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Constitution

A Guide to Jury Duty

October 21st, 2014 // 2:15 pm @

“I’m going to serve on jury duty,” my daughter told me. “Any thoughts?”

A Problem and A Solution

123 300x170 A Guide to Jury DutyThis will be short. Share it with anyone who might serve on jury duty. Save it to reread whenever you get called to jury duty. It is powerful information about freedom and being a leader in our society.

First, the American framers made juries a central part of the judicial system because they didn’t trust anyone else to keep the government in check.

Think about it. Nations with no juries still have judges, lawyers, and court cases. They arrive at verdicts and mete out punishments. But they do it all with two entities: the government and the accused.

The founders wanted something different. They didn’t trust government. “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as Lord Acton put it.

The founders had seen what the British government did with its judges and courts. They had read about judicial abuses in Rome, Greece, Israel, the German principalities, and nations down through history. They knew that in almost all judicial systems, throughout history and around the globe, an accused person had very little chance for justice.

Their solution? Juries.

Specifically, juries made up of regular citizens like the accused, who would naturally be on the side of the accused “regular” citizen if the government tried anything pushy, or at the very least not automatically choose the side of government.

They established the jury system for one reason: to keep the government in check, to keep the government from being abusive, to keep the government from having too much power.

Checks and Responsibilities

Juries, the founders felt, were the last line of defense for a person falsely accused (or rightly accused, with extenuating circumstances), or even just to keep the government from having too much power in too many ways.

If juries don’t let the government get away with too much power, the whole nation will be more free. This was the reason the framers gave us the jury system.

Second, jurors do have two roles:

  1. Keep the government in check
  2. Provide a just determination of guilt or innocence

Both of these are important, but #1 is more important than #2. Indeed, keeping the government in check is the reason the founders established the jury system.

Sadly, most modern jurors believe that their main (and only) purpose is #2, to determine guilt or innocence.

The truth is that jurors generally do #2 better than judges, if for no other reason than that they aren’t jaded by facing criminals and lies day after day. They typically have a more healthy, balanced view of people.

Jurors should of course do a good job at #2, and in many cases this won’t conflict with #1. But if it ever does, good jurors choose #1 above #2.

Why? Because it’s more important to keep the government (with its massive resources and power) from abusing power than from stopping one accused person. That one person may hurt people, badly, and deserve real justice – it’s true. But an abusive government will hurt many, many more people—and hurt them a lot worse.

Founders and Authorities

To be a good juror, keep your eye on #1. Keep the government in check. This is your first purpose. Your first duty. Clearly #2 is important, but it is secondary to #1. If possible, do both; but always do #1.

By the way, this is a key message of the great classical movie 12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda. Every prospective juror who wants to prepare for serving should watch and consider this movie. Some of the lessons:

  • Keep the government in check—with the use of your vote about innocence and guilt.
  • Think on your own—don’t be a victim of “groupthink” or peer pressure from members of the jury. Be polite, respectful, participative, and friendly—and don’t be swayed by anything except your own careful thinking. Listen, analyze, and think on our own.
  • As a juror you are using real power. You are using force. Your vote will impact the accused just like a gun with bullets would. Be careful, and wise. Use this power reverently, and with a cautious eye on keeping government power from pushing through things that aren’t truly proven.
  • Don’t see the judge or lawyers as the teachers or experts and the jurors as the students or employees. This isn’t how the founders set up the jury system, even though many people are in the habit of seeing it this way. Instead, get it right by seeing the judge, lawyers and witnesses as students or employees putting on presentations and the jurors as the experts or bosses who learn from the others but make the final decisions.
  • Remember that in our current system, victims and their families aren’t allowed to directly seek justice through fights, duals, or retaliation. You are the hand of their justice, so if a defendant is guilty, it is essential to respond in a just way.
  • Be polite and calm, even when standing up for your view.
  • Do your best to see that justice is done, and that the government is kept in check. To reiterate: If you must choose between the two, keeping the government (with its immense power and resources) in check is more important than keeping one defendant in check.
  • How to deal with the judge: Treat him with respect and obey whatever he says, except when he tells you how to think. Remember, judges are a major part of the government the founders wanted juries to protect against. If he tells you how to think, at all, use your own brain. The founders put you on the jury, not the judge.

Treat this prospect with respect. The founders gave you the jury power because they trusted you more than anyone else—including any government official or judge—to keep the government in check, seek real justice, think independently and wisely, and do the right thing.

Your choices will have real impact on real people. As stated above: You are using real power as a juror. Don’t let this power corrupt. Use it with honor. Be proud of how you used it—for the rest of your life. As a juror, you are using force. Use it well.

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odemille A Guide to Jury Duty Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

 

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How to Fix the Middle East

October 14th, 2014 // 8:22 am @

What’s Been Missed

danger sign How to Fix the Middle EastAmerican wars abroad are causing more problems than they solve, for one very important reason: U.S. experts who help establish new constitutions and laws in nations like Iraq and Afghanistan don’t apply the principles of the U.S. Constitution to the level that they could.

They try, but they seem to not really understand the Constitution and how it works.

As long as Washington keeps doing this, our foreign interventions—whether limited to airstrikes or focused on full-blown ground wars—are a monumental waste of time and resources.

They leave the target nations worse off and more volatile than before we intervened.

Based on the cost of these wars, and its impact on our economy and our politics, this may be the single most important issue in current U.S. society. Most people don’t realize what a big deal this is.

Whether you support or dislike the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11, the United States certainly had a chance to positively influence the entire region.

A Fatal Misunderstanding

Experts debated whether it was possible to bring more democracy to the Middle East, and Washington tried to make things better.

But we failed miserably, leaving a power vacuum and strengthening dangerous anti-freedom forces in Iran, Syria, Palestine, ISIS, Northern Africa, and the whole region.

The reason for this failure is still almost entirely misunderstood: American experts try to copy elements of the Constitution and European parliamentary structures when setting up postwar governments in occupied nations, but they apparently don’t deeply know how Constitutional principles work—or don’t want to use them.

This is akin to copying Madison’s work, but doing it in a way that Madison would never have done. Specifically, the Constitutional system worked because the framers operated on a basic set of freedom principles.

One of these is that the key to long-term freedom is to identify the main power centers in a nation. This is vital if we want to see real change in the Middle East.

Once the power centers of a nation are clearly understood, each of them needs to be given a certain kind of power by the Constitution and laws.

Specifically, such power must give the group a real say in the direction of the nation, formatted so that all major power groups are represented and have the ability to check and balance each other.

The Important Separations

In most nations the best format is to divide the natural powers of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) as three of the great power centers, and then to give a legislative house to each of the major societal powers.

800px United States Capitol west front edit2 300x155 How to Fix the Middle EastFor example, in aristocratic Britain the two strongest natural power centers were the upper class with all its wealth and influence, and the lower classes with their huge numbers and power of labor.

This led to the House of Lords and the House of Commons, a system that gave the two biggest powers in the nation a real say in government, but simultaneously kept them both checked and balanced.

In the United States, with a less aristocratic and more commercial focus, the three major power centers were the individual states, the rich class, and the working middle class.

The founding fathers wisely structured the Constitution in a way that all three of these groups had great power but with checks and balances on each. The Senate naturally represented the wealthy class, the House was elected by the working middle class, and the states were given huge powers—even more than the federal government.

This is the Constitutional format, and it is very effective. When the major natural powers in a nation are all given a real place in the government, and all operate under checks and balances, it brings out the best in each power group and the whole nation can flourish.

The U.S. applied this principle after World War II in the two major occupied areas—Germany and Japan. In Germany, with an aristocratic model similar to Britain, the experts created an upper house to represent the aristos and a lower house to represent the common people.

A Working System

Japan presented a different model, because it was historically a monarchy run by just a few ruling families—much more like an oligarchy than a European aristocracy.

U.S. experts wisely set up Japan’s government in a way that the monarchy was disbanded but the same top ruling families were allowed to retain their power through the banking system and its close interconnection with the government.

This shifted their focus from military empire to economic growth—creating the modern Japanese economic “miracle.” Of course, this isn’t miraculous to anyone who understands Constitutional principles.

A few years later the U.S. followed a similar “Asian” approach by applying Constitutional systems in South Korea.

In all these cases, “democracy” worked—even in formerly totalitarian nations—because the American experts knew how to create constitutions that brought together all the major powers in a nation and make them part of the leadership (while at the same time ensuring that they were balanced and checked).

This would work in the Middle East as well, if only we used it.

New Goals

During the Cold War, however, Washington’s approach changed. The focus turned to gaining allies against the threat of communism, and experts put their attention to international treaties, international law, and international organizations rather than good, old-fashioned freedom principles applied at every level in a nation. Schools followed this shift, and true Constitutional expertise went into decline.

After 9/11, as the U.S. fought and gained incredible influence over Iraq and Afghanistan, a new generation of experts—trained in the new way—tried to create constitutional models in these nations based on a shallow understanding of how freedom works.

In both cases, U.S. experts basically tried to copy U.S. and European institutions. They rightly gave power to legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, but they missed the opportunity to actually bring Constitutional freedoms to these nations.

