This May 1947 ad in Life Magazine depicted a boy named Butch with a “leminade” stand that he had made, because he was trying to earn money to purchase a bicycle.  The ad continued that Butch would succeed because he had “energy, vision…and the habit of working hard for what he wants.”  The ad concluded by using Butch as a symbol of what made America an economic powerhouse and reminded the reader that America’s “most valuable natural resource lies in the ambition and initiative of Americans like Butch.”

But that was 1947.  In 2011, the initiative and creativity of children has found them on the wrong side of the law.  After a flurry of cases where lemonade stands were shut down for failure to obtain a permit or other similar offenses, husband and father of two Robert Fernandes got the idea to organize Lemonade Freedom Day this Saturday, August 20th.  Mr. Fernandes wanted to bring attention to how even mundane, quotidian activities like children setting up a lemonade stand are increasingly becoming matters of the state.  Children and their parents along with activists are being encouraged to set up lemonade stands in towns across America to declare their lemonade independence.  Several larger events are planned in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Houston.

While lemonade may be a small matter on the surface, what it reveals about the nature of the government is very intriguing.  Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that human nature contained a certain propensity “to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another.”  No clearer example is needed to support this than a child’s lemonade stand.  Children learn very important lessons about voluntary interaction through the process of becoming a lemonade stand proprietor.  They learn that through industry they can make a profit.  But the way to make this profit is by creating a product that your customers willingly purchase from you.  This fundamental market process is the essence of how humans cooperate in society.  When the government shuts down a child’s initiative, what lesson is being conveyed?  What is the government doing to the kernel of creativity that is being fostered within their young spirits?

In an interview with Civil Disobedience Evolution Fund, organizer Robert Fernandes worried that, “Too often, young children are taught to obey the authorities. They are taught not to even dare to question them. Just do as they are told. I challenge this notion with my children, and I encourage other parents to do the same…We need to encourage their free and curious minds”. The free and curious mind of a child is the spirit of individuality that lies within each human.  Every time the police show up and tell seven-year-old kids that they have to put their lemonade stand away, because they have broken the law, a little bit of their free and curious spirit dies.  In several of these instances, the children were afraid of going to jail for their actions.  Our children today are being molded into conformity, and the state claiming the right to regulate a lemonade stand contributes to that process.

The bulwark of a free society is free individuals.  Individuals who have within them a cultivated sense of independency – people who are free and know so!  If we are to ever see a free society, we must start with teaching our children what that freedom entails.  Their creativity, ingenuity, and imagination are  fundamental parts of their human development, and this expression of individuality must be defended.  Emma Goldman wrote in “The Individual, Society, and the State” that the “genius of man” is just another term for personality and individuality, and that individuals “paved the way for every human advance, for every step toward a freer and better world; in science, philosophy and art, as well as in industry, whose genius rose to the heights, conceiving the ‘impossible’, visualizing its realization and imbuing others with his enthusiasm to work and strive for it.”

American children desperately need the lessons that come with running a lemonade stand.  This Saturday, stand with them- for lemonade and for liberty!