Trade as a Government Favor

Monday, May 21, 2012

Matthew Yglesias reports that the state of Washington is, in his words, about to "partially legalize home cooking". He elaborates:

Details vary from place to place, but the standard legal rule in the United States is that if you want to bake some cookies in your house then you're free to do so. You can also give the cookies you baked to friends, family, and neighbors. You can bring the cookies in to work to share with coworkers. You're also free to exchange the cookies in a wide range of contexts. You can use them as your contribution to a pot luck, for example. But what you typically can't do with your cookies is trade them for money. If you have a bunch of fresh baked cookies but need some money, and someone else wants to give you money for cookies, you're out of luck. You baked the cookies at home, not in a commercial kitchen. [bold added]
Yglesias seems to think this is a good thing:
Absent the terrible economy this probably wouldn't be a big deal one way or another, but with things being what they are these kind of barriers to gainful employment matter a fair amount.
I disagree. What Washington is doing is worse than nothing. As pervasive as government regulations are, it's a no-brainer that home cooking is far from the only thing that would get someone into trouble for the crime of doing it at home and accepting money for it without the government's blessing. In other words, this story demonstrates that, for all practical purposes, it is illegal to sell things in sufficient quantities to earn a living in the United States.

What Washington (and every state) needs isn't a laundry list (beginning with cookies) of things we serfs are allowed to sell, but a repeal of every law that bars such trade. Fraud and negligence are already (properly) illegal, and such organizations as Underwriters Laboratories and the Consumers Union (despite the frequent shilling by the latter for more government controls) show that safety and quality standards (not a proper concern of the government, anyway) will not go out the window without people being forced to comply.

What we need from our government is not permission to sell cookies, but protection of our individual rights, including the right to trade with others. Washington's move is deceptive: It further entrenches the opposite premise.

-- CAV

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