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Citizenship

What type of government does America have today?

March 26th, 2011 // 10:17 am @

“It’s a Republic; if you can keep it…”

Property Rights

  • Free democracies protect the property of all.
  • Socialist nations protect the property of none.
  • Monarchies consider all property the estate of the king.
  • Aristocracies have one set of property and investment laws for the very rich and a different one for the rest.*

Taxation

  • Free democracies assess tax money fairly from all the people to cover vital, limited government roles.
  • Socialist societies take money from the rich and redistribute it to the poor.
  • Dictatorial monarchies take money from everyone and give it to the dictator.
  • Aristocracies take money from the middle and lower classes and give it to rich bankers, owners of big companies (“too big to fail”), and other powerful and wealthy special interests in bailouts and government contracts.*

Information

  • In free democracies it is legal for the people to withhold information from the government (e.g. U.S. Fifth Amendment, right to remain silent, etc.) but illegal for the government to withhold information from or lie to the people.
  • In socialist societies, dictatorial monarchies, and aristocracies, it is legal for the government and government agents to lie to the people but illegal for the people to lie to the same government agents.*

Success

  • In free democracies, the measure of success and the popular goal of the people is to be good and positively contribute to society.
  • In socialist societies, the measure of success and the popular goal of the people is to become government officials and receive the perks of office.
  • In dictatorial monarchies, the measure of success and the popular goal of the people is to please the monarch.
  • In aristocratic societies, the measure of success and the popular goal of the people is to obtain wealth and/or celebrity.*

Right to Bear Arms

  • In free democracies all the people hold the right to bear arms.
  • In socialist nations and monarchies, only government officials are allowed to have weapons.
  • In aristocratic societies only the wealthy and government officials are allowed to have many kinds of weapons.*

Immigration

  • Free democracies open their borders to all, especially immigrants in great need.
  • Socialist and dictatorial monarchies build fences to keep people in.
  • Aristocracies build fences to keep people out, especially immigrants in great need.*
*The current United States

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odemille 133x195 custom Egypt, Freedom, & the Cycles of HistoryOliver DeMille is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of Thomas Jefferson Education.

He is the co-author of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Citizenship &Constitution &Culture &Economics &Foreign Affairs &Government &History &Liberty

The New America

November 26th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The Age of Dependence

We have recently changed as a people, and as a nation. I’m not sure exactly when the change occurred, but we are living in the new reality it has created.

On the one hand, we have always been a nation dedicated to positive change. America was founded by breaking from the old world and establishing a new model of society and governance, and the progressive impulse has guided America ever since.

On the other hand, we have usually defined change in the positive sense, and when progress has come it has always been based on a nation of freethinking citizens and courageous leaders.

Today, in contrast, we have become, to a large extent, a nation of followers. For the past three generations, we have been taught to depend upon experts.

This is a stunning break from the founding and pioneering generations who raised their children to depend upon their own wisdom, initiative and grit.

This dependence on experts is as devastating to freedom and as potentially controlling as totalitarian governments, caste and class systems, and the wealthy withholding education from the masses.

It is an applicational flaw in modernism that is persistently leaching freedom from historically open nations around the world.

In addition to unhealthy dependence on experts, we have been conditioned in the West to think like reductionists—only accepting logical, concrete and proven answers.

This invalidates our “gut” feelings about right and wrong and leaves us more dependent on the accepted authority. It puts the “experts” above the citizens in determining America’s future.

But the biggest problem with our reductionism is that we are Dependent Reductionists: we consider something to be logical and proven when the experts say so.

Ironically, this kind of reductionism is actually the opposite of reductionism; it is, in fact, a personal rejection among citizens of our own logic and common sense and instead an ignorant reliance on the leadership of our “betters” in academia, the media, economics and government.

An Age of Epicurus

Add to this a third major characteristic of modern Americans: we are nearly all epicureans, meaning that we want life to feel good.

We expect childhood, youth, education, health, career, finances, romance, family, entertainment and everything else in life to basically go well for us. Always.

And if this ever fails, we angrily blame the government, our employers, our parents or someone else for not doing their job. If everyone did his part, we now believe, pretty much everything would go well for us; and if we’re not content, comfortable and at ease, someone is surely to blame.

So then, most Americans are now Epicurean Dependent Reductionists: We want the experts to make everything good for us, we instinctively believe that they will, and we expect them to use science, logic, research, planning and whatever else is necessary to ensure that all goes well.

After all, they’re the experts. And government officials are expected to do the most, since they are experts with power.

This is the New America.

Of course, there is more to America than these three characteristics, but the new influence of widespread Dependence, Dependent Reductionism and Epicureanism indicates a different kind of future than most Americans seem to want.

Time magazine chronicled Joe Klein’s visit across America in the fall of 2010. Klein talked to hundreds of regular Americans, asking them questions about America and the world and listening closely to their answers, concerns, thoughts and worries. What he discovered is a good overview of modern America.

He found voters to be more eloquent, unpredictable and candid than the candidates. He wrote: “There was a unanimous sense that Washington was broken beyond repair.”

Americans are also upset with big business, especially big finance.

They feel that Washington is out of touch. For example, the citizens mentioned concerns about China 25 times for each time they mentioned Afghanistan.

Liberals are frustrated with Obama; but surprisingly, conservatives are less angry about Obama and more disappointed.

They wanted him to succeed, to help fix the economy. But they don’t feel he has done much.

The growing nanny state drives them crazy. They hate the stimulus and bailouts, and they are confused about the health care bill.

They wonder why the Obama Administration focused on these things instead of jobs. They just don’t understand why the big things — jobs — are being ignored. This infuriates many Americans, both liberals and conservatives.

Klein called the regular Americans he met, on the whole, “rowdy and proud, ignorant and wise.”

The Lost Cartesian Age

Tocqueville said that Americans in the 1830s were nearly all Cartesians, but noted that most of them didn’t know that the word “Cartesian” means a follower of the philosophy promoted by Descartes.

