Sunday, January 7, 2018

Lessons from a Lemonade Stand

 Lessons from a Lemonade Stand: An Unconventional Guide to Government
© 2017 Connor Boyack
145 pages

Who knew  lemonade was a gateway drug to anarchism?   Beginning with the true story of several girls who were bullied and fined by their local Officer not-so Friendly because they were selling delicious beverages without a permit from the city, Connor Bayack asks readers old and new a question: what does it mean to be lawful? Where do laws come from, and what happens when laws support oppression, or suppress something innocent or even good?   In a short work that draws from Frederic Bastiat, Hannah Arendt, and Monty Python,  Lessons from a Lemonade Stand is an education in law, and rights, as well as an appeal for youngsters to go forth and smash the state.  Or at least, sell lemonade and braid hair without a license.

Although Lessons from a Lemonade Stand  is written for teenagers,  the content is by no means juvenile,  exploring as it does the nature of law, rights, and the legitimacy of government. Drawing on Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, Boyack argues that everyone has natural rights which exist regardless of any government or other person’s respect of them, and that natural law exists to protect these rights.  Because the natural law is based on the respect and protection of these rights, laws cannot violate them and retain their own legitimacy.  The same is true for governments, which are organized to protect these rights: its existence is predicated on those rights being respected, and thus it cannot do what is unlawful for the people who created it do.  Legitimacy also requires consent, since the government has no life beyond what its members give it.  There is then a difference between something being bad because it violates  natural rights – theft and murder being the two most obvious --  and something being bad because some entity, be it a gang or a federal regulatory board,  has declared it bad.   Similarly, there is a difference between the natural rights guarding life, liberty, and property, and the statutory  ‘rights' created by governments, which vary widely from place to place and often involve infringing upon the natural rights of others. Having established the difference between violations of the natural vs statutory law, Boyack then reviews a heroes panel of people, many of them young, who have stood for what was ‘right’ against the government’s actions.  They stood in the US, in Germany, in Egypt, in Pakistan – across the world, people recognize that just because the  ‘government’ says something is right doesn’t make it so. Even those with the best of intentions can go dead wrong when they violate the rights of others.

There’s a lot of information compressed in this little book and it’s full of real-world examples that will add a little fire to the blood. I'd never heard of Helmuth Hübener, the youngest boy (17) to ever be sentenced to  death by the 'people's court' in Nazi-controlled Berlin. The moment when a person realizes that truth and right exist independent of authority -- that police, or teachers, or politicians can be absolutely wrong -- is the moment that a person begins their own journey as an independent thinker and human being.  Although I'm in the choir a book like this is preaching to,  I also found its review of law helpful.

Connor Boyack is head of the Libertas Institute, which in Utah exists to fight the lemonade police and others. In addition to organizing legislative challenges to casual tyranny, Boyack also writes children's books about the principles of economics, politics, and liberty. My favorite title is The Tuttle Twins and the Road to Surfdom.  His illustrator is Elijah Stanfield.

From The Tuttle Twins and the Miraculous Pencil, based on Leonard Reed's "I, Pencil".

"Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right". - Henry David Thoreau, "On Resistance to Civil Government"


  1. Interesting. The Lemonade Police made it to the BBC Newsroom so I've heard of that particular incident. Much chuckling & shaking of heads ensued. Indeed we've had some similar incidents over here which caused much sniggering aimed at 'the Authorities'. I'm not a believer in Natural Rights or Natural Law though....

    I thought I'd posted a reply about 15 minutes ago but it seems to have vanished. Maybe I pressed the wrong button or something? [wonders...]

    1. I got the email and couldn't find your response -- I even checked different browsers to eliminate the cache possibility.

      In response to your question about the origins of natural law...that's part of why I want to find a good book on natural rights & natural law, although personally I try to root it in our animal behavior. All creatures resist and flee death, most languish in captivity, and many can recognize when what is "theirs" is being stolen...whether that's the food they're trying to eat, or their mate. Even a pet will snarl if their owner tries to take the food they're gnawing on. The fact that so many cultures , religions, and philosophies enshrine the golden rule indicates to me there is an instinctive basis for acceptable behavior that predates culture.

      Of course, this was one of the arguments from the American Independence period: some, including Tories and rebels alike, argued that American rights came from English law, and others -- mostly rebels -- argued that the rights were natural and we didn't owe George a blessed thing. If government can be allowed to be the arbiter of rights, then heaven help us.

    2. I don't think that you can base much on snarling dogs to be honest. [grin] I think of Rights in an Emperors New Clothes light. We all pretend we have Rights. The Government go along with this and let us pretend - until it becomes inconvenient... at which point we have no Rights. Natural Rights and Natural Law are comforting Myths we live by. But I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that one!

      Doesn't the Declaration say "We *hold* these truths to be self-evident...." Not that they *are* self-evident (which they're clearly not) but that we *believe* that they are.... At least that my uninformed interpretation of the phrase (which I may have got wrong!).

    3. Dogs were an off the cuff -- or should I say "off the leash" -- example, but my reading into Frans de Waal and a few other primatologists hints at moral instincts...a primitive sense of justice that we can use as a starting point.

      As far as I know, your reading of "hold" is correct...pretty much the same as "contend" or "believe".

  2. I had heard about this book. It seems to really dig into all kinds of fascinating and important concepts. I tend to think about these things a lot.

    I find that when it comes to a lot of this, there are not easy answers.

    1. I just spotted on Amazon and said "Ooh, I'll bet you that's on occupational licensing!" and bought it. Or..rented it. Sometimes I can't tell the difference between Kindle Unlimited books and really cheap kindle books.

      Occupational licensing is a small but pet peeve of mine. I think contempt for it can bring people's a social justice issue for the liberals, and a liberty issue for the conservatives and libertarians.


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