Specifically, they acted as if the major power centers in Iraq and Afghanistan are the same as the U.S. (the rich versus the working class) or Europe (the aristocracy versus the commons). But they aren’t.

The major power centers in Iraq are Shia and Sunni, and they have been at war for centuries.

Thus, setting up a government with separate branches and constitutional checks and balances but leaving the two major natural power centers in the nation out of the government guarantees that their conflicts will have to be settled by violence—not constitutionally by elections, debates, check and balances, courts, or negotiations.

The U.S. experts acted as if the work of the American framers should be copied for everyone, not emulated in the way Madison of Jefferson would have structured an Iraqi system.

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution. We seem to have lost any real Constitutional expertise—at least in Washington.

Constitutional Law is now mostly a matter of memorizing cases, legal history, and the interplay between three branches of government, rather than really understanding the principles of freedom that the founding fathers taught.

A Real Fix

A Jefferson-Madison approach to Iraq would create a 3-branch government (legislative, executive, judicial) with three houses in the legislature: a House of Sunni, House of Shia, and a house popularly elected by small local districts across the whole nation.The third house would naturally represent the lower classes and also empower the Kurds and other minorities.

If U.S. experts had done this in 2005 (or 1992), Al Quada would have had no influence in Iraq and ISIS would have almost no followers today—at least not in Iraq and most likely not in Syria. Iraq would be a powerful, wealthy democratic republic in the heart of the Middle East.

It would of course have its share of problems, but the challenges would be more like those faced by early democratic epochs experienced in Canada, France, Japan (after 1946), South Korea (after 1950) and Australia.

Some might argue that this is impossible, because the Sunni/Shia conflict is inherently violent, but history shows a different story: Middle East conflicts are no more violence-prone than feudal Japan, the bloody European Catholic/Protestant wars, or the cruel Roman, Mongol, or Aztec empires.

These all spread violence for many centuries, and the violence only ended when these cultures adopted better constitutions.

 Bleak Forecast

Jefferson-Madison principles would take a very different route in Afghanistan by putting a small emphasis on the national constitution and focusing on helping tribal regions and cities create strong self-governing structures.

Only outsiders see Afghanistan as a nation; the Afghani people don’t consider themselves part of Afghanistan but part of their local tribal or regional culture.

Constitution We the People 300x108 How to Fix the Middle EastAfghanistan needs several dozen constitutions—for each real national area. And each needs to identify the main power centers in the area and make them part of the government (with adequate checks, as always). Nothing else will work.

Madison and Jefferson would never have made such obvious mistakes in Iraq or Afghanistan. Even the U.S. experts of 1945 would have taken a very different, more constitutional approach. But today’s experts are apparently more expert on internationalism than freedom.

They seek to create constitutions that fit Washington’s international agendas rather than actually help Iraq and Afghanistan create free and prosperous systems that work.

This is a major problem because the result will be increased conflicts and wars in the Middle East. In the decades ahead, we seem destined to shed a lot more American blood in the region—without fixing much of anything.

Note that both parties are to blame: Republicans have attempted to nation build but have done it shallowly and poorly as described above, ensuring worse problems in the very regions they’ve tried to help, and Democrats have decried “nation building” but continued bombing and increased drone strikes without any clear strategy or plan for improved self-governing constitutional structures. This accomplishes nothing good.

What We Need

America’s loss of Constitutional understanding is a growing disaster, not just in the U.S. but around the world. We need to change. The U.S. must either stop bombing and leave nations to their own wisdom and struggles, or we need to actually apply real principles of freedom.

NEEDED 300x198 How to Fix the Middle EastBut to apply such principles, we first need to understand them. Being ruled by many thousands of U.S. federal and state government officials who either haven’t read the Federalist Papers or don’t understand them (or don’t like them) is causing major American decline.

And unless something changes, it’s going to get worse—for freedom-loving people in America as well as the Middle East. Nothing is getting fixed in the Middle East, and it won’t get fixed until actual freedom is applied.

To top off this challenge, as we become weaker and weaker in this current era of American decline, China and Russia are waiting in the wings.

The solution is simple, however. We need a new group of dedicated people who pay the price to truly understand the principles of the Constitution—and know how to apply them to any people and nation genuinely seeking freedom.

 

(More on this topic is contained in the upcoming book by Oliver DeMille, entitled The U.S. Constitution and the 196 Principles of Freedom: How to Write Constitutions in the 21st Century. It will be available for Christmas 2014.)

 

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odemille How to Fix the Middle East Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

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SPECIAL REPORT Part II: Who I Want for President

September 15th, 2014 // 10:34 am @

Diverging Paths

Constitution We the People 1024x371 SPECIAL REPORT Part II: Who I Want for President

The good news is that the 2016 presidential election has the power to put America back on the right track.

The bad news is that same election could make things a whole lot worse for us.

If the United States votes for eight more years of a White House philosophy that believes in more big government, 2016 will be the year we officially endorsed the decline of America.

In a recent article I suggested that Rand Paul or Mitt Romney have a real chance in the next election. I received a lot of responses to this article—more than usual.

Some of them agreed, others showed support for these or different candidates (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, etc.), and still others suggested that the Democratic party is our best hope.

In all this, nobody addressed my main point. It went something like this:

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we elected a president who actually believed in following the letter of the Constitution? How refreshing! What a great boost that would be for freedom—in the U.S. and around the world.”

Freedom President

election 2016 canstockphoto20144380 300x204 SPECIAL REPORT Part II: Who I Want for PresidentI suggested that Rand Paul would likely be that kind of leader, and I’m convinced that Mike Huckabee, Mike Lee, and perhaps others would fit this mold.

Think about it! What a powerful concept: A president who reads the Constitution and simply follows it. Now that’s a truly great idea.

The problem is that presidents don’t do this anymore. Worse, the American people don’t even expect them to do it.

The truth is that most recent presidents would tell you they did follow the Constitution, but when they say this they’re talking about the Supreme Court’s definition of the Constitution. That’s not what I mean.

I’m referring to following the Constitution the way the American founders used the phrase: by reading what it says, and following it. Not by using Supreme Court rulings or Attorney General letters as excuses or grants of executive authority.

This is a really big deal. If we don’t read the document and just follow it,* we aren’t really benefiting from what the Constitution is all about.

And freedom will continue to decline.

Contrast Politics

For example, when President Obama announced major airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, he made sure to point out that he had the authority to order such military operations without any vote from Congress.

He called this following the Constitution, but it isn’t. The document is very clear: only Congress can vote for long-term military operations.

The president can act to stop a direct, immediate threat to the U.S. homeland, but anything beyond that requires a decision by Congress.

In contrast to Obama’s words, when Rand Paul was asked if the president needed Congressional authority for his long-term military plan, he responded that yes, this is exactly what the Constitution says.

It was refreshing to hear a top potential presidential candidate refer to the authority of the Constitution instead of the interpretations of the Court.

Sadly, Americans aren’t accustomed to hearing such words. Politicians refer to past precedents, the War Powers Act, Supreme Court decisions, earlier Congressional approvals that could be interpreted to apply in the current situation, and other policies—and all these distract from the real point.

The framers wrote the Constitution so the regular people could read and tell—with no help from experts—when their government officials were following it and when they weren’t.

False Authority and Failing Checks

It has become commonplace for the White House to simply ignore the Constitution, to intervene when and where it chooses, without regard to the document, and to claim that the Court gave it such power or that Congress allowed it such powers.

But the Constitution doesn’t give the Court or Congress the authority to grant the executive any powers. The Court can check the Oval Office, as can Congress, but neither have the Constitutional power give the Executive additional authority.

The people, not the Court, are the final experts on the Constitution. Presidents routinely pay little heed to the Constitution because the people let them get away with it.

The people keep electing candidates who openly say the role of the president is to go beyond the Constitution—especially in foreign relations, but also in domestic policy. As long as we keep voting this way, we keep losing more freedom.

Recent presidents from both parties have egregiously ignored the Constitution. And among the current potential candidates for president, it is commonplace to speak of following the Constitution and mean the modern, Beltway view of the president’s powers—ignoring the actual words in the document itself.

That’s why I’m so impressed when I hear Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee talk in a totally different way. Or Mike Lee, though he’s shown no interest in the 2016 presidency.

Again, wouldn’t it be great to elect a president who doesn’t consult Washington insiders but rather the pages of the U.S. Constitution when an issue arises.

Imagine a president who would tell Congress that we need serious military action but he won’t take it without their approving vote.

That kind of leadership is sorely missing in America, and one of the top causes of our decline.

Keepers Above the Law

One root of the problem is that most Americans today don’t really believe in limits on government. For example, just watch how the police behave in almost every cop-oriented television drama and movie.

They frequently don’t wait for a warrant, they smash in doors of homes and apartments with guns waiving and SWAT units swarming. The good cops, the best officers in these shows, are the ones who push the law to its furthest limits and even break it when they deem it “necessary.”

The more they ignore or circumvent the Constitutional guidelines and get away with it, the better cops they are. Or so they are portrayed.

I’m not saying that the Hollywood version of police actions is always accurate in real life (though the increased militarization of law enforcement is a serious, growing threat to regular citizens).

I am saying that these TV dramas and movies are a very real portrayal of how most Americans believe the cops are and should be.