This philosophy was based on not believing any of the experts, but rather thinking about things independently and reaching your own conclusions.

Indeed, a Cartesian considers himself the only real expert on things that are important to him. She listens closely to the thoughts of others and deeply considers all views, and then arrives at her own conclusions.

And for Americans, as Tocqueville witnessed, individual citizens were the highest “experts” on all things related to government.

In Europe, he wrote, the people loved the great artists. In America few idealized the great artists but nearly all youth and adults participated personally in art — paintings, plays, singing, and so on.

The same applied in politics. Instead of following great political icons or parties, the American electorate was deeply and personally involved in the ongoing issues.

The Americans of the 1830s could easily be called Independent Cartesian Innovators.

They expected life to be full of challenges, and they didn’t want their government or anyone else to solve their problems. They wanted to be adults, to meet their own challenges, to solve their own problems.

They believed that the government had its role, but they wanted the freedoms that could only come by keeping the state limited. Again (and this bears constant repeating in our times), they wanted to live life as adults, facing the challenges of the world and overcoming them on their own or with their families and communities.

If problems arose, they didn’t blame others. They were too busy getting to work on solutions.

When they failed, they suffered. Then they claimed that the lessons they had learned through suffering were worth the failure, even as they intently and optimistically went on to new and better projects.

This attitude led them across the oceans, into the wilderness, to freedom from the Monarchy and the old countries, across the plains, and to the moon itself. Along the way, they began the process of conquering the internal frontiers of slavery, chauvinism, bigotry and racism. They made mistakes, but they refused to give up. They kept trying.

A New Age Ahead?

Today, far too often, we just give up. We wait for the experts to do what needs to be done. And, unfortunately, too frequently the experts and officials want us to do nothing.

They believe in the experts as much as everyone else. They too often see citizens as children to be cared for, not adults to be left alone to deal with their own lives as they see fit.

But when a nation becomes a society of followers instead of leaders and adopts a culture of dependency and complaining instead of citizens who are at least trying, flaws and all, to innovatively make the world truly better, freedom is in danger.

We have reached a point in history when this generation must take a stand. If we want to pass on freedom and prosperity to our children and grandchildren, we need to move toward an attitude of innovation, independent thinking, responsibility, resiliency, and taking personal risk to make the world better.

It is time to stop talking so much about what kind of leaders we want, to give less lip service to what Washington or Wall Street or Hollywood should do, and to act a lot more like citizens who actually deserve freedom.

It is time for all of us in America, once again, to change. And this time the change needs to earn the kind of future we truly want.

The first step is a simple change in attitude from dependent on experts to truly thinking for ourselves and seeing regular citizens (not political or economic professionals) as the real experts on American government, freedom and the future.

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Oliver DeMille is the founderof the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Citizenship &Culture &Current Events &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Government &History &Leadership &Liberty

How to Fix the Government

October 27th, 2010 // 2:06 pm @

In a recent article I asked “Is government broken??”

The simple answer is yes. Few people have confidence anymore in the likelihood of either political party fixing our nation’s problems. Nor does even a majority of our society believe that any of our major institutions–Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court–can really fix things. We’ve lost confidence in public leaders on all sides.

But the fundamental structural problem behind many of our problems is that America today is too big to be effectively governed by Washington.

One result of this is our inability to face and overcome our greatest challenges in timely and efficient ways. Ironically, this is likely the first thing the founding generation would notice about our government.

But today, a serious discussion about size is either entirely absent from the debate or, if brought up on occasion, quickly discounted as a quaint historical footnote.

Freedom requires certain structures and ingredients, just like any other result that can envisioned, planned and implemented.

The American founders understood freedom at levels rarely matched in all of history before or since: We should learn from the founding tutorials, and neither ignore nor discount their wisdom.

While new challenges often require new solutions, it is also true that little progress occurs without building on the successes of the past.

And even more importantly, the fundamental principles that govern freedom do not change.

Repairing Our Faults

Every nation faces major challenges. And, just like in individual human lives, such challenges are recurring.

The great genius of any nation is not its strengths (which can be easily lost), resources (which can be misused in myriad ways), or traditions (which can be ignored, changed or simply forgotten).

The great genius of a society–if it can be said that it has genius–is in its ability to quickly and effectively overcome the challenges that inevitably arise.

Speaking of the source of America’s greatness in Democracy in America, Tocqueville said this:

“…not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”[i]

We are broken to the exact extent that attempts to fix our problems are generally bogged down, ineffective, weak, or, as in so many cases, actually worsen the problems. Using this standard, our government is broken indeed.

Granted, it could be worse, and we are all thankful for the successes that are achieved (and there are more than the critics usually admit).

But there are still far too many failures, and the sense that things are broken and getting worse is increasing among many Americans.

Of course, the situation is complex and no simple answers can account for all our challenges.

But when basic principles are ignored or rejected, and when the very foundations of success in free society are not applied, it is vital to fix the big things first.

The Basics of Freedom

Nothing is more relevant right now than the fact that America is too big to govern from Washington. This is the elephant in the room, no matter how much today’s politicians want to discount it.

The founders considered America too big to be governed by Washington in 1789! In fact, one of the major anti-federalist arguments against adopting the Constitution was this very point.

There were roughly 3 million Americans at that point, and the founders worried that this was too many for Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court to effectively lead.

With around 300 million citizens today, why do we seem to think that Washington should be able to fix all our major problems? What is it the founders understood about freedom and government that we don’t seem to grasp?

James Madison answered the questions of the anti-federalists who thought America was too big for a federal government by telling the American founding generation simply that the Federal government wouldn’t be governing them.[ii]

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Let’s back up and understand the principle of governance as it relates to geographical and population sizes.

First, regarding geography, Madison said in Federalist 14 that democracies and republics have natural limits to how large a territory they can govern.

This is one reason, he argued, that the founders established the United States as a republic instead of a pure democracy.

The size of any democracy is limited to a territory small enough that all the citizens can easily assemble together and conduct the business of society in person.

In contrast, in a republic the people send their representatives. The citizens maintain small democracies in their local areas, where all adults participate, and they send elected representatives to assemble and do the business that cannot be handled at the local level.

Because of this, republics can be much larger than democracies.

In our day, given the advantages of modern transportation and communication technologies, a republic large in geographical boundaries is certainly viable and can still follow the principles of freedom.

Population, however, presents an altogether different challenge.

Regarding the ideal numerical size of a nation, the founders adopted Montesquieu’s view. Baron de Montesquieu was frequently quoted during the founding–in fact only the Bible was quoted more often.[iii]

And, indeed, Montesquieu was quoted more than any other source, including the Bible, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.[iv]

In fact, it was Montesquieu who suggested the concepts of three branches of government, each separate and independent, and of checks and balances between each. He taught the founders the most important constitutional forms.

But there is a principle of freedom that is even more basic than three branches, separations of power, and checks and balances. Montesquieu wrote:

“If a republic is small, it is destroyed by a foreign force; if it is large, it is destroyed by internal vice.”[v]

By size here he is referring to population, and by internal vice he means not crime but rather corrupt political leaders, conflicting political parties, and a political system that is unable to overcome major challenges due to internal strife.

This concept is one of the most basic foundations of the American republic: Small republics are destroyed by foreign forces, while large republics are destroyed by internal political corruption.

In republics with only a few people, the population is neither collectively strong nor wealthy enough to protect itself from foreign aggression. And where the population is very numerous, there are more who will engage in corrupt practices.

At the same time, in a more populous nation, those who corruptly exert power and manipulate influence find it easier to hide their agendas from the regular citizens.

Constitution Writing 101

The American framers set out to establish a government that would overcome both of these problems.

They didn’t want to be destroyed by foreign forces, so they didn’t want a small republic. Neither did they want to be destroyed by internal vice, so they didn’t want a large republic.

What to do? The answer is perhaps the single most basic principle of structuring American freedom. They did what Montesquieu suggested:

“…it is very likely that ultimately men would have been obliged to live forever under the government of one alone [either weak small government or large corrupt government] if they had not devised a kind of constitution that has all the internal advantages of republican government [e.g. small, uncorrupt, free] and the external force of monarchy [strong, secure]. I speak of the federal republic.”[vi]

The founders thus set up two governments working together, a federal government and the state level of government. This is a basic principle of American history and is taught in nearly any elementary course on government.

Unfortunately, this is so basic that we have for the most part become arrogant about it. We have discounted and forgotten how central this is to freedom. We think of it (if at all) in elementary terms rather in the deep way discussed in Federalist Papers 10, 14, and 18 through 20.

Here’s the kicker, the thing which gets lost in our complex and modernized world, the vital key which holds a real answer for our modern challenges: The federal government was set up for one thing: to keep us from being destroyed by a foreign force. Period. And the states were set up to do pretty much everything else we needed government to do.

In fact, the major purpose of the states was to remain small enough and close enough to the people that their governments could not become internally corrupt.

To summarize: the primary role of the federal government is to keep us safe from foreign attacks and the primary role of the state level of government is to protect us from federal government encroachments on our lives.

When the federal government does more than this basic role, we are living in a large republic and the nature of government will always be corrupt, ineffective and dangerous to freedom.

When this happens, the most primary role of state government is to stop the federal government. No other duty of state government is nearly this important.

This is why our government is broken today–inefficient, gluttonous in spending, over-reaching in many facets of our lives, big, bloated, bureaucratic, divided by angrily opposed parties which block important progress, non-transparent, secretive, and unable to change seemingly regardless of who gets elected.

When challenges arise, solutions are weak, ineffective and costly. They often magnify rather than solve problems.

This all goes back to the most basic principles of freedom:

  • Rule One of freedom is that the people must be active, involved and wise overseers of all government.
  • Rule Two is that small nations are weak and easily destroyed by foreign aggression so they should combine into a federal republic that keeps them safe.
  • Rule Three is that large nations are destroyed by internal vice and political corruption, so any federal republic must be divided into smaller state-level republics which handle nearly all of the governance (except national security).
  • The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Rules deal with three branches of government, separations of power, and checks and balances.

We have utterly forgotten rules one and three. And to a large extent, the federal government has become distracted from rule two by its many other areas of focus.

Twenty Specific Powers

Let me be clear, however, that the point is not that government isn’t needed.

The founding model is not at all anti-government. It strongly advocates a powerful, strong, well-funded, effective federal government whose almost sole purpose is national security. It also encourages powerful, strong, well-funded, effective state governments which take care of all the legitimate needs of society that are best accomplished by the government sector.

To all this, the principles of freedom add this warning: if the federal government ever becomes widely involved in much more than national security, it will create an inefficient, corrupt, unwieldy government and freedom will decrease.

Likewise if the state governments ever lose their strength and become mere appendages of the federal government.

If this sounds too extreme, remember that Montesquieu’s word was “destroy.” As he said, large republics are “destroyed by internal vice.”

At our peril do we assume that he was careless in his choice of words. And as Madison wrote, the solution to all this is for the federal government to be limited to only the specific, numbered powers clearly outlined in the Constitution.[vii]

These twenty powers are listed in Article I, and as long as the federal government remains limited in scope to these powers we will all be living under small (state) republics with a strong (national) defense.

This is exactly what the founders wanted, and it is the freest of all the options for government.

Some might argue that this all breaks down since the states today are much bigger in population than the entire nation at the time of the founding.

But this misses the point that there is more to the definitions of “small” and “large” than just numbers.

At the state levels, there are many more representatives per capita than at the federal level, to the point that nearly every citizen has easy access to a state representative.

Beyond that, if the scope of the federal government were limited to the twenty powers given by the Constitution — if it were indeed fundamentally dedicated to national security and little beyond that — then citizens would have limited need to contact their national representatives.

The number of needed and even desired contacts would shrink to the point that every citizen seeking direct access to his federal representative would usually be granted. And as the number of contacts with state representatives increased accordingly, the number of districts would naturally be augmented.

The people would be closer to all their representatives on all levels. This is the essence of what Montesquieu, Madison and the other founders called “small” government. This was Madison’s response to the worries of the anti-federalists.

At the same time, the focus on only the 20 constitutional powers at the federal level would increase the ability of federal officials to deal with truly national problems. This is the essence of “large” government.

The more mundane issues of society would be handled at the state and local levels, with increased numbers of representatives as required to effectively cover the needs (and increased connection to the people, as stated above).

The founders felt so strongly about this that when they outlined the Bill of Rights they wrote in the Tenth Amendment:

“The powers not delegated to the United States [federal government] by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

In short, government is broken because it isn’t following the Constitution. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.

Repairing Freedom

Some might feel that all this has been decided long ago, that we have moved beyond the era of original intent in applying the Constitution and that the federal government now does thousands of things beyond the twenty powers outlined in the Constitution.

Moreover, they will say, this is what the American people want.

I do not dispute any of this, but let’s all be clear that these very changes in our society are the root and main reason that our government is so often ineffective, unwieldy, expensive, intrusive and simultaneously impotent to solve the major problems of our time.

As long as government itself is broken, we can’t really expect it to fix the other problems in our world.

The amazing thing is how well it actually does! Given that the foundations are cracked, that we are living under a larger government than Montesquieu or Madison or Jefferson ever came close to predicting, it is surprising just how much good is accomplished in America every day–by private citizens and groups but also by government.

Dedicated, caring, wise and hard-working public servants in government, and from all political parties, deserve the same kind of praise that our society rightly gives to excellent teachers, firemen, peace officers, soldiers and other who sacrifice for the greater good.

Still, until we fix the foundations, we are unlikely to see an era of successful, efficient, effective and free government ahead.

Challenges will arise, grow and fester, and as more and more problems pile on without being fixed, the load on government and the cost to citizens will increase.

Happily, there are solutions, though they too often are found in dusty volumes long undervalued. When a new generation begins to study and apply these solutions and others like them, we will see a new era of freedom, prosperity and progress.

Specifically, how do we address the problem of being too big for central governance from Washington? We really only have two options.

The famous economist Thomas Malthus callously argued that when nations become too big the natural result is war or pandemic–which has the side effect of reducing the population. Unfortunately, this concept has proven true in a number of cases through history.

So has the old maxim that nations which govern inefficiently and ineffectively either collapse from within in or are conquered from without.

Our modern arrogance in thinking these things can’t happen to us is actually part of the package that causes nations to fall–this has happened repeatedly in history, from ancient Israel, Athens and Rome to most recently the Soviet Union.

Whenever a nation gets so big and powerful that it becomes convinced it cannot fall, that is the very time that its status begins to crumble. History is quite adamant on this point. Western examples include Egypt, Persia, Babylon, Athens, Carthage, Rome, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, and Britain, among others.

But there is another option.

While it is true that nearly all great powers have fallen, usually because of inner decay caused by being too big in the center, the American founders taught us another way.

By voluntarily returning power to the states, vesting in them Constitutional authority to handle most of the needs of society (while maintaining national defense at the federal level), we could revitalize American strength and freedom at the most basic levels.

Conclusion

When great sports teams begin to struggle, wise coaches and managers take the players back to mastering the basics. When the fundamentals are solid and sound, these teams win a lot and often regain their earlier status.

Americans today need a return to the basics.

The regular people need to be overseers of the government, not vice versa, and the federal and state governments need to return to their constitutional roles.

We can fix ourselves from within, by returning to the most basic principles upon which freedom is based, or we can wait for inner corruption or international aggression, or a combination of both, to run its course.

We will eventually be forced to get big government under control, and we can do it either by wise choices now or by suffering the loss of blood in our young men and women in the years ahead…

Sources:
[i] Tocqueville,Democracy in America, Volume 1, Chapter XIII
[ii] Federalist 14
[iii] Donald S. Lutz, “The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought,” American Political Science Review, 1984. Cited in John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Montesquieu,The Spirit of the Laws, Cambridge University Press, translated by Cohler, Miller and Stone, 1997 reprint, page 131
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Federalist 14.

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Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Citizenship &Constitution &Government &Liberty

How to Destroy the Constitution

October 25th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, AND INDEPENDENTS don’t agree on much, but most of them do believe in the excellence and effectiveness of the U.S. Constitution.

A group this diverse will, of course, have some disagreements on the details, but it is amazing how nearly all involved Americans support the document.

All agree that the Constitution catalyzed America’s growth to freedom, prosperity and world hegemony.

Freedom works, it turns out; the Constitution codified and structured freedom at a level unparalleled in world history (affiliate link).

For at least fifty years, however, two major groups have disagreed about the fundamental direction of the nation as it relates to the Constitution.

Conservatives have seen the Constitution as an ideal to live up to, and operated on the premise that the country must be careful not to stray too far from the original intent of the founders.

They resonate with such things as strong national defense, separations of power, and protections of property.

Liberals, in contrast, have in general felt that this great document guaranteed basic rights and due process, but that it was meant as a starting point from which to continually amend and improve our society.

They tend to focus on individual rights, equalities, and the democratic attitudes of the document.

As a third, newer group, independents, tend to want the United States to value original intent, yet also make improvements where they are wise and practical.

Vital Foundations of Freedom

In view of all this, there are a few things that are fundamentally vital to the success and maintenance of the U.S. Constitution.

If these vital things are lost or ignored, or even changed in any way, the system will break down and our freedoms will decrease. These vital foundations include:

  • Separations of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches
  • The independence of each branch
  • Checks and balances
  • Guarantees of freedom like “no ex post facto laws,” “no bills of attainder,” and the freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights
  • Separations of power between the federal and state governments

Over the years, some have argued that we are in danger of losing some of these vital foundations of constitutional freedom. Certainly there has been some weakening over time.

But for the most part, the vital facets of the Constitution have held strong.

