11-year-old Chloe Stirling works on a designer cupcake. (Source: Derik Holtmann / Belleville News-Democrat)
TROY, IL — An 11-year-old entrepreneur recently learned a lesson about the economics of living in a police state when her home-based cupcake business was closed-down by local bureaucrats.
When people started noticing young Chloe Stirling’s cake decorating skills, they started requesting she bake them orders for birthdays and holidays. Her clever designs quickly turned into a childhood business venture, as her eager customers gave her money in exchange for birthday cakes and baked goods.
She’s created some 3-dimensional designs with her cakes, including a soccer-ball cake filled with pudding and cupcakes shaped like high-heels. Her largest order topped out at 220 cupcakes. She has also donated batches to charity fundraisers.
With twelve satisfied year-round clients, she began saving the money she made with the hope of buying her first car when she turns sixteen.
In the long term, she hopes to open her own bakery with the money she saves.
At least, she was, until the local county bureaucrats got wind of her creative spirit. When a local newspaper ran a favorable article about her cupcake decorating, the conscienceless regulators decided to seek out the child and quash her business.
Chloe Stirling shows off her cake-decorating skills. (Source: Heather Stirling via Facebook)
The Madison County Health Department demanded that the girl stop selling cupcakes or face legal consequences. Chloe had to cancel a number of orders and was left broken-hearted.
In order to sell cupcakes, another kitchen must be constructed in her family’s home, she must pay fees, and follow a number of arbitrary regulations. Or, she could acquire an expensive storefront, and be burdened with the costs of renting commercial property, buying equipment, and of course paying taxes and other assorted fees.
She must obtain a permit from the government and allow inspectors to monitor her operation in order to avoid the wrath of county food controllers and abide by the Illinois State Food Sanitation Code.
“A rule is a rule,” squawked spokeswoman Amy Yeager to KMOV.
Ms. Stirling’s plight is far from unique. While it is particularly infuriating when a child is crushed under the proverbial government boot, the fact is that the law oppresses everyone.
Onerous requirements for commercial-grade kitchens, legal compliance, inspections, taxes, fees, and the like are all designed to keep the “little guy” (or girl) out of the market.
Big name retailers hate competition, and therefore lobby to make the business start-ups extremely expensive and difficult. And while most Americans sheepishly believe that such regulations are there to keep them safe and healthy, the practical reality is that they simply serve to crush free enterprise and help create favorable market conditions for the existing giants a given market — be it cupcakes or manufactured goods or financial services.
The system is designed to keep innovators like Chloe working for someone else — not competing with the powers that be. With all the artificially-imposed hassles and hurdles, working for an established company starts to seem much easier, cheaper, and less stressful. An honest start-up business has everything working against it.
Anyone with economic literacy will acknowledge that this phenomenon is harmful to the economy and the employment rate. The government makes it illegal to work outside a narrow band of regulated actions. As restrictive as California is, the state recently demonstrated that loosening homemade food regulations created over one thousand new local businesses the first year.
The idea that a government bureaucracy can keep people safe is a delusion. People get sick even from the most highly-regulated food sources. The red tape and regulation creates a false sense of security at best, and a crushing burden at worst. Eating inspector-approved cupcakes cannot taste nearly as sweet as the freedom to do things without constantly needing permission.
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