This is what our culture has come to consider good police work—finding ways to sneak around or get away with just ignoring Constitutional limits, protections, and due process.

Vice as Virtue

Most Americans won’t say it in so many words, but they are used to thinking of police officers as above the law in many—if not most—situations, and of expecting the good cops to bend the “annoying” Constitutional limits and just do whatever is needed to go get the bad guys.

And if this is how they see the police, consider how much more they admire this same bravado in the President.

Of course, both parties whine when a president from the other party exerts unconstitutional influence or executive orders to expand his power. But they frequently defend their own party’s president in the same, or worse, abuses.

It’s literally endemic in our modern system. It bears repeating until we realize what a major threat this is!

Hawaii Five 0 2nd Season Cast 300x168 SPECIAL REPORT Part II: Who I Want for PresidentThe way our majority culture now sees it, the best cops and government leaders do whatever it takes, even bending or ignoring the Constitutional rules, to “do the right thing.”

Think of the most popular police dramas and movies—the main character(s) is always the “good guy” who breaks the Constitutional boundaries in service of the greater good.

NCIS, CSI, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-0, Law and Order, Chicago PD, Arrow, Bones, Castle, Criminal Minds, NCIS Los Angeles, Agents of SHIELD, Scandal, Covert Affairs, 24, The Blacklist, and many others, all follow this plotline.

These aren’t obscure programs; they are among the most popular in our era. One or more of them is almost always playing on American prime time, and our culture is inundated with their messages.

The Power of 2016

This is how we see government officials, and especially the government agents who carry guns or work in the Oval Office. Again, I’m not saying people openly support this view in polls; I’m saying it is now part of our gut-level cultural expectation.

A majority of Americans now think government agents can and even should routinely push and even break Constitutional limits.

Yes, some people watch cop shows or government dramas and think, “That’s terrible! How can our leaders consistently get away with just disregarding and even flouting the Constitution? They should be reprimanded and removed.” But such Americans are a small minority.

Most of the electorate considers such behavior by police and top executive officials as the norm, and as what is needed to get the job done.

When someone they personally know or identify with gets pushed around, they cry unfair. But when it’s just other people suffering at the hands of abusive government actions, most voters turn a blind eye.

Would I like something different, a president who reads the Constitution to see if he has the authority for a certain action and then realizes he doesn’t and chooses to stay within the bounds of that great document? You bet I would. The future of freedom depends on it.

The thing is, I think we actually have the power to elect such a leader in 2016. Watch what the potential candidates say. So far, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee are excellent examples of leaders who talk a lot about following the Constitution and really stand for this approach. Regardless of political parties, that’s the kind of President we want.

                                                          

* Of course, the people have made changes to it over time, including the Amendments and the end of slavery and reduction of racism (there is more work to be done on this). Note that these changes were made by the people, not the federal government, and following them is in keeping with the people overseeing their leaders and holding them to the Constitution.

 

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odemille SPECIAL REPORT Part II: Who I Want for President Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

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SPECIAL REPORT: Mitt Romney Will Run and Win- Oliver DeMille

September 11th, 2014 // 10:50 am @

(A Tale of Four Candidates)

Prediction: Mitt Romney is running for president. And, if current trends continue, he’s going to win.

640px Mitt Romney by Gage Skidmore 6 SPECIAL REPORT: Mitt Romney Will Run and Win  Oliver DeMilleRand Paul and Hillary Clinton are running as well. It’s just a matter of time until all three of these future candidates announce, but in the meantime something interesting is happening to this election.

It is being determined by stealth, and the major players are world events—especially in Russia, China, and the Middle East.

In the 2008 election Hillary Clinton was the unanimous frontrunner.

But she lost the nomination because she promoted a strong, aggressive foreign policy while newcomer Barack Obama promised to get America out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Guantanamo.

This gave candidate Obama the natural lead in a war-weary nation frustrated about the lack of WMDs in Iraq.

Clinton and McCain talked aggressively about foreign affairs, but the voters wanted to get out of world conflicts and refocus on the home front.They voted for Obama.

In a very similar way, the next presidential election is already gearing up. With the recent resurgence of threats from Putin and Russia, along with continual crises in Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Israel, Syria, Palestine, and now the constant news coverage on ISIS, Americans are increasingly seeing the need for a strong leader in the White House.

Golf and Governing

Foreign affairs are once again foremost in the American electorate’s emotion center (with worries about China still simmering just under the surface)—but the emphasis is on standing strong and facing down threats instead of getting away from them.

If the storyline shifts by 2016 and the American people once again want to get out of foreign interventions and focus more on the home front, Rand Paul will receive the kind of huge popularity boost that propelled Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.