Weakening the Constitution

Unfortunately, in just the past few years we have seen major affronts to these vital constitutional guarantees. And more amazingly, there has been little concern voiced in the media or among the American citizenry.

When we let our freedoms slip away without a fight or even without concern, we take freedom, prosperity and happiness away from our posterity.

What kind of people do that? Are we such people? These are questions each of us must face.

Moreover, the loss of these vital constitutional foundations are not issues of parties­­­­—most liberals, conservatives, greens, radicals, extremists, moderates, hawks, doves, independents and nearly everyone else is generally opposed to losing our freedoms.

So why do we sit by and let it just happen?

The answer is simple, although the reality is quite complex:

We tend to let our freedoms slip away because they are tucked away in documents and policies that we don’t ever deal with directly.

We either ignore current bills before Congress or, if we do get involved, we focus on the publicized issues instead of the many layers of complexity.

In short, we don’t read the fine print.

The Power of Fine Print

Many Americans ignore the fine print in job contracts and mortgage papers, blithely signing our signatures and trusting others to handle the details.

Consider how lax we are with proposed bills in Washington DC: They are written by someone we don’t know and voted on by people few of us will ever even meet.

What few people realize is that these things have direct and major impact on our lives!

The problem in modern America is not that an individual can’t make a difference, but that nearly all of us are too distracted to even consider trying.

It seems ridiculous, maybe, to think that regular people should read the fine print of proposed legislation and existing laws and try to improve them. It sounds extreme and even crazy to suggest that without such close scrutiny from the citizens our freedoms will be lost.

But it is still true. This is one of the things which makes the American founding generations so truly amazing! Yes, they sacrificed greatly in the Revolution.

But many nations have sacrificed mightily and still failed to be free. Yes, the founders wanted to protect themselves from the usurpation of Britain. But so has every other colony and group of people facing a dominating government.

Yes, the founders loved freedom and wanted to pass it on to their children and posterity. But who doesn’t?

Almost every human society has yearned deeply and sacrificed much to be free. However, the founding American generations did something that almost no others have ever done.

They read the fine print!

They taught their children to read bills, laws, court cases, legislative debates, executive decrees, and bureaucratic policies. They read them in schoolrooms and at home. They read them at picnics and by candlelight after a long day’s hard labor.

They said they would consider their children uneducated if they didn’t read such things.

Consider just one example, from a textbook read by all Vermont school children in 1794:

“All the children are trained up to this kind of knowledge: they are accustomed from their earliest years to read the Holy Scriptures, the periodical publications, newspapers, and political pamphlets…the laws of their country, the proceedings of the courts of justice, of the general assembly of the state, and of the Congress, etc.

“Such a kind of education is common and universal in every part of the state: and nothing would be more dishonorable to the parents, or to the children, than to be without it.”

Now, in fairness to most human societies who wanted to be free, the regular people through much of history couldn’t read at all.

The founders understood this, so the first federal law passed under the newly ratified U.S. Constitution required any territory seeking statehood to show that it had an effective educational offering for all children.

They considered it a great blessing of providence that they could read and had the opportunity to pass on education to nearly all Americans. They saw this as a fundamental requirement for freedom.

They mourned for the many generations of humans throughout history who had no chance at freedom because education was denied them or simply unavailable.

But what would the founders think of three generations of today’s Americans who can read, who live in relative affluence, have ample leisure time, but who choose to ignore government documents?

I think they would be shocked, and then angry.

After the painful price they paid to establish a free nation; the many sacrifices of their families and lives, imagine their frustration that today’s Americans won’t even read what the government is doing.

Eventually, after their anger wore off, I think they would resign themselves to this reality: Unless Americans start reading government documents again, we will lose our freedom—again.

In case this sounds extreme, let me reiterate that the founding generations read government documents, in detail, from all three branches, including all levels from federal, to state, to local.

Then they raised their children to do the same. It was second nature to them because they wanted to remain free.

Free people read the fine print. Then they act on it. To put it simply: those who don’t, do not remain free.

This is the reality of history, from Ancient Israel to the Greeks, Saracens, Franks, Anglo-Saxons and every other free society in history.

I can find no exceptions.

In fact, in mixed societies with classes or castes of both freemen and subservients (like in Athens or the Roman Republic), only the upper classes read government documents; and only the upper classes were free citizens.

Three Tragedies

In just the past two years we have seen three of the major vital foundations of constitutional freedom ignored.

People who don’t read government documents, or at the very least printed media reports about government documents, aren’t even aware of these structural implosions in our constitutional system.

They have no idea of the tragedy ahead unless these things are reversed.

Moreover, people who don’t read government documents are often swayed by the anger of politicians or mass media so that they think violating the Constitution is okay if the nation is mad enough.

For example, the vital constitutional foundation of “no bills of attainder” was broken in the wake of national anger at Wall Street after the economic meltdown of 2008-2009. Even those who knew it was broken felt it was justified given Wall Street’s mistakes.

But when we let the government break the Constitution because we are really mad, we will soon watch it break the Constitution when somebody else is mad.

This reminds me of the old story of the so-called unaffected groups who ignored Hitler’s men while they took the Jews, then the foreigners, the gypsies, the handicap, and the white collar professionals, only to wonder why no one was there to help when Hitler’s men finally came to their house.

The moral of the story? Stand up for the Jews, or any other group unjustly attacked. That is the character of people who will remain free.

Because we were so angry at Wall Street after the economic crisis, we also ignored or just accepted the “ex post facto” laws unconstitutionally passed and applied in 2009.

That’s two strikes against the Constitution, and in less than a year!

The third strike came in the health care law.

Now, before I say more, let me be clear that I did not side with either the Democratic law as it was passed or with the argument from the Republicans that health care need not be reformed. Reform was necessary, but the way it was done is a major problem.

Some Democrats, some Republicans, and a lot of independents agreed with this. There is a lot more that could be said on this, point-by-point on every facet of the law. But that isn’t my purpose here.

