Sam Burnham, Curator
It seems to be happening more and more. Maybe it has always been this way but we see it more now because of social media. Whichever it is, it’s a shame. Some kid out on a street corner selling lemonade or hot dogs or whatever other products these young entrepreneurs have come up with. Some neighbor or passerby gets on the cell phone to let the government know that a free citizen is selling merchandise they own on their own property. Oh, the humanity!
Sometimes it is a "real" vendor in the area complaining. Sometimes it is an overzealous safety concern (people who think the government is here to provide regulations to keep us safe from ourselves and our lack of decision making skills). Most of the time, it's just the friendly neighborhood killjoy who thinks they need to keep the chaos of a lemonade stand at bay.
But these ventures are more then just a rite of passage for young Americans. They are an important experience with the free market. Is this really the type of behavior we wish to discourage?
I was expecting something like this to happen when we were in Washington. There were some young men, not really kids who were out making some money. These guys were probably in their 20s or so. They had coolers with iced down bottled water and Gatorade. They were selling them like hot cakes to tourists.
They had a few market advantages: 1) Washington is stifling hot. 2) Tourists don’t expect that heat and fail to prepare. 3) These guys knew where tourists go, they knew where to find their customers. 4) They had the best price point on The Mall.
It would have been easy easy for someone to complain. Health inspection, business license, vendor permit, etc.
But here’s the reality. They weren’t being obnoxious, pushy, or rude. They called out their products and prices and if you didn’t walk over and buy one, no pressure, someone else will. They were selling a legal product that people needed for their health. They could have just as easily been selling counterfeit designer merchandise or dope a few blocks over, but they weren’t. The irony of the situation is the same people who would complain about water vendors would be even more angry if the people they shut down started selling drugs. Here are some young men operating in a free market, putting in an honest day of work by offering a useful product at a fair price to willing customers. That’s the American model of business.
So, if you ever get the notion to call in and report someone who is making an honest attempt to get some spending money or pay the rent, do the world a favor, don’t.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire