June 17th, 2013 // 12:01 pm @ Oliver DeMille
As the party system has created gridlock in Washington, less is getting accomplished on Capitol Hill.
In a funny way, this has created a situation that is more like the American Founding era than anything we’ve experienced in over a century—the real place to get things done in government is at the local and state levels.
The bad news is that Washington continues to spend, borrow, inflate the currency by printing money, and over-regulate in nearly every facet of modern life.
Its growth is slowed by partisan conflicts, but it hasn’t started shrinking.
Not by a long shot.
Another piece of bad news is that the national parties and their teams are pushing their agenda even more vigorously at the local levels.
This means that the party controlling the White House will have a much larger budget and ability to promote national goals in each city, county and state.
The good news is that regular people can have more influence and make more of a difference at the local and even state level.
Most citizens have long felt they can’t really do much to improve Washington—the national government is just too big, too far removed, too immune to change.
But at the local level it’s a different story.
People who really want to get involved can make a major impact on local government.
The key is consistency.
Those who keep at it will eventually learn how to be effective, and as they involve their friends and colleagues they can become a real force for good.
This system, with a lot of citizen involvement at the local level, is what the American founding fathers envisioned.
In a strange way, it is now becoming more of a reality.
As David Brooks wrote in The New York Times, “The happiest people these days are those who leave Washington and get elected mayor or governor. The most frustrated people are people who were mayor and governor and get elected in the Senate. They end each day knowing they were busy. They’re just not sure they accomplished anything.”
Local government is the new power center, and regular people who want to make a real difference can now do so at levels not seen for over a century.
It’s unclear how long this new reality will last, but for now there is a window of power for concerned citizens.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
May 21st, 2013 // 4:42 pm @ Oliver DeMille
The idea behind this quip was that when a big crisis came, the White House should use it to push its big-government agenda.
In an ironic twist, the current triple scandals (IRS, Benghazi, and Associated Press) are accomplishing exactly the opposite.
The White House and indeed most of the executive branch is spending a great deal of its energy right now dealing with the scandals.
The result is that less money, time and effort are being spent on spreading big government.
At the same time, more Americans are paying attention to what is happening in Washington.
The word “scandal” seems to create more interest in what is happening than business as usual.
The more citizens who pay close attention to what the government does, the better for freedom.
In short, we’re experiencing at least two positive side effects of the current scandals:
- The executive branch is doing less, because it is focused on responding to the scandals
- More regular citizens are watching their government.
It’s sad that it takes scandal to accomplish such things, but at least they are happening.
Perhaps the most amazing thing in all this has been the Administration’s continued trust in government agencies.
After all the press and firings in the aftermath of government officials enjoying taxpayer-funded trips to Jacuzzis in Hawaii, you’d think the White House would be carefully watching its agencies and officials.
But even though it has asked for resignations from various agency officials, the Administration has emphasized that lone people and/or “isolated” bureaus made mistakes and held fast to the idea that government should be trusted.
At the same time, the Administration continues to express major distrust for businesses and pretty much anyone outside of government.
Why the double standard?
The various press briefings from the Administration emphasize a sense of, “Just trust us; after all, we’re the government. Of course we are telling the truth and doing the right thing.”
This flies in the face of the Framers’ view of government.
The American system and Constitution were founded on the idea that government is dangerous and that freedom can only last if the people mistrust the government and keep a close eye on it in order to keep it in line.
As Jefferson put it: “Let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
In Jefferson’s world, the assumption was that government officials should be generally suspected of being involved in “mischief.”
A healthy mistrust of government was a central point to maintaining freedom.
George Washington said: “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence—it is force! Like a fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
Madison added that government is the most dangerous threat to freedom: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations…”
For Madison, the great danger to freedom was government increasing its power over the people in “gradual and silent” ways.
Government has done this for a long time, and under the leadership of both parties at different times.
When it gets caught, it’s a scandal.
Just as the Johnson Administration is known for Vietnam and the Nixon era for Watergate, many other presidencies are known for their crises: Reagan for Iran-Contra, Bush I for higher taxes after promising it wouldn’t happen, Clinton for the Lewinsky affair, and Bush II for missing weapons of mass destruction.