My deepest concern is with the fact that public sentiment regarding such policies and issues as immigration, marriage, detainment/torture, health care, finance reform, foreign military campaigns, etc., is governed by the tidal forces of activism and apathy—neither of which is delving into the fine print details in the laws that strike a major blow to the most vital foundations of the Constitution.

Using the Health Care Reform law as a case in point: The Constitution separated the powers of the federal government from others that would be left to the states or lower levels, or the people.

This is as fundamental to our freedoms as separating the executive, judicial, and legislative branches, or outlining specific checks and balances.

Take away the provision of separating state and federal powers, and the whole Constitution is in danger of failing.

The founding generation felt so strongly about this that they insisted on adding the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to protect this separation and maintain states’ rights.

Later, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could take some actions within states under the commerce clause, but only the states had the right to require individual citizens to buy a good or service.

The Court also ruled in Gonzales v. Oregon that the federal government does not have the authority to “define general standards of medical practice in every locality.” It also “has recognized a right to medical self-determination, notably finding it within the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.”

The health care law is the first federal law to break these, and it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.

In short, if this stands, future U.S Presidents and Congress can add one or two sentences in any bill at any time that requires Americans to do or buy anything—and pretty much nobody is likely to know until the law is passed.

Each new generation is acclimatized to the level of government overreach that they find themselves in, and it rarely occurs to them to object.

The Overseers of Freedom

Some might argue that our elected representatives should keep an eye on such things and take care of them for us.

True enough; except for one thing: Despite of all their good intentions and willingness to step up and lead, most of these representatives are ultimately just like “us”; they are not much more inclined than the general population to read the fine print!

Contributing to this brand of governance is the status quo climate that slaps an “extremist” label on those who do try to raise concerns about the process or consequence of our legislative and regulatory trends.

The bottom line is that our elected officials often fail to do anything about these fine-print additions to legislation.

Sometimes, even when such things are taken out of bills, the agencies which implement these laws simply write them back into their operating policies and enforce them anyway—even though they are not technically law.

With a system like this, the people are the only true overseers of freedom. If we don’t do it, freedom will be lost.

The founding generations read resolutions, bills, laws, policies, executive orders, ordinances, court cases and judicial commentaries on cases.

They wanted to be free, so they did what free people always do: They read the documents of government. They studied the fine print.

Where they saw dangers to freedom, they took action.

Unfortunately, too often any criticism of a political party’s policy is interpreted by people as an attack on that party. In this case, it is not my purpose to criticize President Obama’s push for health care reform.

I am simply concerned with the way this law treats the U.S. Constitution.

Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush also promoted policies that could have threatened constitutional principles.

It is the role of politicians to promote policies and changes they feel are needed, and at times these push the envelope of the Constitution.

Congress and the Court must do their constitutional role of analyzing and responding to such proposals, but ultimately it is up to the people to be the Overseers—to protect freedom.

Societies where the regular people aren’t allowed to read or comment on the laws are Totalitarian, Authoritarian, Dictatorial or Communistic.

Societies where the regular people are allowed to read and comment on the government and law, but instead decide to leave it to others, most often adopt aristocracy or socialism.

In contrast, if we want to be free, we must read the fine print.

Freedom only lasts in societies where regular citizens:

  • read government documents, think about and discuss them
  • do something to change them when needed
  • teach their children to do the same.

If we become such people, the future of freedom is bright. If not…

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Aristocracy &Citizenship &Constitution &Culture &Education &Government &Independents &Leadership &Politics

Reclaiming Adult Society: The 4 Cultures Corrupting America & What Must Replace Them

October 19th, 2010 // 4:00 am @

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of This Article

Every child looks forward to the freedoms and responsibilities of being an adult.

Liberty is a blessing of maturity, and a free society is only maintained by a culture of adults.

This may be obvious, but it has become a challenge in our day.

The term “adult” has come to be commonly defined as anyone above a certain age–and has largely lost its qualitative nuance; but of course not all people older than twenty-one are free.

True adulthood requires more than maintaining a heartbeat for two or more decades.

To achieve and perpetuate freedom, societies need a culture which accepts and exhibits the responsibilities and leadership of adulthood.

This is more difficult to achieve than first meets the eye.

When the general culture isn’t up to freedom standards, it is easy for people to go along with the norm.

Indeed, one reason freedom is historically so rare is the difficulty of changing cultural norms.

Let’s consider four cultures that have widespread influence today.

Elementary Culture

The culture of grade schools has huge impact beyond the schoolyard.

Elementary Culture values the following:

  • Staying in the good graces of those above you, especially the authorities
  • Reliance on experts
  • Dependence on basic needs and remedies being provided
  • Playing
  • Having good toys
  • Learning and following the rules
  • Getting rewards from the authorities by meeting their expectations

As good as these things may be for classroom and playground management, they are less enchanting as cultural underpinnings for adult neighborhoods, towns, cities, and nations.

Free citizens are not exactly marked by their desire to please government authorities or being dependent on state programs.

Nor is liberty positively promoted when the citizens focus mostly on play, getting the best toys (from cars to computers to vacations) in life, or seeking rewards from upper classes or government officers.

Obviously, order and cooperation are desirable shared values in a society.

But there is a huge difference between free citizens who have a significant say in establishing the rules and dependent citizens who are hardly involved in governance.

One of the great heroic roles in our modern culture is found in elementary teachers who work, serve and sacrifice to help to raise the next generation.

For example, 63% of public grade-school teachers spend their own money buying food for at least one hungry student each month.

This amazing statistic shows much of what is right, and wrong, with modern America.

The individual voluntarism and selfless service by such teachers is a foundation of freedom.

When parents don’t own their responsibility to care for their children (which is the case in at least some, perhaps many, of these cases), our moral imperatives demand that we must.

And when adults act like children, the state steps forward to feed and care for them.

Think of the great freedom cultures of history–from the Hebrew and Greek golden ages to the free Saracens, Swiss, English and early Americans, among others.

These citizens were not dependents and not particularly interested in pleasing the authorities.

In fact, they held the government dependent on the people and required government officials to please the citizens.

