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.