Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Forget the Tea Party, I Want to Start the Lemonade Party

It's a horrifying development that one of the themes of the Summer of 2011 is the ongoing war being waged by local municipalities all across the US against kids and their lemonade stands. It's a regular occurrence to see outraged links to these news stories in my twitter and facebook feeds.

Over at Josh Blackman's Blog, he has a nice little post about a recent NPR opinion piece on the topic, which I recommend you check out. He starts out:
When NPR has an opinion piece in favor of the right to earn an honest living–let the kids have lemonade stands!–you know the statists went too far.
The NPR piece itself neatly captures the essence of the issue in its opening line:
If lemonade stands are symbols of the American dream, and if lemonade stands are under attack in the United States, then the American dream is under attack.
To be more specific, the lemonade stand issue represents the American dream under a 3-pronged attack by statists at all levels of government:
  1. The ongoing erosion of Property Rights. A person has the right to use & dispose of his property as he sees fit, provided he does not violate the rights of others in so doing. If a person wants to invite others onto his front lawn for the purpose of selling them lemonade, its his right. For the police to show up, and prevent this harmless activity from taking place, is pure thuggery. The police officers who enforce these laws should be ashamed of themselves, and don't give me any of that 'he's just doing his job' crap.

    Let me say it again in a bigger font:

    The police officers who enforce these laws should be ashamed of themselves.

  2. Denial of the Right to Contract. Parties have an absolute right to voluntarily enter into mutually beneficial agreements of their own choosing. If I have lemonade to sell, and you're a willing buyer, there is no proper role for government in initiating force against us to prevent the sale. Of course, you have the right to ask me all kinds of questions about the quality of my product, and even sue me in court if I misrepresent what I'm selling you. But, as long as the transaction is purely voluntary, the initiation of force by any outside party, government or otherwise, to prevent it, is immoral. Ayn Rand identified this concept as:

    The Trader Principle.

  3. Attack on individuals' Right to Earn a Living.  Ever heard of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? Ever thought about what that really means, in a practical, nuts-and-bolts way? I think most people hear this well-worn phrase and picture, in a very lofty and abstract way, that America was founded as the place where you could follow your dream and do whatever you want to with your life. This is certainly true, but try thinking about it in a more concrete way. How about: A person has a moral right to earn an honest living by the means of his own choosing.

    How about one more time, with feeling:

    A person has a moral right to earn an honest living by the means of his own choosing.

    Of course, this concept has been completely turned on its ear these days. The slew of regulations, at multiple levels of government, that act as barriers to entry for new businesses don't just prevent new businesses from opening. They kill peoples' dreams. They prevent people from earning an honest living by the means of their own choosing. If you think that those regulations are actually necessary to prevent people from harming each other, I would refer you to point #2 above. The vast majority of regulation today is simple denial of the Right to Contract in the interest of furthering some political ends. I think that formulation deserves a Big Font, too.

    The vast majority of regulation today is simple denial of the Right to Contract, in the interest of furthering some political ends.
I think that today, the most critically abused aspects of Individual Rights are these three. The War on Lemonade Stands is a horrific encapsulation of what goes on every day, at all scales, when government oversteps its proper role of protecting our rights, and instead becomes the violator of our rights.

Although the Tea Party movement had its origins in a reaction to government abuses not unlike those described above, I and many others fear it will be (or has been?) co-opted by the Religious Right and their anti-Individual-Rights social agenda. Of course, the only real way to combat government intrusion is a robust, moral defense of Individual Rights, which the Tea Party has yet to embrace, and which is largely antithetical to any mainstream political thinking today.

I say forget the Tea Party, let's start the Lemonade Party! And while most appeals to take action 'for the children' make me retch, this is one I could actually get behind and advocate for.

Do it for the children!


Update: 7/20/11

It looks like it's on! Turns out that Judy over at Consent of the Governed wrote this piece with much the same sentiment, and suggested August 20 as Lemonade for Freedom Day. Robert Fernandes has created a website called lemonadefreedom.com and facebook event page, and word is getting out. This is great!

Please help spread the word!


  1. This blogger wants to start with a Lemonade Day! I'm in.

  2. Great minds think alike..
    Please check out this event:


    and the Facebook Event Page:

    Robert Fernandes

  3. Please help spread the word! Thanks!

  4. Thanks for all the great comments, everybody! I updated the post with the new info so people won't miss out if they skip the comments.