Government regulation of commerce has reached a new low.
Two republican state legislators, Roger Chamberlain (R-Dist. 38) and Linda Runbeck (R-Dist. 38A) authored a bill to protect the right of kids in Minnesota to run temporary stands to sell lemonade or hot dogs.
Apparently, this all began last summer when police in Minneapolis threatened to shut down a 13-year-old kid’s hot dog stand because someone called the health department.
The kid was required to pass a health department inspection, and then was required to pay $87 for a special event permit to run his stand (the Minneapolis Health Department ultimately paid the permit fee).
The proposed legislation would allow kids age 14 and younger to operate a temporary stand without getting a permit. It is sad that we even need to talk about this, much less tie up time in the legislature to accomplish it, but at least if this passes it will restore some semblance of common sense.
I try to look at these things objectively.
First, I considered the public health angle. I believe there is an inherent risk in buying any food or beverage from a kid’s stand out on the sidewalk. I think it’s safe to assume anyone who would make such a purchase is willing to accept the risk.
Then, I considered the economic impact. Do these temporary stands unjustly threaten the livelihood of legitimate business owners who are subject to strict regulation?
Well, if a kid selling cups of lemonade or hot dogs from a temporary stand poses a serious threat to your business, you might as well face it, you aren’t going to be in business long anyway. Seriously, how bad does your food or service have to be if some grubby kid provides a more desirable alternative for the consumer?
There’s not a snowball’s chance in hades that I am ever going to buy any food or beverages from any kid’s sidewalk stand, for the same reason I’m not a fan of potlucks. I’m more comfortable knowing the provenance of anything I ingest. If I encountered such a stand, I might give the kids some cash to support what they are doing, but I don’t need to put my health at risk to do that.
And even though I don’t see kids’ stands as a viable source of refreshment for me, I absolutely support their right to conduct these little enterprises without interference from the government.
I’m confident that generously-remunerated public employees have more important tasks they could be working on than orchestrating shakedowns on kiddies.
There are plenty of things on which the government should be working. It’s possible government could actually accomplish some things if it were to stop getting wrapped up in absurd little trifles.
As for the bitter individual who called the health department in the first place, here’s a piece of advice: If you’re worried about the quality and safety of a kid’s stand - don’t buy anything there.
Finally, I should acknowledge that State Senator Scott Newman was the first to draw this issue to my attention with a video tweet expressing the opinion, “When the government says a child needs a permit to open up a corner lemonade stand, it has gone too far.” Scott and I don’t agree on every issue, but we are definitely on the same page on this one.