Public health officials in Portland, Oregon, shut down a 7-year-old's lemonade stand.

I do not mean merely to sneer at the absurdity of this incident. Public health is a valid field of government activity when it is directed at combatting existing agents of harm, such as infectious diseases and posion sold as food. Government's right to act pre-emptively, however, needs to pass some standard of probable cause. But in the minds of Oregon's public health officials, it seems, the damning characteristic of little Julie Murphy's lemonade stand was that she sought to make a money from it: "When you go to a public event and set up shop, you're suddenly engaging in commerce," Eric Pippert, the food-borne illness prevention program manager for the Oregon public health department, told [The Oregonian]. "The fact that you're small-scale I don't think is relevant." Ah, "engaging in commerce"! Very suspicious, indeed. I hope they don't charge her mother with corrupting a youth.



 

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