Lemonade and Legislation

Lemonade Stand

Take a good look at the criminal masterminds in the photograph. These delinquent children are snubbing their noses, by illegally selling lemonade at a stand – presumably to raise money for some charitable cause or other. Don’t be fooled by how cute these little girls are. Two of them are maliciously selling goods, without a permit, while the third is actually illegally doing business with them, and accepting a glass of the said substance.

Many of us have got rightly angry at the “jobsworth” attitude of some police departments and city officials

Seriously, many of us have got rightly angry at the “jobsworth” attitude of some police departments and city officials, who have shut down these enterprising little lemonade stands. We have rightly asked:

  • Who is offended by temporary children’s lemonade stands?
  • Whose business is affected by them?
  • Who stands to gain from having them shut down?

It is noteworthy that many places that have shut down such stands have backtracked, when challenged by angry members of the public. For a summary of these issues, read this article on Forbes, entitled “The Inexplicable War on Lemonade Stands”, and look at this map of places where lemonade stands have been shut down.

But the focus of my concern today is with a very short news item from Madison, Wisconsin. I was made aware of this article by my friend Ingrid Schlueter. The reporter comments:

The bill would allow a minor to operate a temporary food stand without a local permit or license or a state food processing or retail food establishment license. The stand can't generate more than $1,000 in annual sales, however, and must be operated on a temporary basis on private property.1

At first reading, this might seem to be a sensible proposal. However, I don’t think so. I think that the very existence of this bill is an error. Let me explain why.

We have assumed that if the law is silent on a subject, then it is legal

Wisconsin state Capitol
Wisconsin state Capitol, where they are debating a bill to “legalize” children's lemonade stands. (c) Jeff Dean, Wikimedia Commons.

This was always assumed to be the difference between English-speaking legal systems, and European legal systems: in English-speaking countries, dating right back to King Alfred the Great of England, we have assumed that if the law is silent on a subject, then it is legal. Conversely, in European countries—especially those under German influence—everything is assumed to be illegal, until a law has been passed making it legal.

So, a law permitting lemonade stands is a European style idea, not an Anglo-Saxon (British or American) style idea. It should not be necessary. Instead, law enforcers should be reminded of their duty to protect the liberties of the children holding these lemonade stands. I understand the motivation of those legislators trying to pass this law, but the attempt concedes an important point which is alien to the Anglo-Saxon way of thinking.

Allow me to broaden the point slightly. Although the first ten amendments to the constitution can be used for good, as I understand it this was an early discussion among the Founding Fathers about the concept of a Bill of Rights. Everything should be assumed to be a right, unless it has been legislated against. This is not just Anglo-Saxon thinking, by the way. It is relevant to our understanding of biblical morality. If something is not forbidden in the Bible, then it can usually be assumed to be permitted—though there may sometimes be reasons why it is not expedient (1 Corinthians 10:23). A children's lemonade stand cannot, in any way, be considered to be unhelpful or not expedient, therefore it is biblically permitted. There should be no law against it. Nor should it require a law to permit it.

1. Wisconsin Assembly passes bill legalizing lemonade stands, < https://cbs58.com/news/wisconsin-assembly-passes-bill-legalizing-lemonade-stands/ >, accessed 1/24/2018

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