They made family and work the center of adult life, as opposed to the “bread and circuses” of Elementary Cultures in Rome and other less-than-free societies.

High School Culture

Some adults live more in a High School Culture which, like Elementary Culture, does not promote free society.

High School Culture generally values the following:

  • Fitting in
  • Popularity
  • Sports
  • Cliques
  • Class systems
  • Disconnection from adult society

Sometimes even teachers side or identify with certain cliques and basically join this culture. The currently popular television series “Glee” typifies this sort of class system.

When applied to adult society, this creates a culture that hardly deserves and never maintains freedom.

In many towns, for example, high school glory days represent all that is right and good, and success in sports is seen as success in life.

There are three major types of life success in High School Culture:

  1. Doing well in school and sports
  2. Raising children who do well in school and sports
  3. Having grandchildren who are succeeding in school and sports.

This is High School Culture indeed. In fact, in many places the activities of the local high school are the actual center and high point of culture and activity.

This happens in many traditionally conservative cultures such as many small and mid-size towns, much of the American West, Texas and the plains states, and also in traditionally liberal populations like in the South, the Appalachians and the Midwest.

Whatever they call themselves politically, the dominant culture in such places often centers on the high school and reflects high school values.

Adults living High School Culture focus on their local and private issues and hope to ignore political society until it forces itself into their lives.

At such times, the typical response is anger and rebellion.

Unfortunately for freedom, seeking to fit in, be popular, join the best clique and thereby win the caste battle, and stay as disconnected from politics as possible, do not tend to promote free society.

Whether or not these things are good for youth is arguable; but they are certainly not foundations of liberty or the ideal goals of free adults.

College-Corporate Culture

Nor is College-Corporate Culture naturally supportive of freedom.

Just as high school usually has more freedoms than elementary, college and work culture sometimes feels free in comparison to high school society.

College-Corporate Culture is usually more dominant in bigger cities than in small towns, though of course there are people from all cultures living almost everywhere.

College-Corporate Culture values the following:

  • Personal success
  • Career preparation and advancement
  • Non-committal relationships
  • Entertainment
  • Status
  • Pursuing individual interests
  • Spending on lifestyle

People and places which adopt College-Corporate values experience more personal freedom than citizens living elementary or high school lifestyles.

But they are unable to establish or maintain freedom on the large scale over time, and they are usually not interested in trying.

“Me” and “I” dominate the perspectives of Elementary, High School and College-Corporate Cultures.\

Official Culture

In elementary and high schools there are principals, administrators, teachers and other officials who take care of the little people.

In the adult lives that mirror grade and high schools, regular citizens see themselves as being taken care of by officials and the officers see themselves as taking care of the people.

Since they value class systems and popularity, the people tend to regularly give in to those they consider in charge.

Many even feel resentment towards those who seem to rebel against the (“adult”) officials.

Woodstockers, John Birchers, the “-ism” extremists and other “rebels” are seen like druggies, gangsters and other unsavory high school cliques.

The “good” kids don’t fight the system.

College, university and corporate officials are often seen as distant, professionally rather than personally interested, upper class, and probably self-serving.

“They ignore us, and we ignore them,” is the operating principle of the regular people.

“We’re too busy pursuing our own success and fun to worry about them anyway–except to impress them.”

The officers, in contrast, see the regular people as functionaries to help them achieve big goals and successes.

Official Culture values the following:

  • Respect of those in authority
  • People following the rules
  • The infallibility of the rules
  • The need to lead significant, bold change
  • Overcoming the roadblocks which the regular people naively call “freedom”
  • Keeping the system strong
  • Promoting support and respect for the system
  • Really helping the people
  • Giving the people what they really need, even if they “think” they don’t want it or understand how much they need it

These have little likelihood of promoting long-term freedom.

Note that the official value of really helping the people is nearly always truly sincere. They really mean it.

While some may consider this patronizing, like the noblesse oblige of upper classes, we can still admire those who genuinely seek to serve and help people.

For freedom to succeed, however, the majority of the people must move beyond being cared for by experts and instead adopt and live in Adult Culture.

Freedom is lost in cultures dominated by Official Culture.

For that matter, freedom cannot survive in a society run by Elementary, High School, College-Corporate and/or Official values and systems.

Adult Culture

As mentioned above, freedom is incredibly rare in history.

It occurs only with an extremely high cost in resources, blood, sacrifice and wisdom, and it is maintained only when the citizenry does its job of truly leading the nation.

Regular people must understand what is going on at the same or a higher level than government leaders, or the leaders become an upper class and the people are relegated to following child-like as submissives and dependents.

To elect and become the right leaders and support the right direction in government, the people must study, watch, analyze and deeply think.

They must study and understand the principles of freedom, and they must get involved to ensure that these principles are applied.

Adult Culture values those things which keep societies free, prosperous and happy. Such values include the following:

  • Being your genuine self and therefore not easily swayed by peers, experts or anyone else
  • Actively and voluntarily contributing to society’s needs
  • Accepting responsibility for society and its future
  • Appropriately and maturely making a positive difference in the world
  • Accepting others for who they are and respecting their contributions
  • Spending wisely and balancing it with proper savings and investment
  • Consistently saving and effectively investing for the future
  • Dedicating yourself to committed relationships
  • Helping the young learn and progress
  • Providing principled and effective assistance to those in need
  • Influencing the rules, policies and laws to be what they should be, changing bad ones, and following the good ones
  • Sacrificing yourself for more important things
  • Taking risks when they are right
  • Respecting those in authority, earning and expecting their respect in return, and holding them accountable to their proper roles and duties
  • Balancing relationships and work with appropriate leisure, entertainments, sports, toys, hobbies and/or relaxation
  • Openly discouraging and, if needed, fighting class systems and unprincipled/unjust inequalities
  • Helping influence positive change while keeping the things which are positively working
  • Never allowing “progress” to trample freedoms
  • Promoting support for and respect of the system as long as it is positive and improving
  • Really, sincerely helping the people while respecting them as adults, individuals and citizens worthy of admiration and esteem

Any move away from these adult values is a step toward less freedom.

