People Care About Oppressive Business Regulations When They Ensnare Cute Little Girls

If an 11-year-old girl shouldn't have to deal with stupid bureaucracies, why should any of us?


Too cute to be regulated

The holiday outrage du jour comes from Portland, Oregon, as adorable little Madison Root, 11, was barred from selling her dad's mistletoe at a local weekend craft market to pay for her braces.

KATU in Portland reported the initial incident and what happened afterward:

Madison's saga started on Saturday morning when she was banned from selling the mistletoe she collected in downtown Portland because city code forbids unauthorized sales activity in public parks, which is where vendors hold the weekly Saturday Market.

KATU News aired a story about the 11-year-old on Sunday night after her dad called its newsroom.

By Monday, KATU viewers had placed hundreds of orders and a local entrepreneur even donated $1,000 in seed money to help Madison grow her business.

Meanwhile, officials in City Hall were silent, refusing to return phone calls or speak on camera about the city code that appeared to encourage begging rather than selling.

By Tuesday, television and radio stations across the country aired KATU's report for their own local viewers.

Now that there's a wave of outrage that business regulations can also be used against adorable little moppets, Portland's mayor is discussing possible changes to the city's codes:

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales confirmed Tuesday morning he met with Commissioner Amanda Fritz to discuss why city code would ban a child from selling mistletoe from a public park while allowing begging, pan-handling, singing, and protesting.

A spokesman for Mayor Hales said he plans to contact the staff at Portland's Saturday Market to better understand what happened and whether procedures could be tweaked to allow kids to sell.

But only kids! If some greasy old homeless guy wants to sell knick-knacks to try to save up money for an apartment, to hell with him. Well, unless the Portland Saturday Market (the private nonprofit organization that oversees the sales in the city park) agrees to waive the fee and give him a free membership, which is exactly what they did for little Madison once the news got around.

It's a bit interesting to see how people can be outraged about how these oppressive permitting processes can catch up children (Reason has reported on any number of incidences of child entrepreneurship thwarted by municipal regulations), yet a lot of these same folks see these very same regulations as important to controlling and monitoring local businesses for the alleged safety of consumers and good of the community. Little Madison Root is not some sort of anomaly. She wasn't "caught up in the system." She is exactly the reason for the system. If she were some middle-aged lady trying to sell macramé plant-hangers, most (non-libertarians anyway) would not extend the same outrage at the demand that she should have to get a permit to sell her crafts.

That's a real shame. When kids try to start their own little businesses, we like to think we're teaching them important entrepreneurial skills. When agents of the government shut them down due to suffocating regulatory processes, the kids are the ones teaching us. But rather than learning, leaders like Mayor Hales instead want to make exceptions for the adorable.

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  1. Bourgeois, capitalistic lemonade-stand girls will be the first up against the wall when the proletariat revolution comes. For in a truly socialist state, the means of lemonade production will be nationalized for all to enjoy.

  2. Dirty criminal black guys had to ride at the back of the bus too. But the NAACP didn’t use one of them to go and get herself arrested for not moving to the back of the bus. They got a nice little old lady. Part of advocating for chance is choosing your symbols wisely. If this law is repealed, it will be repealed for everyone not just cute little girls.

    1. But it’s not going to be repealed. They’re proposing to alter it to exempt kids.

      1. The other part of advocating for change is using the symbols to make a larger point. The NAACP didn’t advocate for letting little old ladies have a seat. They used Parks to say everyone should have a seat.

      2. … and then you go for equal rights.

      3. Like when they discover all those food regulations make it impossible for hipster foodies to locavore organic food, we must exempt hipster food.

        1. we must exempt hipster food

          Only if it’s made from real hipster.

        2. Like Caesar salad (illegal in CA until recently).

  3. But rather than learning, leaders like Mayor Hales instead want to make exceptions for the adorable

    Well of course. You see the exact same thing involving endangered animals. People care when the animal is cute or majestic. The slime slug of the Amazon? Not so much.

    This is also tied into how people seem to get much more outraged when the cops shoot people’s dogs than when they shoot actual fucking people.

    1. Eh people worry about manatees. Manatees are neither cute, nor majestic. Even when they’re babies they have a significant cute deficit.

