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Sometimes there’s an argument that is so outrageously idiotic and virulent that it’s hard to ignore. The following is one such case, written by Terry Savage, a conservative columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. Recently, she came across a lemonade stand where the three girls behind it were giving away cups of lemonade for free. She decries it as “indicative of the lack of economic responsibility we’re passing on to future generations”. She writes:
“You must charge something for the lemonade,” I explained. “That’s the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs — how much the lemonade costs, and the cups — and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money.”
Though she casually concludes that this little scenario is indicative of the US’s economic woes, it is perhaps most ironic that she is the one who is precisely the reason why there is something wrong about society today. What I find so despicable is that she, and perhaps some of the society at large, encapsulates life events into objects with monetary value. The currency of social goodness surpasses the power of bills and coins, but a society that pushes people to recognize profit over kindness is one that breeds a society of separation and discontent. There is value in teaching a child about the benefit of earning and saving money, but I think we as adults sometimes need to learn from children in there way of teaching us that money isn’t everything.
“No!” I exclaimed from the back seat. “That’s not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They’re giving away their parents’ things — the lemonade, cups, candy. It’s not theirs to give.”
There is an element of truth there, but it is clearly the choice of the parent and of the child to opt to provide the lemonade for free. Terry then takes the analogy towards the way the government provides benefits that people then take for granted (saying then that in reality taxpayers end up bearing the brunt of the costs). If she had it her way, then, no entity, no individual, no government would function were it not for some amount of profitability. Why can it not be that at least these children can revel in their ideal, in their business model, in their hopes of making someone smile? (You could always extend the argument further that giving things away for free sometimes is a perfectly viable and powerful economic model).
Should you come to my door dehydrated, parched and wanting water, I’d ask for a dollar. Hm?