By now you have probably all heard of Chloe Stirling, the 11 year old girl whose booming home cupcake business was shut down by the state of Illinois. Why? Because they stated that her home failed to meet the sanitation standards required of a "professional kitchen" by Illinois law.
Social media responses were all over the map. Many felt bad for a little girl just trying to make a little of her own money and felt that the government was overstepping. Some (and these are the ones who concern me) felt that the government was well within its purview to step in, stating that "the requirements are the same for anyone who wants to sell food items - why should they bend the law for her just because she happens to be 11 years old instead of, say, 30?" They suggested that she rent space in a professional kitchen, since that can be cheap and easy. Right.
Have you ever tried to enter into a legal contract - rental or otherwise - at age 11? It's surprisingly less easy than you might think. It's no picnic for the business offering the lease either, since most business insurance plans refuse to cover anyone who is not actually employed by the business. Have you ever tried, as a business owner, to hire an 11 year old? Also surprisingly less easy than you might think. Those child labor laws sure are a constant annoyance, aren't they?
So you rent to her parents and have them sign a waiver, right? Wrong. The insurance company still will not cover anything. Because of the way child labor laws are written, even with a full-disclosure waiver of liability signed by her parents in the blood of their firstborn and notarized by the Angel Gabriel, the parents still have full rights to sue the business if anything happens to her while she is on the premises. Not only that, but the business also assumes responsibility for the child's product - meaning that if something were to go wrong with the cupcakes, the customer would be able to take legal action against the business instead of just the girl baking the cupcakes.
And here's the kicker: the "sanitation standard" she likely failed to meet was a three step sink. Most houses don't have them, and they are expensive to install. But I'll do you one better - many counties within the state of Illinois routinely grant temporary food sales permits to groups and businesses for events like an outdoor chili cook-off. They meet the "three step sink" requirement by placing three buckets full of water on the ground in the vicinity of the heat source. Any guesses as to how Chloe Stirling's home kitchen (lack of three water buckets notwithstanding) stacks up next to these guys in terms of sanitation?
The real problem here is not that the government regulates sanitation standards in food service (although it absolutely is a concern). The real problem here hinges on the fact that they go out of their way to halt the business efforts of children. (Lemonade stands are being shut down. Girl Scouts are being told that they can't sell cookies in their own front yards.) And yes, it does make a difference that she is 11 and not 30. Here's why: if you tell a child she can't do something enough times, by the time she is an adult she will STOP TRYING. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to discourage even the brightest of children. My uncle, for example, was five years old when he started learning algebra. Bored in church, he would copy problems from his brother (then in high school) and work them out on his own. But if you asked him if he was smart, he would say no - his siblings had called him "stupid" so many times that he actually believed it was true.
What happens when you beat the entrepreneurial spirit out of your children? You have a populace that accepts victimhood as inevitable and sits docile as the government takes over more and more of their liberties and their lives.