But right now we’re witnessing something very different. Each recent move from the Obama Administration has been met with major opposition from Democrats as well as Republicans.

If the president plays golf during a crisis, Congressional leaders from both parties criticize him.

If he dresses in his power suit and fills thirty minutes of prime time television announcing a major military initiative, looking straight into the camera and talking tough, national leaders from both parties spend the next three hours and days arguing against his plans—filling the airwaves with every conceivable criticism.

Short Power, Short View

There is a general lack of trust in the president right now, no matter what he does, and it comes from both parties and also the media, even many of the media outlets that have historically been very supportive of the Obama Administration.

Moreover, the president has a low approval rating and a very high level of American voters who mistrust his leadership.

Part of this stems from the fickle nature of the American electorate. Americans overwhelmingly supported going into Afghanistan, and also Iraq. A few years later they overwhelmingly supported getting out.

Today strong majorities want to use our military against ISIS; the more we do, the more likely it is that most Americans will soon be clamoring for us to bring these same troops home.

As a nation, we seem to like the idea of using our power—we just want its use to be short and decisive.

The same thing happens with domestic programs. A majority demanded health care reform; once it passed, the criticisms began. The longer we’ve watched Obamacare roll out, the less support it has among the electorate.

This is repeated in many ways in current U.S. politics.

But there is a bigger reality at work here. The nation is tired of the direction we’re taking. In 2008 the voters blamed it on Bush and put Obama in office. Today the electorate blames it increasingly on Obama.

And with the rise of general concern about foreign threats, both Clinton and Paul will be seen as a bit soft on foreign aggressors. They’re not, but the populace still sees it this way.

Bigger Power

During all this there is one powerful, recurring thread: President Obama is frequently broadcast in the media at his worst and weakest, and Mitt Romney appears on one news program after another—constantly commenting on what we should be doing in international conflicts. His answers are refreshingly different from Obama’s, and he sounds both credible and wise.

Indeed, Romney has accomplished something he never pulled off during the campaign—he projects a consistent, confident message of American strength.

Romney looks a lot more presidential in these clips than the president in his golf clothes. Indeed, the television optics during the last few months of Russian and Middle Eastern crises constitutes a major victory for Romney.

After all, Romney told Obama during the 2012 presidential debates that Russia was a major threat—and Obama scoffed at him. Romney warned of a slowed economy that would need serious free enterprise action to get moving again. Obama sneered at this view. Romney was right; Obama wasn’t.

The electorate is now sneering in the other direction. It has largely lost faith in Obama. And when it sees Romney responding to the latest international problem, he oozes competence while Obama and Hillary evoke immediate skepticism.

If the election were held next week, Romney would win.

But we’ve got over two years until the next presidential election, and a lot will happen between now and then. Not the least of which is the 2014 midterm congressional election.

Foreign and Domestic

randpaul 300x263 SPECIAL REPORT: Mitt Romney Will Run and Win  Oliver DeMilleWith all that said, world events may well be the biggest influence on who becomes America’s next commander in chief. If foreign problems maintain their current pace, Romney will most likely be the next president.

If not, we may be faced with a very interesting situation, where a Hawkish Democrat (Hillary Clinton) faces a more non-interventionist Republican (Rand Paul).

While I personally agree with the less interventionist view and would love to see a President Rand Paul lead a White House that actually believes in following the U.S. Constitution, I think world events make this unlikely. Sad.

Ultimately, there is a lot more to this than mere politics. America’s power in international affairs won’t be as important to the future of the nation as whether or not the next president rekindles freedom in our economy.

This is what Romney or Paul offers. Hillary Clinton, or Elizabeth Warren if Hillary falters, will likely keep acting like Washington is the center of our business and economic success. This is the battle: freedom versus bigger government.

This is the great American decision of 2016.

The importance of this choice is almost impossible to overstate!

Ironically, this vital decision will probably be made by foreign aggressors, by what they do or don’t do, and how their actions influence the American electorate in the months and years just ahead.

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

odemille SPECIAL REPORT: Mitt Romney Will Run and Win  Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

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The “BIG” Problem by Oliver DeMille

July 30th, 2014 // 7:53 pm @

The Wrong Size

The BIG problem no exceptions 996x1024 The BIG Problem by Oliver DeMille

The “BIG” problem isn’t just hugely important, it’s also the incredible set of challenges that are created when any institution, organization, or endeavor is just plain too big. This problem is predictable, and therefore solvable, but only if the right people are keeping an eye on the right things.

Specifically, our modern government is too big. Period. Until this problem is remedied, we will continue to see crisis after crisis after crisis, each followed by infighting, gridlock, dysfunction, and major mistakes from Washington and both parties. As long as the government tries to do too much on too big a scale, it will continue to do many things poorly.

