Let the Kids Sell Lemonade


March 6, 2019 3:32PM

Little is more important to a free society and free enterprise than private property. Milton Friedman called property rights “the most basic of human rights and an essential foundation for other human rights.” Not only is private property an essential right, but it’s also a powerful incentive. Without private property, there is little to no incentive to work, invest and improve land, capital, or one’s condition. Derived from the notion of private property is the concept of economic liberty—the belief that you have the right to create, sell, and use your labor or property for your own benefit.

One of the issues that concerns us at Beacon is this growing sense of a “permission first society” amongst governments—particularly local governments. This is the idea that you must get the government’s permission first to do something with or on your property. We’ve seen this sentiment exist even if governments haven’t already ruled on something. Take last year, for example, when Metro Nashville rounded up hundreds of Bird and Lime scooters because the city had not passed a regulatory framework for electric scooters yet, because naturally, if the government hasn’t stated whether you can or can’t do something, it is obviously illegal.

Believe it or not, another example where we’ve seen this issue play out is with lemonade stands. While it seems hard to imagine with this February’s monsoon season, it won’t be long until the hot and humid days of a southern summer are upon us. In recent years, cities all across the country have been shutting down and issuing children hefty fines for running lemonade stands on their own property without a government permit. The problem is so pervasive that last summer Country Time, in my favorite PR move of the year, offered to pay the fines children received running lemonade stands.

Luckily, some state legislators are starting to realize and address this growing problem, starting with “lemonade stand” freedom. This year, a bill has been introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly that prohibits a local or country government from requiring a minor to obtain a permit to run a home-based business. The government shouldn’t have the power to require you to pay to do something on your own property that doesn’t hurt anybody, especially when it’s a kid trying to make a couple of bucks on a hot Saturday afternoon.  

This growing “permission first society” is why Beacon is placing an even higher emphasis on private property growing forward. It’s why we started a property rights coalition and hired a second attorney. It’s also why we’ve remained focused on the issue of occupational licensing, making it easier for Tennesseans to exercise their right to earn a living without unnecessary government burdens. Often the justification for government policies is it’s for “protecting the children.” Hopefully, state lawmakers will also agree we should also protect their ability to learn and try their hand in the free enterprise system.