Capitalism Part 1

I’m reading Joel Salatin’s (of Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Inc. fame) new book Folks, this ain’t normal.  I’m probably not going to finish it.  The folksy wisdom coupled with his condescending tone toward us city people is too much to stomach.  But the first chapter, in which he talks about his kids, is admittedly engaging.  He said something that got me thinking:

I’m a big believer that children should have autonomous businesses.  This teaches the value of a dollar, persistence, thrift and good math skills.  The earlier someone learns the difference between profit and loss, the better.

Yeah, I thought, sounds good.  So when my two older boys asked if they could each buy a book, I told them they had to use their own money.  “But we spent it on candy and juice,” they complained from the back seat of the van.  I said I was sorry.

Finally, my eldest piped up, “Well could we earn money?”  Invoking the down home parenting of Saladin, I said, “Sure.  What are some things kids can do to earn money?”

They thought about it and agreed that a lemonade stand was the way to go.  They also figured out they’d make more money in Nana and Papa’s neighborhood in the foothills of Squaw Peak, where hikers, joggers and dog walkers abound.  Then Ikey got the idea to make trail mix too.  I was proud.

So, we went to the store and bought lemons, raisins, peanuts, and M&Ms.  I told them I would loan them the money for capital–their lemons and trail mix.  I wouldn’t charge them interest, but it would come out of their profits.  This took a lot of explaining.

Last night, they worked hard squeezing lemons, making lemonade and filling baggies with trail mix.  We talked about how important it was to make a good product.  Lute wanted to use agave syrup and honey and I said that was expensive, but he thought it was worth it for the taste.  That was something Saladin hadn’t mentioned–but I’m sure he’d agree. It’s important to make a quality product–even if that means your profits won’t be a big.  To me, that was the most important thing my boys learned.

This morning they set up shop on the corner of the street where I grew up.  At first it was just a bunch of joggers too focused to stop or hikers with empty pockets.  Pretty soon, though neighbors came out to say hi to my dad, kids showed up wanting lemonade, and cars pulled up for drive-through service.  There was a crowd around their little stand and they were raking in the dough.


After they paid me back, they had twenty dollars each in profit.  Pretty darn good–maybe I should consider the lemonade business, too.  We talked about how they’d have to use their profits to buy more lemons if they wanted to do it again.  They opted to just spend it at the book store.

I never imagined how educational a lemonade stand could be.  I still think Joel Salatin is a self-righteous dork, but he’s absolutely right about at least one thing–encouraging kids to be entrepreneurs is a good idea.


4 Comments on “Capitalism Part 1”

  1. Tanya Thal says:

    Big Mike is smiling.


  2. Good for your kids. Entrepreneurs in the making.

  3. JT says:

    I loved your account of the little entrepreneurs. Today, the corner, tomorrow, the world!

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