I learn, via a Tweet from Walid Zafar, that "Mark Steyn... specializes in whipping right-wing readers into a froth of know-nothing indignation." So once more unto the breach!
After America (a personally autographed copy of which can be purchased here, he pleads) has an entire section on the state's relentless crackdown on children's lemonade stands, church bake sales and the like. It's called "As UnAmerican As Apple Pie", and begins with a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspector's raid on the Friday-night fish fry at St Cecilia's Church in Rochester, at which he declared 88-year-old Mary Pratte's homemade coconut cream pie, Marge Murtha's apple pie, Josie Reed's pumpkin pie, and Louise Humbert's raisin pie verboten in the Keystone State. The Coconut Cream Commissar informed the ladies they could only bake pies for church fundraisers if they paid $35 for a permit and agreed to have the kitchens at their homes inspected by him. As I wrote in my book:
In a small but tangible way, a person who submits to a state pie regime is a subject, not a citizen – because participation is the essence of citizenship, and thus barriers to participation crowd out citizenship. A couple of kids with a lemonade stand are learning the rudiments not just of economic self-reliance but of civic identity. So naturally an ever multiplying number of jurisdictions have determined to put an end to such a quintessentially American institution. Seven-year-old Julie Murphy was selling lemonade in Portland, Oregon, when two officers demanded to see her "temporary restaurant license". Which would have cost her $120. When she failed to produce it, they threatened her with a $500 fine, and also made her cry. Perhaps like the officers of Saudi Arabia's mutaween (the "Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices") the cheerless scolds of Permitstan could be issued with whips and scourges to flay the sinners in the street.
If you're not, per Mr Zafar, "frothing with indignation", you should be. What's the point of a First Amendment and a Second Amendment if a cowed citizenry meekly goes along with the proposition that a seven-year-old girl selling lemonade on her front lawn requires the approval of the state? Today, Reason's Zenon Evans brings us the tale of an 11-year old girl in the woefully misnamed jurisdiction of Madison County, Illinois:
Chloe Stirling may be young, but she's already developed serious culinary and small business skills. She began an enterprise, called "Hey, Cupcake!," out of her family's kitchen two years ago. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the sixth grader earns around $200 a month selling her baked goods. Stirling hopes to use her income to one day open her own bakery. Her mother, Heather, also offered to match the money Stirling makes to buy a car when she turns 16. Additionally, "she has donated many to charitable events, including a fundraiser for a student with cancer and, most recently, taking some to residents at a senior care center," writes the Belleville News-Democrat.
So naturally the Cupcake Commissars closed Chloe down. She needs a permit and her parents need to built a separate, restaurant-standard kitchen at their house:
Health Promotion Manager Amy Yeager told the Post-Dispatch, "The rules are the rules. It's for the protection of the public health. The guidelines apply to everyone."
One notes that, for all the state's "protection of the public health", America has the worst rates of obesity, childhood diabetes, etc, in the developed world. So, putting aside philosophical arguments about liberty and considering it purely in the utilitarian sense, things could hardly be worse if you allowed the citizenry to make their own risk assessments about Chloe's cupcakes and 88-year-old Mary Pratte's coconut cream pie.
Still, let's hope Chloe's got the message. So The Belleville News-Democrat put you on the front page for being a Sixth Grade entrepreneur trying to start your own business? Get real, kid. In the Republic of Paperwork, that's for saps. Obama wants to expand food stamps and extend unemployment benefits, so what do you need your own business for anyway? Go to college and get a Master's Degree in Advanced Bureaucracy, Regulation and Permit Studies, and then you can be a commissar at the Bureau of Cupcake Compliance like Amy Yeager. That's what the smart kids do. Spend a couple of decades issuing or denying permits and then take early retirement with full benefits. That's the American Dream.
America is seizing up not just because of Commissar Yeager but because millions of people accept her authority over their lives. Federal regulation alone accounts for ten per cent of GDP - that's to say, the economy of India flushed down the toilet in paperwork. As Laura Rosen Cohen notes of this remorseless sclerosis:
How free are you if an 11 year old cannot sell cupcakes to help cancer patients and eventually save for her very own car?
Answer: Not bloody free at all.