, Make Lemonade!
When I was a youth, my sister and I saw our perfect opportunity. It was a sunny summer day in San Francisco (an anomaly right there) and our quiet little neighborhood inconveniently placed on top of a hill was abuzz with the sounds of hammers and saws as there was construction going on right down the block. These two factors seemed to be the perfect alignment for entrepreneurial activity. We had been biding our time and finally found the right moment for our very own lemonade stand. Before that, the closest we had gotten was door to door Christmas seal sales (which we were not supposed to do by edict of parents and school). We dragged the ghastly Country Time powder off the shelf and started mixing. Our next mission was to draft our mother to make some of her cookies (I have never had better than the ones she makes). And since we were setting up shop, why not bring the toys we didn’t want anymore? Our fusion garage sale/lemonade/cookie stand was ready for business.
Within minutes of sighting us, the construction crew decided it was break time. They bought all of our lemonade and every last cookie. We stayed open for a while to bask in our success and peddle some of our junk to the other neighborhood kids who saw treasure, like the model airplane kit I knew I was too lazy to put together myself. But Esther Cepeda, writing for a newspaper north of where I grew up, says, I learned the wrong message. We should be teaching kids to “comply with local laws” and get “the proper licenses and permits.” After all, isn’t this what entrepreneurship is all about? Maybe we could start a city program whereby the locality could commission buses to send children down to city hall, to wait in lines for hours, and learn how to parse the byzantine and myriad forms by which they may get permission to make a profit and provide other individuals with things they desire – some day. She, as well as our bureaucrats and their supporters miss many key points in all of this. One of the most germane being that markets are dynamic and ever shifting. If my sister and I had waited until the fog set in that afternoon and the workers went home, we would have never experienced the pleasure of working to provide others with what they want and being rewarded for it. We did not have months of lead time nor capital to “invest” in licenses. We had a few supplies, ideal conditions, and an entrepreneurial spirit – somethings no one can centrally plan.
I for one will be buying lemonade from any stand I see today on Lemonade Freedom Day. This spate of police shutdowns of budding entrepreneurs is insufferable. If we discourage our children from exploring risks, we will continue to reap our well deserved mediocrity. We do not need any more aspirants to the predatory class. It is high time we encouraged productivity in our culture again, especially among the youths. I believe we have enough future politicians and community organizers. We will always have enough desk jockeys. We will never have enough entrepreneurs and risk takers. To discourage that surely will leave a sour taste in all of our mouths.
Robert Anthony Peters will be speaking at Libertopia Festival 2011 in San Diego