Crushing the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Religion & Liberty Online

Crushing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

I saw Joe Carter’s post on Entrepreneurship and Poverty earlier today, and it got me thinking back to a subject that has been nagging at me for quite a while. It seems to me that starting a business is simply too hard these days, and for rather artificial reasons. But perhaps I’m just biased, and it’s not as hard as I thought? Seeking the truth, I did what any millennial would do and consulted google.

What I found was a fascinating article from John Stossel. In it, he details all the regulatory hoops he would have to jump through in order to engage in the most basic from of entrepreneurship in Americana: the lemonade stand.

It made me want to try to jump through the legal hoops required to open a simple lemonade stand in New York City. Here’s some of what one has to do:

  • Register as sole proprietor with the County Clerk’s Office (must be done in person)
  • Apply to the IRS for an Employer Identification Number
  • Complete a 15-hr. food protection course!
  • After the course, register for an exam that takes 1 hour. You must score 70 percent to pass. (Sample question: “What toxins are associated with the puffer fish?”) If you pass, allow three to five weeks for delivery of Food Protection Certificate.
  • Register for sales tax Certificate of Authority
  • Apply for a Temporary Food Service Establishment Permit. Must bring copies of the previous documents and completed forms to the Consumer Affairs Licensing Center.

Then, at least 21 days before opening your establishment, you must arrange for an inspection with the Health Department’s Bureau of Food Safety and Community Sanitation. It takes about three weeks to get your appointment. If you pass, you can set up a business once you:

  • Buy a portable fire extinguisher from a company certified by the New York Fire Department and set up a contract for waste disposal.
  • We couldn’t finish the process. Had we been able to schedule our health inspection and open my stand legally, it would have taken us 65 days.

I sold lemonade anyway. I looked dumb hawking it with my giant fire extinguisher on the table.

Months to open a lemonade stand! Imagine how disheartening this must be for non-reporters who are actually trying to open a new business. Now imagine that disappointment, but instead imagine what a child might feel for getting in trouble for failing to meet these regulations. Because that’s exactly what happened to a pair of young girls in Georgia, and it’s what prompted Stossel to try and meet all the rules. The government has a knack for crushing the entrepreneurial spirit, and it doesn’t mind starting young.

This is spiritually devastating. In “The Entrepreneurial Vocation” Father Robert Sirico refers us to the parable of the talents, where three servants are given money (talents) by their master. Two of them invest their money and make a profit for their master. The third chose to bury his money because he was fearful of making a loss. The master is outraged with the third.  Among the many lessons from this parable, Father Sirico points out the moral lesson that we ought to face uncertainty in an enterprising way. It is shameful for government to obstruct this moral duty. Such obstacles encourage us to be less like the first two servants, and more like the fearful third servant.

John MacDhubhain

Recent alumnus of Michigan State, future student of George Mason