In fact, our government reached this turning point (too big to be efficient) in the late 1960s. As Micklethwait and Woolridge put it: “By the 1970s, the U.S. government seemed to be spoiling everything it touched…” (Foreign Affairs, vol. 93, no. 4, p. 126) And the size and scope of its endeavors have more than quadrupled since.

The Two Crises

This has created two overarching crises that never seem to dissipate. In fact, they’ll continue to fester and grow as long as the government grows. First, a government too big to be effective or efficient tends to infectiously weaken the effectiveness and efficiency of everything it touches—and at the same time it habitually tries to touch more and more. This dull, inevitable march to control more parts of life and the economy (and inadvertently make them all less effective) has killed every great world power in history.

Its occurrence in the United States is now the defining characteristic of our century—for the whole globe.

Second, the bigger the government gets once reaching this point of inefficiency, the less it fulfills its primary mission. For the framers, the role of what they called the “general government” (meaning the federal government, what we now usually call the “national government” or even, tellingly, “the government”), was national security and the protection of freedom.

The framers saw no other role for Washington. It’s raison de etre was to protect inalienable rights and defend the nation. Nothing else. In fact, the Constitution was designed specifically to ensure that it did nothing else. Worried that they hadn’t quite made this certain, the founding generation then added the Bill of Rights to make absolutely sure that the federal government only did these two things.

Then, just in case they hadn’t made it clear enough, they added the Ninth Amendment to the Bill of Rights. But even then they worried that they hadn’t done enough to limit the federal government. So they added the Tenth Amendment as well: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

“We want the federal government to protect inalienable rights and maintain national security, and do nothing else!” they tried to say (the Constitution). Then, “And we mean it (the Bill of Rights). We really mean it (the Ninth Amendment). Seriously, we truly, totally, emphatically, mean it! (the Tenth Amendment).”

Richard A. Epstein wrote: “…the two central concerns of constitutional law” are “institutional structure and individual rights.” (Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, vol. 37, no. 3, p. 705) The purpose of institutional structure is to secure individual rights, not vice versa.

The People or the Government?

But when the focus of government becomes too big, well beyond the Constitutional powers of protecting rights and maintaining the national defense, the individual rights of the people become a resource to be bargained, traded or sacrificed in the name of institutional structure. “Think not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do with or without your consent for itself,” becomes the operating principle.

The people, the individuals, are forgotten in this new arrangement. They become a cypher, expendable, unimportant. Not citizens but voters. Not a nation of, by, and for the people, but now people for, by, and of the nation (meaning whatever Washington says). In other words, an aristocracy, where elites run the nation and control the people who live in it.

This isn’t the founding model of Americanism at all. It’s the opposite. It’s top-down government, not Jefferson’s bottom-up democracy. As such, it is fundamentally authoritarian, not a self-governing republic. This has created two natural results: national decline as the world’s sole superpower, and the decline of individual freedoms.

Both declines will continue as long as the “BIG” problem (the government is too big) persists.

The Cause

But what can be done, realistically? The federal government can be held to its Constitutional boundaries. It can be limited to national defense and the protection of the inalienable rights of its citizens. This is why the government was created in the first place, and when it tries to do anything else beyond these two roles it is both unconstitutional and also destructive to freedom, prosperity, and happiness.

The people still have the power to remedy this, in every election, if they’ll choose to vote wisely.

Note that nearly all nations in both the free and the authoritarian world are facing the “BIG” Problem. Following America’s lead, or in some cases simply striking out on their own, modern governments are drastically expanding—not sticking to their wise or constitutional limits. For example, the debt of governments around the world “…reached $50.6 trillion in 2013, compared with just $22 trillion in 2003.” (Ibid. p. 130)

At this rate, the fall of individual freedoms to the “BIG” Problem is all but ensured.

This trajectory isn’t surprising in the authoritarian nations, where elites openly rule the masses. But in the free nations, it is a relatively new development, one that began in the United States with the advent of the GI Bill after World War II. Before this time, education generally emphasized the classics and the great skills of deep reading (e.g. The Federalist), writing and thinking.

The BIG problem Period 1024x858 The BIG Problem by Oliver DeMille

When the government began massively funding higher education, schools changed their emphasis to job and career training, and subsequent generations of Americans stopped learning to read. Of course, they gained literacy, but as a nation we lost our high level of what I’ve called Leadership Education and what E.D. Hirsch called Cultural Literacy—a deep understanding of the same things our leaders read and think about.

In fact, before 1945, the primary focus of American education was for each child, youth and citizen to read the same books and think about the same ideas and questions as their Presidents, Senators, Judges, and leading CEOs.