      1. You monster. That fat little water cow is adorable.

        1. That’s funny, that’s just what your mom said about you when you would play in the little inflatable pool.

          1. You’re just mad they only managed to half-abort you.

            1. Charlie’s Mom: I had an abortion. It just didn’t take.

              Charlie: Wh?What does that mean?

              Charlie’s Mom: (happily) It means you survived it. You survived the abortion!

      2. Jesse is just mad because all of his pollution killed off the remaining manatees that would hang around and pass the blunt at the Manhattan Beach pier.

        1. I haven’t had nearly enough breakfast alcohol to know what’s going on. Do we have sea mammals in the area? Maybe some sea lions in PV…

          1. No manatees, no. That’s a creepy Florida thing.

            Sea lions yes – all over the place on the SoCal coast. Ever get a load of the stink of them when the wind blows right off of King Harbor in Redondo? I’ve had them come up close to me and almost steal fish while spearfishing at Haggerty’s…

            1. Jesus, how many people from the South Bay are on this board, and why do we not drink beer together on a semi-regular basis?

              Years ago, off the Santa Cruz wharf, I had a sea lion jump up on the back of my kayak and just breathe heavily with its face right by my ear. The kayak rental people were clearly panicked. It got bored and left eventually.

              1. We really do need to get together and start a South Bay libertarian drinking club. Serious Man and Sloopy can come too.

                1. Is serious man old enough to drink?

                  1. I’m not sure.But his serious demeanor does make him look older. He won’t get carded.

                    1. Wouldn’t we just have to take him to a pub that serves food and get there relatively early anyway?

                    2. We could all meet at the Tattle Tale Room. It’s the closest, shittiest bar to Reason HQ. So I figure some of those miserable souls will be hanging out there, avoiding a deadline.

                    3. Green Bay packers bar? Hmmm… Eh, sounds good.

                2. Is Warrren still here? I know he mentioned being from Torrance, but I didn’t catch if he was still in the area.

                  1. I think he’s in Nor Cal.

                    1. Just uncork a jug of wine and he’ll show up.

            2. I’ll drink anywhere, save for the hermosa beach strand of douche bars. The only place I’ll drink at in hermosa is the underground.

              1. I haven’t been drinking in Hermosa in forever. I do like The Underground though. I usually drink at The Purple Orchid in El Segundo.

                1. You guys shouldn’t make these plans on the board. You never know who might show.

      3. I was always confused about why people cared so much about sea cows. But actually that baby one is pretty fucking cute, jesse. You monster.

        1. I’M THE MONSTER!? I’m not the one that thinks this is adorable. I’ll polish your tiara and get it back to you immediately.

          1. No no, that one is disgusting. You managed to find the only cute photo ever of a baby manatee to illustrate their ugliness, somehow.

            1. Exactly. That’s an example of maximal manatee cuteness. Knowing that the first picture is the highest point that manatees will reach in cuteness we can discount that they are adorable creatures. That one is just an adorable freak.

      4. dude, this made me puke rainbows all over my keyboard. Way too much cute for *reason* of all places.

      5. The squeeze related a story to me whereby he was in bed with a young lady and she asked “what animal does my body remind you of?”. Well, you can’t give him an opening like that.

        He answered: “The noble sea cow”.

    2. And I agree that their outrage is badly prioritized. But if that outrage stops the shootings then a good has been achieved.

      You know who else worries about motivations instead of outcomes? 😛

      1. Ha, good one.

        I would like to see the current level of outrage for shot dogs, and a proportionally larger level of outrage for shot people. That would be nice.

        1. But those shot people were probably criminals and thugs and therefore deserved it. Why do you love criminals so much? SOFT ON CRIME!!!!!11!!! /derp

        2. I would like to see the current level of outrage for shot dogs

          Money where your mouth is?

          1. (seems I misunderstood your point – you’d like to see as much outrage over people shootings as there is over dog shootings. I don’t see much outrage over dog shootings, though)

    3. I still remember all the carry on about “dolphin-free tuna.” No one gave a shit about the tuna.

  4. You do realize this girl’s wares are likely to lead to a continued rise in teen pregnancy. Which leads to terrorism.

    1. And herpes. We can never, ever, forget about herpes.

      1. Or MEGA-AIDS.

        1. “Just one teaspoon of Super-AIDS up your butt and you’re dead in three years.”

          1. “Ghosts don’t exist and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Except the super-AIDS.”

