An election-day lesson in free-market economics

posted at 2:21 pm on November 6, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

It was a glorious, sky-blue day when I went to vote earlier today in Northern Virginia, and while there was a forty-ish-minute wait at my polling location, everyone was chatting and cheerful and there was a very good community vibe going on. Standing in line, privately reflecting on the rather rare and miraculous feat that is the American experiment and the peaceful transition of power, I spotted something else in the distance that warmed my heart in equal measure.

On one of the lawns of the homes across the street from the elementary school that served as my polling place, some not-yet-of-voting-age youngsters were taking advantage of the mass of adults swarming their ‘hood, their prime location, and their day off from school — not by sleeping in or playing video games — but by selling coffee and hot chocolate! How brilliant is that? I definitely ran a lemonade stand or two back in the day, but I have to admit a homemade coffee stand for the colder weather probably never would’ve crossed my mind at that age.

There were several kids staffing the stand, as well as a supervisory adult or two, complete with to-go supplies and large, colorful signs advertising their product. So, not only were these young entrepreneurs capitalizing on an excellent opportunity to make some pocket money, but adults who maybe rushed out of the house to get to the voting station with nary a chance for their morning coffee, or who were feeling chilled in the November air, could purchase a warming, caffeinated beverage if they so desired.

That’s the beauty of a free-enterprise system: These kids weren’t driven out of bed and to work by philanthropic notions of grandeur; rather, they were motivated to get crackin’ by the possibilities for making a profit, and in a mutually beneficial and voluntary transaction between two parties, they provided the voting adults with a convenient option for their morning joe. The profit motive isn’t evil or scary — it’s the source of all of the infrastructure, goods, services, and conveniences at our disposal. Our political freedom is a precursor to our economic freedom, and our economic freedom is the driver of our prosperity. Ain’t America great?

I bet those kids made a killing this morning, and kids like them everywhere will continue to do so — that is, until nanny-staters and regulators and tax collectors swoop down on them, telling them that they need to give back to those kids who did decide to sleep in this morning, because they didn’t actually build that coffee stand. Oof.


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