In all this, why exactly do politicians keep suggesting that trust in government is the solution to America’s problems?
Such situations are basically the only times (under our current system) when the people are likely to make their influence felt and help other citizens see the dangers of big government.
Now is such a time.
In fact, America was founded on the belief that a healthy and active mistrust of government was essential to staying free!
We need more citizens to realize that Washington isn’t going to fix our biggest national problems, that the only real solution is for more Americans to be better citizens.
If we don’t get more involved and help take our nation in the right direction, more scandals will come.
A lot more.
What happens in Washington in the weeks ahead as these three scandals play out is less important than what happens among the regular people.
If we emerge from this crisis as a nation that still basically trusts its government, there will be no silver lining in the scandals.
If we as a people realize that as government grows, these type of crises will increase, we will at least learn something from all this.
If we as a people become more prone to keep a close eye on our government, to wisely and peacefully mistrust it and at the same time get more positively and proactively involved to ensure that it truly does the will of the people, this year can be a helpful turning point in America’s history.
A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.
And three of them at once is a huge opportunity.
If we ever do turn America back to a path of freedom, away from overreaching big government, it will be during a time like this.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
November 17th, 2012 // 10:36 am @ Oliver DeMille
In the aftermath of the 2012 election, there have been numerous emails, posts, articles and blogs by business owners who say they are planning to sell or close their businesses, or just lay off enough workers that they can afford Obamacare for the employees who remain.
One summary listed the following announced layoffs—all attempts to deal with the new costs of Obamacare:
- Welch Allyn, 275 layoffs
- Stryker, 1170 layoffs
- Boston Scientific, between 1200 and 1400 layoffs
- Medtronic, 1000 layoffs
- Smith and Nephew, 770 layoffs
- Hill Rom, 200 layoffs
- Kinetic Concepts, 427 layoffs
- Coviden, 595 layoffs
- Abbot Labs, 427 layoffs
- St. June Medical, 300 layoffs
There are many, many others.
One email dated November 7, the day after the election, read:
“Time to sell our business. We can no longer afford to provide a living for 14 employees as soon we’re forced to pay for their healthcare. So sad, too bad. On to new ventures.”
After responses about how sad this is and others pointedly blaming the Obama Administration, the same person continued:
“We are all Americans and need to find common ground and make this country great together. I’m not mad at anyone for voting different than me. They love their president, don’t lose friends over calling him a dictator. I’m excited to sell our business. We are adventurous!”
That’s the entrepreneurial spirit that made America great.
Not: “Oh no, we’re losing our job. Will the government help us?”
But rather: “Hey, change happens. We’re excited. This is going to be an adventure!”
That’s the American spirit.
And while rumors abound about how much Obamacare will cost each small business and which won’t have to make any changes at all, there are a lot of employers right now who are very concerned.
Those with under 50 employees aren’t supposed to be hurt, but smaller employers are still worried about exactly how the new laws will be enforced.
Sadly, we will likely see a lot of change in small business in the months and years just ahead.
More regulation, higher taxes and drastically increased costs of employing people will make things more difficult.
An exception may be in network marketing companies or compensated communities.
I’ve long considered them among the top entrepreneurial opportunities in free nations, and with the current changes and policies this is even more true.
“My son is a doctor,” Marge said proudly.
“Wow,” Betty said with a concerned voice. “How is your son dealing with the new regulations coming into effect under Obamacare?” she asked.
Marge nodded and her face grew serious. “He’s very concerned, to tell the truth.”
“Fortunately, my son is building a huge network marketing company, and the regulations aren’t hurting him much,” Betty said. “Maybe your son would like to meet with mine about an opportunity?”
This kind of conversation is taking place a lot right now, and all indications are that it will increase.
Some parents are recommending that their college children put school on hold and start a network business, and I know two medical doctors who have gotten out of the profession in order to build networking businesses.
One of them talked two of his sons into quitting college and doing the same, though the three of them all ended up building networking organizations with entirely different companies.
II. The Party of Small Business
All of this got me thinking today, and as I pondered I realized something. Something big.
Something we really need right now in America.
We need a third party.