    2. So this girl is selling buses that only hit teens?

  5. Her unfettered capitalism is tyranny.

    1. I nominate “unfettered” as word of the year.

  6. When kids try to start their own little businesses, we like to think we’re teaching them important entrepreneurial skills.

    Somebody forgot to teach these kids about payola. You have to pay or your songs won’t get played.

  7. Well, considering mistletoe is a parasitic plant in the wild, shouldn’t the all knowing mayor be afraid of these plants attaching to people’s brain stems?! Or something.

  8. city codes tell you what these folks value. They hate entrepreneurship but will do something like this when a kid is involved. They allow the beggars and the protestors because street people make for convenient props in pushing the “do something” agenda.

  9. So the adorable kid selling mistletoe on behalf of her father will be exempted, but if the father sold the stuff himself he’d have to pay the extortion?

    Isn’t this violating some sort of child labor law?

    1. So, anyone who wants to avoid the extortion can just hire some adorable little urchins to hawk their wares.

      1. They’re takin’ our monocle-polishers!

        1. Funny you should mention that, but J.i.MB Industries has just opened a new talent agency subsidiary. We pluck the most adorable waifs from our silver-topped, endangered-rhino-horn cane factories, monocle polishing shops, and bitcoin mines to be the face of your business when adorable waifishness is the difference between regulatory intrusion and having a knick-knack stand in public space. With reasonable rental rates, we also have a lease-to-buy option for those who need a long-term solution. Why spend your time running around with an oversized butterfly net when J.i.MB Talent Conglomerate can save your valuable time and provide the Adorphans? your business needs.

          1. Leela: Hi, Bender. We’d like to adopt a child.

            Bender: Well, you’ve come to the right place because Honest Bender’s Orphanarium means discount orphans. Now, little lady. What do I have to do to send you home with 12 orphans today?

            Adlai: Uh, I’m afraid we only want one.

            Bender: Whatever you say, chief. I’ll show you what I got in stock.

          2. “Adorphans” really makes this a golden post.

            1. Management wasn’t sure about it, but Leon in marketing insisted it would be a hit. He’ll get bonus crusts of stale bread for a few week as a reward and an option to be upgraded to manservant status when he turns 18 in 7 years.

  10. But free speech is good, and commercial speech [shudder] is baaaad! Imagine the chaos if people were allowed to sell anything everywhere!

  11. Would anyone have cared if she was an ugly black kid?

  12. Next step: the Tiny Tim rule. Unlicensed vendors must be this tall/this broken/this adorably bedecked in random scraps of wintertime clothing.

  13. Regulations for thee, but not for meeeeeeeeeee! Please sir, might I have some more gruel?

  14. I’m a lot more concerned about the licensing and fees and rent seeking that prevent entrance into occupations or business then I am having a designated no solicing zone in a park.

    1. Yeah, if we’re going to have public parks, then I have no problem making them commerce-free zones.

      but that’s why we shouldn’t have public parks.

      1. but that’s why we shouldn’t have public parks.

        Exactly. And now I suggest we continue to burnish the libertarian image by making cute little Madison Root the poster child for why there should be no public parks.

        1. I think it would be more interesting to focus on how local farmers markets exclude competition by charging hefty upfront membership fees.

          If we’re going to have farmers markets in public parks, then ANYONE should be free to participate. You should be able to drop by with a folding table and a box of tomatoes and sell them.

          The way they actually work is that you have local vendors who control them, so all the booths every week are the same people, charging jacked up prices for “artisanal” soap and so forth.

          1. It’s actually worse than you describe. I once looked into the regulations on Farmer’s Markets in several California counties. Some now require a certain percentage of vendors to accept food stamps so now they are Federally regulated as well. The idea of a local farmer selling a seasonal crop at a farmer’s market in California is just another delusional urban myth, but one the “hipster locavores” eat up without realizing the facade. This little girl just needed a couple of hundred dollars in permits and several pages of paperwork, along with her proof of insurance, proof of health inspection, her proof of compliance with the Endangered Species Act, her OSHA inspection, her I-9 (proof of legal immigration for her employees), and her proof of compliance with the Water Quality Control Board. Oh, she probably needs a sales tax permit as well, along with filing quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS. That should get her started anyway. By this time next year she might be ready to start selling her mistletoe legally, at least if she were in California. Oregon might be slower. I wonder how different the reaction would have been if she were selling small bags of marijuana in a park?

