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Oh, those bureaucrats

If you’re of the government-never-does-anything-right frame of mind, the headline in the Oregonian this morning had to be just the thing: “Multnomah County chief apologizes for health inspectors who shut down 7-year-old’s lemonade stand at local art show.”

A 7-year-old’s lemonade stand? What a perfect video clip to demonstrat the point . . .

Except that if you move past the headline into the story, the picture is good deal muddier than that.

Technically, selloing any food or drink – even a child’s lemonade stand – even in front of your house requires a city permit in Portland. As a practical matter, the regulators said, they don’t enforce stands by children in their neighborhoods.

What did get their attention was the case of the 7-year-old from Oregon City, who with her mother’s help decided to set up shop (selling Koolaid) not at home but at a large commercial arts and food event in more of the most bustling parts of Portland, during a festival. Where everyone else selling their wares on the street had to buy a permit.

Which isn’t to say that an exception might not have been reasonable. But if you’re heading directly into commercial competition, as part of something that’s an actual adult business place rather than the place of children’s hobbies, you place by the rules of where you are.

Not as simple as this is likely to be made out to be.

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