Actually, we need a new party that becomes more popular than the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
There are more independents than members of either big party, so this shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
Here’s the problem: The Democratic Party is now the unabashed party of big government, the welfare state, rule from Washington D.C., and everything that goes with these values.
The Republican Party touts itself as the party of freedom, limited government, free markets and business, but in fact it is the party of big business and a big-spending government at the same or just slightly lower levels than Democrats.
We have a party of Big Government (with big business as its co-pilot), and another party that emphasizes Big Business (with big government as its co-pilot).
The first is the Democratic Party, the second the GOP.
Neither is now effectively serving the needs of our nation.
As a result, we get bigger government regardless of who gets elected, and big business grows (to the frequent detriment of small businesses) regardless of who is in power in Washington.
In all of this, small businesses, families, communities and the middle class are the losers.
The solution? We need a party of small business.
We need a party whose top priority is the needs of families and small businesses.
This new party needs to reject the big-government and anti-free enterprise values of the Democrats and simultaneously the big-business and anti-immigrant attitudes of Republicans.
It needs to embrace toleration, diversity, reduced government regulations, lower taxes, decreased government spending, incentives for entrepreneurship, a charitable safety net, and incentives for more immigrants to bring their capital, businesses, labor and families to America.
It needs to get rid of the barriers to hiring (such as the increasing required health care costs) and drastically reduce government red tape for small businesses.
It needs to allow more innovation, shrink requirements on licenses and permits and other unnecessary costs that decrease entrepreneurship and growth, and create an environment of seamless partnerships between schools and businesses.
It needs to promote, encourage and incentive a lot more initiative, innovation and entrepreneurialism.
It also needs to push for more creative and independent thinking in the schools and less that is rote, conveyor-belt, and pre-scripted.
It should change the way schools are run, replacing an environment where administrators and bureaucrats feel comfortable to one led by proven innovators and others who have been successful in the real economy, the FOR-profit economy.
Forget teacher certification and unions—if we want to compete in the global economy we need innovators leading our classrooms.
As an example, principals and teachers should be hired who have excelled at implementing successful business plans rather than writing resumes.
And funding should flow to schools that excel in a true free market.
To ensure to that no child is left behind (for example in less-advantaged neighborhoods), even larger premiums should go to innovators who successfully turn dumpy schools into flourishing institutions whose graduates thrive.
The new party should apply similar principles to other kinds of organizations, from health care and community governments to every other sector of the economy.
Small businesses bring the large majority of growth in the economy, and the new party needs to begin with the specific needs of small businesses in mind.
It needs to identify things that hurt small business and repeal them, and find out what helps small businesses succeed and introduce more policies that encourage these things.
It needs to rewrite the commercial and legal code to create an environment where innovation is the norm, along with the values of growth, calculated risk, leadership, creativity, and entrepreneurialism.
It needs to be not the party of jobs, but the party of successful business ownership—and the jobs they naturally create.
III. A Bright Future?
We need a third party. The party of Big Government (with big business as co-pilot) and the party of Big Business (with big government as co-pilot) simply aren’t doing what our nation needs anymore.
It’s time for new thinking and new leadership.
There is an old saying that you can’t pour new wine into old bottles, because the residue of past wine always taints the new.
This is where we are in America.
The current parties, as much good as both have done at times, have peaked and are in decline.
New leadership is needed, along new values untainted by the baggage of two parties whose time has come and gone.
It is perhaps possible to reform one of the parties to get better results, but it is likely that only a new party with an entirely new focus and fresh thinking is going to take America where it needs to go.
Democratic nations are notorious for refusing to change until crisis forces their hand, and I suspect this is what we’ll witness in the 21st Century.
At some point, probably after major crisis and a superhuman American response, we’re going to need a new party.
Those who love freedom should start thinking about what it should look like.
One thing is clear: When it does come, it needs to be a party of small business.
Free enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit made America great, and it will do so again if we let it.
Whatever comes in the economy, we want to be led by those whose attitude is, “It might sound bad, but this is an exciting adventure! Let’s get started…”
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.
July 10th, 2012 // 9:45 am @ Oliver DeMille
He said marriage is a sacred, covenant relationship, and as such it is a higher priority than civil government.
