by Rachel McPherson

Eight-year-old Jordan Austin was selling cold water bottles outside her home in San Francisco to help pay for her family’s trip to Disneyland when she learned a harsh lesson about life in the nanny state.

Neighbor Alison Ettel confronted the young entrepreneur for not having a permit to sell the water, and Ettel and Jordan’s mom Erin engaged in a heated argument that ended in Ettel calling the police. Erin recorded the confrontation and posted it online, where it went viral and earned Ettel the name “Permit Patty.”

Of course, young Jordan isn’t the only victim of ridiculous overregulation. We recently wrote about lemonade stands coming under big government scrutiny—and how Country Time Lemonade vowed to come to the rescue of young vendors of the summertime drink. And last year, the Goldwater Institute took a stand on behalf of Lee Sepanek, a Phoenix resident whose Christmas light display was effectively shut down because he handed out hot cocoa to passersby.

These kinds of stories are indicative of a society in which liberty is falling victim to unnecessary red tape—one in which average Americans need a government permission slip to take part in basic activities. “Sadly, today America is gradually losing this principle of freedom and becoming instead what I call the Permission Society—a society in which our choices are increasingly subject to government pre-approval,” Goldwater Institute Vice President for Litigation Timothy Sandefur writes in his 2016 book The Permission Society. “Whether it be building a house, getting a job, owning a gun, expressing one’s political beliefs, or even taking a life-saving medicine, laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels now impose permit requirements that forbid us to act unless we first get permission from the government.”

Fortunately, Jordan’s story has a happy ending. Musician Jonathan Brannon saw the story and has already paid for Jordan and three of her family members to go on a family vacation. An even happier ending would be an America where regulations are rolled back so that all individuals, young and old, can begin their pursuit of the American Dream.

Rachel McPherson is a Ronald Reagan Fellow at the Goldwater Institute.