  15. does her business have to pay a shared responsibilty fee for not providing health insurance?

  16. City regulations really aren’t the issue here. The girl set up shop at a privately run market without the permission of that market and she got kicked out. Other than the cuteness angle, wtf?

    (SLD that the city shouldn’t be cutting crony lease deals with private organizations.)

    1. The girl set up shop at a privately run market

      No, she set up shop at a public park. I think you’re confused.

      1. The park and other land is rented out to Portland Saturday Market, Inc. by the city for their event.

        1. The *entire* park? So I can’t walk my dog there without the market’s permission either?

          1. So selling stuff and walking your dog are the same thing? That’s Tulpariffic!

          2. The park (Ankeny Plaza, it’s about a block in size) and surrounding streets.

    2. Re: Cdr Lytton,

      City regulations really aren’t the issue here.

      It would seem like they are the issue: “[…]because city code forbids unauthorized sales activity in public parks[…]”

      ‘Unauthorized’ reads like ‘not letting the city have a piece of the action first.’

      The girl set up shop at a privately run market[…]

      A privately-run market means a private venue, which in this case is not. The market very likely obtained a permit to set up shop there after greasing a few gears, but that does not mean ipso facto the issue is with the sellers; the rules are set up by the city.

      1. The difference between authorized and unauthorized lies with the market that leases the space from the city. The application of that regulation here is little more than a specialized version of trespass laws. If the market waves their magic wand (which they quickly did after this story became public), she can vend to her heart’s content.

        Again, SLD on crony leases but leasing public property to a private party for a festival or concert or some other sort of event is not uncommon.

        1. If it were about leasing, then begging wouldnt have been specifically allowed. The “private market” would be able to control that too under the same trespassing laws.

          But, begging was considered free speech in a public park, while selling wasnt.

    3. Well, the city grants that “private” market a monopoly on use of the space. And that private market then excludes competition by setting fees very high.
      Or perhaps the problem is that the city charges and excessive amount to rent out the space, and thereby renders it too costly for small producers to be able to afford to participate.

  17. I’d wager you guys that the solution will wind up being even more special pleading, but somehow I doubt any of you are gullible enough to take that bet.

  18. Portland Mayor Charlie Hales confirmed Tuesday morning he met with Commissioner Amanda Fritz to discuss why city code would ban a child from selling mistletoe from a public park while allowing begging, pan-handling, singing, and protesting.

    “Because she was selling stuff! For money! PROFITZ!!!!!!!” *Points and shrieks like Donald Sutherland in Attack of the Body Snatchers* “Begging and pan-handling is A-OK because they’re not engaging in icky commerce. As for singing and protesting, well, blame that damn first ammendment!” – Amanda Fritz

  19. Well, it’s PORTLAND, so of course dirty capitalism is banned but begging and protesting is A-OK. We can’t have kids growing up with the idea that turning a profit is somehow legitimate.

    I can assure you that Portland’s residents are not going to allow just anyone to hock their dirty wares in public parks.

    But there’s a side issue here, and that they DO allow people to hock their wares in the park, just only people who pay the FEE. Farmers Markets everywhere (like the Portland Saturday Market) have this structure where they extract hefty fees upfront from people for the right to participate. The fees are generally high enough to keep out casual producers. And the effect is that farmers markets are essentially cartels run by local vendors, and are not genuinely participatory.

    Just for example, I have a sizeable backyard garden, which produces a surplus of tomatoes, cucumbers, and zuchinni in midsummer. I would love to be able to hop over to the farmers market a few blocks away on saturday and sell my surplus tomatoes. But I can’t, because the $500 per season fee for participation would wipe out any money I might make. The vendors who are able to afford to pay the fee are larger local producers who are full-time farmers.

    The fee structure effectively makes it not worthwhile for local residents to put their yards to productive use by growing vegetables.

    1. Also, the farmers who participate basically hop around to all the farmers markets in the area on different days of the week. My guess is that one fee gets you into all the farmers markers in the county. So they are able to sell food full time.

      Basically, it’s structured so it’s not worth it unless you are doing it full time. And that’s deliberate because it protects the established participants from competition from part-timers and hobbyists.

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