I had two responses to this thought: First, I totally agree.
I think our families are a sacred trust and take a higher priority than pretty much anything—except our personal relationship with, and allegiance to, God.
Second, I wonder if our modern understanding of government has devolved so far from the time of the American founding that we don’t consider government a covenant or holding political office a sacred trust.
In fairness to my friend, he is a lover of freedom who cares deeply about our nation and the decline of liberty.
He is among the most dedicated students of freedom I know.
Lecturing him on anything related to freedom would certainly be preaching to the choir, and he certainly sees political leadership as a sacred trust.
But his words made me think.
Ideal government is a covenant, and was understood as such by the Israelites because of the teachings of Moses.
It was passed down over the generations and eventually became known as “The Divine Right of Kings”.
John Locke’s political treatises addressed the reality that such a divine right of any legitimate king was long lost by the time of the British monarchs.
The American founders discussed this concept at length, and the words “covenant,” “sacred,” and “trust” were widely used in connection with government.
A search for “covenant politics” in various founding writings and modern political journals will yield many interesting articles.
The word “covenant” is still used in our time—based on the legal tradition of Blackstone –in nearly every state and province of the United States and Canada in the common CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions).
In Anglo-Franco-American law, a “covenant” was originally a specific kind of contract where both parties promise to do something for the other, and the contract is binding on both parties, even if one of the parties fails to perform or defaults.
Thus, there are fundamentally two kinds of contracts in law: Absolute and Conditional.
Conditional arrangements make up over 99% of contracts, where if the other side defaults the contract is void for both parties.
But the oaths of government officials are of the Absolute variety.
The founders made government service a covenant, rather than a simple contractual, arrangement.
Regardless of whether or not the people fulfill their duties, government officials are expected to do theirs—as expressed in their oaths of office.
The law also differentiates between “express” and “implied” covenants—“express” being those that are clearly written out, and “implied” being those that should be assumed by any reasonable standard of duty.
Jefferson used this concept when he sent American troops to protect U.S. citizens against the Barbary Coast pirates without any Congressional declaration of war.
He openly admitted that he had no “express” constitutional authority to take the action, but that the responsibility of presidency gave him an implied duty to protect those he served.
He followed the same line of reasoning when he signed the Louisiana Purchase.
The difference between him and some modern presidents who have taken seemingly similar actions is that he openly admitted that he had no authority, but had acted solely on his sense of duty, and he would not have blamed Congress for impeaching him as a legitimate response.
He acted according to what he considered his implied covenant duty and was willing to accept the consequences for exceeding his constitutional authority.
This clearly established the importance of covenant in governance.
Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison all followed the same course at different times when the chief executive had a duty to protect the national security of the U.S., and the Doctrine of National Preservation was a duty to which they were willing to sacrifice themselves on behalf of the nation.
In these cases Congress refused to exercise their check, impeachment, because they believed the leader had lived up to his Constitutional Oath to guard and “protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
The law, again based on Blackstone and English legal tradition, also differentiates between “inherent” and “collateral” covenants.
An “inherent” covenant is the cause of any and all fiduciary responsibilities –meaning, a responsibility that a person takes upon himself automatically by entering into a covenant relationship.
In contrast, “collateral” covenants must be clearly stipulated and understood by all parties involved.
There is a lot more of this, but I won’t bore you with all the details, like: Joint versus Several covenants, Principal versus Auxiliary covenants, Continuing versus Dated covenants, Full versus Partial covenants, Restrictive versus Universal covenants, Usual versus Special covenants, and about 10 others that are foundational in Anglo-Franco-American legal traditions.
One that I should mention is Transitive versus Intransitive covenants.
“Transitive” consists of those which pass the duty on to the covenanter’s agents, successors, and in some cases, posterity.
This is important because it shows why some people might argue that the governance covenant may be as important as the marriage covenant.
Obviously, a covenant is a covenant, a supreme promise, so ranking them by importance is a bit ridiculous.
That said, the marriage covenant is intransitive, meaning that my spouse and I are both bound by it, but when I die, my children don’t become her spouse.
