The PJ Tatler

'You Didn't Build That' Lemonade Stand Because Government Wouldn't Let You

In April 2011, Verizon rolled out a series of ads in which a little girl uses wireless smart phone technology to build her lemonade stand into a thriving corporation.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil described the ads as “a wonderful depiction of the enormous power of the tools that are in all of our hands — illustrating the democratization of innovation, and the increasing youthfulness of entrepreneurship.” They get at a basic truth: Good ideas unleash economic growth and create jobs, and anyone who is willing to put their good ideas into action stands a good chance of succeeding.

President Obama would likely say that Susie didn’t build her business, and Verizon didn’t build its business. They both used government roads and infrastructure to build their businesses and therefore owe more of what they earn to the government, in the form of higher taxes.

But the early 21st century reality in America is that not only is government not enabling the creation of business, it is actively getting in the way. Suppose Susie actually existed and wanted to start a lemonade stand. From one state to another, government would send out its law enforcement officials to stop her cold.

Georgia: MIDWAY, Ga. — Police in Georgia have shut down a lemonade stand run by three girls trying to save up for a trip to a water park, saying they didn’t have a business license or the required permits.

Iowa: CORALVILLE, Iowa — Police in Coralville shut down at least three lemonade stands run by children over RAGBRAI weekend. According to Dustin Krutsinger, police shut down his four-year-old daughters stand after just 30 minutes. Krutsinger said the officer told his wife, “this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do this.”

Krutsinger said his daughter was selling lemonade for 25 cents a glass, and had made less than $5. According to the city of Coralville, 4-year-old Abigail Krutsinger was in violation of a two day ordinance, which required all vendors to have permits when RAGBRAI rolled into town.

Government hostility to the simple lemonade stand has gotten so bad that Forbes declared it a “war” and last August there was a protest in Washington. With arrests.

Now let’s look again at President Obama’s condescending anti-work remarks. I’ll highlight a different part than the section that has drawn the most attention.

“I’m always struck by people who think, ‘Well it must be because I was just so smart.’ There are a lot of smart people out there! ‘It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.’ Let me tell you, there are a whole bunch of hard working people out there!” He goes on from there to tout various government services, used by the wildly successful and the totally slothful, as the basis for anyone’s success in life. Other than his words, the most disturbing thing about what he said is the cheers he enjoyed. These are the people who put bumper stickers on their cars calling for killing all rich people.

It’s Obama’s pipe dream, that government deserves credit for your success. A government that powerful, though, can also create an environment that makes it more difficult to succeed. Obama never mentions that. “You didn’t build that” may be the most demeaning thing an American president has ever said to those who, through their own blood, sweat and tears, built successful businesses. I certainly don’t remember any government officials helping us when we started Hot Air back in 2006. We worked 20 hour days and sacrificed nearly everything — personally, I sacrificed my career at NASA — to see that effort succeed, and it has.

The reality is, whether we’re talking about lemonade stands or his EPA regulations or ObamaTax, Barack Obama stands atop a government that is becoming more and more hostile to individual rights, free markets and economic freedom. His government is not an enabler of success, it is a destroyer of success.

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