In Haverford, PA, a small town outside of Philadelphia, police recently stopped children from selling lemonade in their neighborhood because they lacked a permit. The police relied on a town ordinance forbidding street vending without a permit.
The children involved were obviously upset, but fortunately for them it turned out that the law was inapplicable to those under 16. So everything works out, right?
Wrong. What is it about turning 16 which suddenly removes one’s right to sell lemonade to one’s neighbors? Why should age have anything to do with commerce? With the proliferation of age based laws like the drinking, smoking, voting, and driving ages, we’ve gotten used to the idea that age plays a significant role in determining whether or not someone is really a person possessing the full rights of the individual. This conception of rights has enormous potential to become a slippery slope, leading (comparably innocuously) to incidents like this or (more ominously) to a more thorough denial of rights to the very old and very young. I’d argue that in the latter case the worst has perhaps already happened in the form of abortion. But either way, it’s a beyond problematic view of individual rights.Published in