The BBC reported that a five-year-old girl in London was fined 150 pounds (about $195) for operating a lemonade stand without a vendor license. The little girl had planned to offer nearby festival-goers a chance for some summer refreshment but ended her day in tears.
To their credit, the supervisor of these officials canceled the fine and offered an apology. This event is one example from many of how government regulations are sold as a way to protect the public — but usually end up with overbearing officials that hassle little girls while the government ignores real problems.
From teaching licensure requirements and taxicab regulations to food and vendor regulations, the government makes a case that the public needs to be protected in some way. Parents want their children to have a good education with quality teachers, the public wants a safe and reliable ride, and as far back as Upton Sinclair’s expose of the meatpacking industry, the government has taken a role in providing clean food.
But no matter how pure and noble the intention, laws have unintended consequences. For example, Clark County is one of the largest school districts in the county, and it continually faces teacher shortages. Many people claim it’s because of a lack of funding, the environment, or other factors. The school district is one of the most lavishly funded in the nation; the shortage is really a result of teaching licensure requirements that end up acting as a barrier. Many potential teachers with advanced degrees want to teach but take a look at the bureaucracy they have to navigate and choose something else.
On top of that, the school district added even more requirements to try to stop the epidemic of teacher-student sex scandals. But that only adds one more barrier to an already lengthy process and chronic shortage.
Sometimes the negative consequences are intentional but hidden behind noble rhetoric. Taxi companies dislike the disruptive competition from Uber and Lyft. If anybody who owns a car can be a cab driver, it decreases the value of the million-dollar medallions required to drive an official cab. But if the potential driver had to pass background checks, pay business fees, and essentially all of the barriers that cab companies have, it would preserve the privileged status of current drivers.
The taxi companies can’t come out and say they want to use government regulations to destroy the competition, which often provides better service, so they claim they are only trying to protect the public from unregulated Uber drivers that prey on the public.
Finally, when these regulations are in place, they are often administered with little regard for common sense or the original intent of the law. Big-government liberals are very brave when they are fighting salt, soda, Happy Meals, and little girls with lemonade stands. But liberals won’t lift a finger to stop the genocide of Christians in Iraq, the infiltration of Muslim extremists into their country, or the pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea.
This little girl found out first-hand, as Ronald Reagan said, that the scariest words are “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Morgan Deane, an OpsLens contributor, is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman who also served in the National Guard as an intelligence analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “Decisive Battles in Chinese History,” as well as “Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.” This OpsLens article is used by permission.