Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Those Heartless Kids

Terry Savage, "a nationally known expert on personal finance and a regular television commentator on issues related to investing and financial markets," had an op-ed in the Chicago Sun Times two days ago in which she tells a story of stopping at a child's lemonade stand. The setting tickles me. They're passing through an upscale neighborhood and the three children are under the supervision of a nanny, something I see all the time on my bike rides through Spokane.

But what irritates Savage is the fact that the children are giving the lemonade away instead of selling. Imagine that. Giving something away for free!

"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."

I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.

"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."

Hmmm, no mention of paying their parents back for the things the children don't own and can't really give away. Just make more money. If it's not theirs to give is it theirs to sell? And then she equates this "giving away stuff for free philosophy" to Congress.

If we can't teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?

Or maybe it's the other way around: The kids are learning from the society around them. No one has ever taught them there's no free lunch -- and all they see is "free," not the result of hard work, and saving, and scrimping.

Because children in upscale neighborhoods and supervised by nannies are all too familiar with hard work, saving and scrimping.

On the other hand, Savage may be correct in using the "upscale neighborhood and the cluelessness about the real world" analogy applying to Congress.

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