Legalizing Lemonade

This week Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law making it legal for Texas kids to run a lemonade stand without first getting a license.  In a rarity in these politically acrimonious times, the bill passed both houses of the Texas legislature unanimously.  It prohibits local health codes or neighborhood rules that try to bar or otherwise regulate children who want to sell non-alcoholic drinks, such as lemonade, on private property.

gettyimages-115703269-58ad82445f9b58a3c979537cThe Texas legislation was a reaction to an incident in an east Texas town where police shut down a lemonade stand run by two kids who were trying to raise money to buy a Father’s Day present.  That incident is part of a national trend of neighbors calling the police to report kids who operate lemonade stands, which has led to news stories about lemonade stand shutdowns in Colorado, California, Rhode Island, and other states.  The lemonade stand crackdown reached the point that Country Time lemonade offered legal assistance to the kids running the stands who faced penalties and fines for engaging in unpermitted activity.

Speaking as someone who set up a number of lemonade stands as a kid — and who probably sold some pretty sour, watery, and sickly sweet lemonade to innocent buyers in the process — it’s hard for me to imagine that police, regulators, and busybody neighbors don’t have something better to do than oversee harmless childhood money-making ventures.  Have we really reached the point that you actually have to pass a law to safeguard an activity that has been part of Americana for decades?

But the world has changed.  Apparently we do have to enact laws to make sure that regulators don’t target little kids in their zeal to exercise overprotective nanny-state control over our daily activities.  But because the world has changed, I also wonder if the Texas law is really going to have much of an impact in these days of equally overprotective parents.  How many helicopter Moms and Dads are going to allow their young kids to interact with complete strangers who might pass by and want to wet their whistle with a glass of homemade lemonade?

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The Smells Of A ’60s Summer

The smells told you it was the high summer, too.

When you ran outside in the morning, the temperature was already above 70 and the humid air had a sharp tang and crackle to it.  Somewhere a Dad had mowed the lawn within the last 24 hours, and the spicy odor of cut grass salted the air.  This always brought a sneeze and made my eyes water, because I was allergic to cut grass — particularly when it came time to mow our own lawn.

In the woods surrounding our neighborhood the smells told of dampness and decay.  Fallen trees were slowly rotting, covered with fungus and mold, and the forest floor was carpeted with a layer for decomposing leaves and branches that sank into the soil when you stepped on them.  At the creek bed there was the clean, sharp scent of water and mud and stones slick with algae and moss.

But the smells I most associate with those long-ago summers were of the Kool-Aids, the frozen lemonades, and other drinks that every savvy neighborhood Mom had ready to pour out to the sweaty boys who might track dust into their kitchens at any moment.  When the manufacturers of those drink mixes said they were flavored, they weren’t kidding!  The smells and tastes were overpowering.  No need for subtlety!  Even a person whose taste buds and olfactory lobes had been disconnected couldn’t fail to detect the “flavors.”

The flavored drink mixes had the most intense scents, with grape and cherry being the most pungent.  If kids in the neighborhood had set up a lemonade stand and had mixed the concoction themselves, you had to brace yourself.  Just smelling a pitcher of grape Funny Face drink made you feel like you’d been immersed in a can of Welch’s, and even a small sip of the sugary liquid would cause severe mouth pucker.  No one could drink it without immediately chasing it with a glass of cool water.

Your Tax Dollars At Work, Protecting Americans From Unlicensed Neighborhood Lemonade Stands

Does anyone in government stop and think about what they are really doing, anymore?

Here’s the latest story of some ridiculous lack of judgment by a government regulator.  A 7-year-old girl in a suburb of Portland, Oregon sets up a lemonade stand at a neighborhood festival and starts serving lemonade made from bottled water and Kool-Aid mix, at a price of 50 cents a cup.  Some county health inspector with a clipboard comes up and asks the kid to show her temporary restaurant license.  Not surprisingly, the child doesn’t have one — they cost $120, after all — and the health inspector tells the kid that she has to close up shop or face a $500 fine.  The child left in tears.  Of course, the county health inspectors defend the action, saying that they “need to put the public’s health first” and must “protect the public” no matter how small the business or how young the proprietor.

Didn’t anyone at the county health department ever have a lemonade stand?  Doesn’t anyone at the county health department have any common sense?  Is unlicensed lemonade sold by a 7-year-old really such an enormous risk to public health that the full weight of the country government must be brought to bear?

Whether a 7-year-old gets to run a lemonade stand without being harassed and reduced to tears by clipboard-waving bureaucrats doesn’t mean a lot in the grand scheme of things.  This story reveals a greater concern about how government works, however.  One reason why some people, at least, oppose the government making decisions about their health care is precisely because they are worried that those momentous decisions will be made by nameless bureaucrats who don’t have the sense to determine that a 7-year-old’s lemonade stand doesn’t pose a fundamental risk to public health.