If I held a hereditary government position, such as the anointed kings of old, however, upon my death my oath and covenant of good governance would pass with full responsibilities and duties to my heirs.
Government is a covenant, or at least good, free government is.
Under the U.S. constitutional model, positions requiring an oath are transitive; for example, when a president dies or becomes incapacitated, the responsibilities inherent in the oath of vice-president devolve all presidential duties upon him.
He must receive his full authority by collateral covenant and take an official oath; but if there is a gap between when the president dies and when the oath is taken, he has the full responsibility of the office by covenant.
(Note: Responsibilities, but not authority.)
Again, this is repeated in most military and other government positions that require an oath of office.
There are really only 3 types of government:
1) government by fiat, where the strongest take power by force and rule by might;
2) government by contract, where the government serves as a mercenary, responding to the highest bidder in order to obtain a profit for government officials;
and 3) government by covenant, where the constituents delegate authority tied to responsibility and the leaders put their responsibilities above their authority.
I believe that the marriage covenant is the most important agreement in all of society, second only to our promises to God.
And, in fact, the marriage covenant often included promises to a spouse, society and God.
Marriage has huge ramifications on all facets of society, including law and politics but extending much further.
But let’s not forget that good government is also a covenant.
It isn’t a mere contract, where if the people shirk their duties the officials may simply ignore the Constitution, or where if the officials are corrupt the people can just give up and let freedom wane.
We all have a responsibility to maintain freedom, and this obligation is transitive, meaning that it is our solemn duty to pass on as much, or more, freedom to our posterity as we inherited from our ancestors.
This is, in fact, a sacred trust.
Perhaps Calvin Coolidge said it best when he declared, as the President of the United States, that, “The protection of rights is righteous.”
If this is true, and it is, what would we call the act of destroying rights or of allowing them to be lost through distraction or neglect?
Such questions are extremely relevant right now in modern America.
July 5th, 2012 // 4:53 pm @ Oliver DeMille
After all, Mitt Romney had lauded Roberts as the example of the kind of Justices he’d select if elected president, and Roberts was seen as a clear conservative by most Republicans.
With one vote, he angered half the nation and left many feeling betrayed.
But was Roberts playing chess while the rest of the nation engaged in checkers? Was his decision on Obamacare a Fork, a Pin or a Sac?*
Here are a few reasons why his decision may be an Exchange Advantage* in a long game, a strategic risk that could pay significant positive gains for conservatives in the years ahead:
- It put the Obamacare law front and center in the 2012 election, and since Obamacare is overwhelmingly unpopular—even among swing voters who will determine the election—this is a huge potential boost for Romney.
- It allows Republican candidates for the House and Senate to make a wildly unpopular law, Obamacare, a key reason to elect them in November. It creates a much stronger possibility of a Republican sweep (House, Senate, and White House).
- Few Americans pay attention to Supreme Court cases, so the few that get wide notice like Obamacare are a chance for the Court to make a splash. Roberts used this to boost the status of the Court. The White House, Congress, the states and the people now take the Court more seriously than ever before, and Roberts himself is a real player in Washington and the whole nation—no longer a minor player, but a central figure in everything Washington does.
- Roberts is now respected and feared by opponents in a way he never was before, and in a Marshall-like way that few Chief Justices have enjoyed. He can use this in the future by letting it be known how he might feel about a certain law or policy before it is enacted.
- Roberts has struck a blow to the view that the Court is all political, all of the time. Liberals can only attack cases by saying they hate a given case (e.g. Citizens United), not the conservatively-dominated Court. This creates significant opportunity for the Court to make conservative rulings more free from charges of politics.
- By siding with the Left in this decision, Roberts insulated himself for decades (maybe for the rest of his career) from criticism by the Left. Just as Obama can say, “Osama bin Laden” and shut down any suggestions of being soft on national security, Roberts can say “Affordable Health Care Act” and insulate himself and the Court against any criticism that the Court is just a branch of the Republican party.
- By siding with the liberals, Roberts got to write the Majority Opinion in a way that ruled the individual mandate a “tax.” This is very significant because:
- * This makes it likely that Republicans in Congress can repeal parts of Obamacare using reconciliation, which would only take 51 Senators rather than 60.