Allan Bloom called this momentous shift away from cultural literacy “the closing of the American mind,” and he warned that unless we reversed this trend democracy was doomed. We didn’t reverse it, and as a result, as mentioned above, “By the 1970s, the U.S. government seemed to be spoiling everything it touched…” (Op Cit)

In the 2010s, the dearth of leadership education is a wholesale national crisis. Very few people know how to really read the fine print of government any more. In such situations, rule by elites is the only historical norm.

If we are merely voters rather than engaged citizens, we vote poorly. We are swayed by media, photogenicism, and campaign popularity contests. We ignore the fact that candidates lie, or more accurately that once in office they routinely fail to live up to their campaign promises.

We become a nation of children, led around by our elite handlers, rather than a nation of adults who closely scan government actions and keep our politicians and their policies on a tight leash.

Again, the fundamental problem is that we aren’t in the habit of reading or thinking like leaders. For example, consider the following commentary from a contemporary source:

“Freedom of speech” in “freedom of speech, or of the press” means the freedom of all to speak; this suggests that “freedom…of the press” in the same phrase means the freedom of all to use the press. Reading “freedom” to mean “freedom of every person to engage in an activity” when “freedom” relates to “speech,” but reading the same word in the same place as meaning “the freedom of some particular group of people” when it relates to “the press” is not how users of the English language use these kinds of closely connected clauses…” (Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, vol. 37, no. 3, p. 733)

Most moderns don’t enjoy reading such paragraphs. They wonder what it is about, why it matters, and why they should read it at all. They have to dig to ascertain it’s meaning, and even then they feel a bit unsure. They consider it the kind of reading to be done by experts, not every citizen. Yet this is the argument a Supreme Court Justice used to make the case that everyone has the right to share their opinions openly—against some who argued that the only ones with this right are actually professional reporters and journalists.

This is a huge deal, with massive consequences to our freedom. Yet almost the only people who read such paragraphs are experts. In the founder’s time, the regular citizens read such ideas and discussed them at length. In our day, we don’t.

Then, when we go to the ballot box, we vote very differently than the founders or any other people who actually closely study and understand the fine print. No nation keeps its freedoms when the regular people don’t read, think, and spend time analyzing the same things as their political officials. Every nation that leaves political details to the experts loses its freedom to a professional expert governing class. There are no exceptions in history.

Yet today we are two nations: the masses, who focus on their careers (from kindergarten through retirement) and entertainments, and the elites who read the fine print and understand it—and use the education of their children to pass on these same skills and interests. This is aristocracy, pure and simple. Freedom and democracy cannot last in such a climate.

One more example, though there are thousands that could be used:

“…today we have about 5,000 federal criminal statutes on the books, most added in the last few decades [since the shift of the 1970s]. And the spigot keeps pouring, with hundreds of new statutory crimes inked every few years. Neither does that begin to count the thousands of additional regulatory crimes buried in the federal register. There are so many crimes cowled in the numbing fine print of those pages that scholars actually debate their number.” (Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, vol. 37, no. 3, p. 747.)

This is the “BIG” Problem in a nutshell. If people don’t know the law, how can they obey the law? If government becomes so big that only the experts know the law, we are living in an aristocracy. But when government becomes so big that even the experts don’t know the law, the nation itself is in danger. Everything the government touches weakens, and the government tries to touch everything. This is today’s America.

The Solution

The answer is to teach the current generation of youth how to read. Really read, in the Allan Bloom, culturally literate, Leadership Education way of reading. Such reading empowers the regular people to think about the same ideas the experts, government officials, and top leaders are thinking about. This creates a nation that is capable of a democratic republic, and of freedom.

No other education allows a citizenry to remain free.

This starts by teaching young people (and adults, where needed) to read the classics. Then to read the scholarly journals and other deep writings of experts and government officials. Without this skill, and this habit, freedom is always lost.

Ironically, most people reject this solution because it takes too long, and can compete with their kids’ career training. This is exactly the short-term viewpoint that is trained into the masses by conveyor-belt schooling. The elites, in contrast, make this a major priority. They ensure that their youth have a leadership education above all else. They know this is the key to their future power. Elite private schools train leadership through the classics.

People who don’t read the classics, the scholarly journals and writings, and important government documents, are part of the masses. Those who do are part of the ruling elites. The goal is to get the majority of citizens reading these things. Only then are the people the rulers, and only then is a nation free.

The “BIG” Problem can only be solved the LITTLE Solution: you reading the classics, journals and other deep writings, and government documents—a little each day. If you don’t do this, you will witness less freedom and the major decline of your nation, and even less freedom for your children and grandchildren.

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

odemille The BIG Problem by Oliver DeMille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

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

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