And let’s be clear: Most people naturally want to be treated like adults.

For example, there are now more independents than Republicans or Democrats in part because the political parties so often seem to exhibit elementary and high school values.

Populist movements nearly always arise when governments seem to adopt Official Culture.

The anti-Washington populism which swept President Obama into office was largely a response to perceived officiousness by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, just as Tea Party populism arose when many felt that the Obama Administration was treating regular Americans like inferiors.

Any sense of arrogance, superiority, smugness or overwhelming and unresponsive mandate by political leaders quite predictably spurs frustrated reactions.

Both parties routinely fall short in this arena, however, as do many in non-public sectors.

All of us would do well to guard ourselves against pride, which is perhaps the most negative High School value.

When combined with the harmful College-Corporate values of pushy ambition and myopic self-centeredness, pride wreaks havoc on societal leadership, prosperity and freedom.

In contrast, adult societies value relaxed confidence, poise, genuine humility, and authentic strength.

Adult Culture benefits from such values as elementary sharing and playing, high school enthusiasm and idealism, college self-improvement and dedicated learning, corporate hard work and excellence, and official emphasis on the rule of law and authentic caring for others.

However, each of these is optimized and put in context in an adult society–the only culture which can build and retain lasting freedom.

The Hidden War

Sadly, High School and College Culture have created a war brewing between the generations.

This is not a generation gap or a simple matter of the old not understanding the young.

It is an actual financial war between today’s children and their parents and grandparents.

But the youth aren’t engaged–they are simply the victims.

For example, as The Economist wrote of Britain:

“Half the population are under 40 years old but they hold only about 15% of all financial assets. People under 44 own, again, just 15% of owner-occupied housing….If pensions are counted, the situation is even more skewed.”

In the same article, entitled “Clash of Generations,” The Economist cites Member of Parliament David Willetts in his concern about the growing financial abuse of the young by older generations.

After noting the wealth of the baby-boomer generation, the article says:

“Young people have little chance of building up similar wealth. They are struggling to get on the housing ladder, though close to a fifth of the people between 49 and 59 years old own a second home…

“On top of this, older baby-boomers have dodged two speeding bullets, leaving their descendants squarely in the line of fire.

“The first is the bill for bailing out the financial sector; the second, the effect of climate change on the cost of energy, water, flood-prevention and the like.”

Former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan wrote in The Wall Street Journal:

“And there are the moral implications of the debt, which have so roused the tea party movement: The old vote themselves benefits that their children will have to pay for. What kind of people do that?”

Certainly not those with adult values. As The Economist put it:

“There is an unvoiced contract that binds the generations. Parents look after their children, with a view to helping them do at least as well as they themselves have done, and grown-up children look after their parents, in the hope that their children will do the same for them one day.

“But there is now a ‘breakdown in the balance between the generations…’ Mr. Willetts cites, approvingly, the way some American Indian tribal councils used to take decisions in the light of how they would affect the next several generations.In Britain, alas, it is painfully hard to see beyond the next election.”

The same problems are widespread in the United States.

The tribal approach mentioned clearly comes from a society with adult values, unlike the philosophy guiding much of Anglo-American financial policy.

No Chewing Gum!

Besides self-centeredness, another high school value is that the “good” people always follow the officials.

John Dewey taught that the most lasting lessons learned in schools are the non-academic cultural values taught.

While it has been famously said that all one ever needs to know he learns in kindergarten, one lesson which seems to have most taken hold is that the teacher (or president, expert or agent) is always right.

This falsehood has always been the end of freedom.

Consider how recessionary times impacted the current generation of youth (ages 15-29) raised with jobs as the central goals of their life.

They know how to stay in line, not chew gum in class, stick to their social clique, and leave decision-making to the officials.

But not only have innovation and leadership not been highly rewarded in their young lives, they are alien to most of them.

Speaking of the current generation of college graduates, the experts have written:

“You’d think if people are more individualistic, they’d be more independent. But it’s not really true. There’s an element of entitlement–they expect people to figure things out for them.”

[Source: Jean Twenge, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

In the workplace, they

“need almost constant direction….Many flounder without precise guidelines but thrive in structured situations that provide clearly defined rules.”

[Source: Ron Aslop, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.}

“This is a group that’s done resume building since middle school. They’ve been told they’ve been preparing to go out and do great things after college. And now they’ve been dealt a 180 [by high unemployment rates].”

[Source: Larry Druckenbrod, quoted in Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

“Trained through childhood to disconnect performance from reward, and told repeatedly that they are destined for great things, many are quick to place blame elsewhere when something goes wrong, and inclined to believe that bad situations will…be sorted out by parents or other helpers.

“All of these characteristics are worrisome, given a harsh economic environment that requires perseverance, adaptability, humility, and entrepreneurialism.”

[Source: Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America,” The Atlantic, March 2010.]

A generation of assembly-line education has failed to prepare today’s youth for the real world.

The simple solution for the generation now between ages 15 and 29, and for a lot of other people, is more jobs.

This requires more entrepreneurial action. As Don Peck wrote in The Atlantic:

“Ultimately, innovation is what allows an economy to grow quickly and create new jobs as old ones obsolesce and disappear.”

Entrepreneurship requires adult values, not people full of high-school risk aversion and dependence.

Calling All Adults

Today we need a drastic return to the adult values in our society.

Insecurely seeking to fit in, searching for popularity, sports and toys as measures of success, dependency on government and officials, class systems, pleasing those in charge, waiting for others to structure your success, feeling entitled, thinking your resume should create success, expecting a lottery or reality TV show to bail you out, and blaming others when things go wrong–these are not things free people cherish.

The question for our generation is: Can we regain our freedoms without putting aside childish things and becoming a society of adults?

Click Here to Download a Printable Version of This Article

***********************************

Oliver DeMille is the founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

He is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, and The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

 

Category : Citizenship &Culture &Economics &Featured &Generations &Government &Liberty

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