- * It also makes Obamacare a massive tax, the biggest tax hike in American history. This reality isn’t lost on the American people or on the Obama Administration. It immediately put the Obama campaign on the defensive: President Obama said it wasn’t a tax, but his lawyers argued at the Court that it was a tax. Taxes aren’t popular, and such a massive tax will likely become increasingly unpopular over time.
- Roberts used the opinion to decrease the power of Washington over the states by arguing that Obamacare would have been unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause. This is one of the few rulings since the Great Depression that actually reduces the power of the federal government. Roberts may use the precedent of this case to strike down many federal programs in the future that cannot be considered a tax. If this happens, this case will be seen as the time where the era of big government was legally reversed.
- * On one hand, this is a strange way to put a legal end to big government. But this is not unprecedented. The Court has used various cases to rule on things that aren’t the direct focus of the case (see, for example, the United States v. Butler, 1936).
- * On the other hand, Roberts will probably never again have a case so publicized and likely to be considered by most Americans—which makes this the perfect case to create such a precedent and announce such an intention.
- * By announcing such a direction of the Court—to begin sizing down government—in this case, he made it very unlikely that President Obama or other liberal leaders would attack this change even though it strikes directly at their goals.
- This decision, more than any other event in 2012, increased the likelihood of Romney winning in November and nominating 1-3 Republican Justices to the Court during his presidency, and of electing more Republican Senators who confirm Justices that are nominated. This, above all, may be a long-term Roberts strategy. The question may have been: Is it worth the risk of upsetting conservatives in order to help get a strongly conservative court for the next two decades or more?
- Roberts appears to really believe that the individual mandate in Obamacare was unconstitutional under the Commerce and/or Necessary and Proper Clauses but constitutional as a tax. He called President Obama’s bluff, and this precedent will force any future law with a mandate to openly call it a tax. This is a blow to liberalism and a victory for conservatism.
- The Court can still rule on Obamacare in the Virginia case in 2015 or other cases that arise after Obamacare is implemented in 2014 and after. Indeed, the Court can use the precedent of a more narrow view of the commerce clause from the recent Obamacare case to strike down excesses of Obamacare in the years ahead. If Obama wins in 2012, the Court can re-rule and strike down various provisions on new grounds.
Some of us really like checkers, and if the 2012 election goes poorly for conservatives and the government continues to spend, regulate, borrow and socialize, many will look back on the Obamacare ruling as a mile marker in the loss of freedom.
I, for one, think the mandate was never meant to be a tax and as such is clearly unconstitutional.
In the parlance of another popular game, I think we should call a spade a spade.
But I do understand the idea that strategic risk is sometimes necessary to get a big win instead of a small one.
A case that creates as much passion as Obamacare only comes along rarely, and Roberts seems to have seen this as an opportunity to strike a powerful blow at the opposition.
Big government has been gaining momentum for a long time, and Robert’s risk may yet prove a brilliant maneuver that begins the reversal of bad Court decisions starting with Marbury v. Madison (1803).
I’m not holding my breath, but the optimist in me says that maybe, just maybe, this was a game-changer for freedom. Roberts may well have put his opponents en prise.*
At the very least, this is possible, and after so many decades of going in the wrong direction, I’m excited with the mere possibility of an effective freedom warrior among our top leaders.
Often one move is the difference between black queen or white queen to checkmate.
Time will tell.
* Chess Glossary
A Fork is an attack on two or more pieces simultaneously.
A Pin is where a piece may not be moved because another piece would be subject to capture.
A Sac is a voluntary offer of material for compensation in space, time, Pawn structure, or even force. A Sac can lead to an advantage in a particular part of the board. Note that a Sac is not always calculable and often entails an element of uncertainty (Also known as a Sacrifice).
In an Exchange Advantage, a player trades a piece for an enemy piece of greater value.
A chess piece is ‘En Prise‘ if it is left or moved to a square where it can be captured without loss to the capturing player.
(By the way, the best article I’ve seen on the Obamacare discussion is “We’re Having the Wrong Debate about Health Care” by Stephen Palmer)