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Constitution

America’s New Grand Strategy

November 23rd, 2010 // 4:00 am @

The United States is currently experiencing a Grand Strategy Crisis — and the most powerful nation in the world since the Roman Empire better get it right.

Such a crisis typically comes along once a generation, when the nation drops its old grand strategy and selects a new one.

Unfortunately, this significant change, which has happened three times in U.S. history and will likely occur again in the next two decades, is hardly noticed by the large majority of the people.

It affects them in many ways, but most people don’t know about it until it’s too late to change.

For those who lead a nation, the grand strategy is more than a set of guidelines or even a list of goals or objectives.

The grand strategy is a vision of where a nation wants to go, of what it seeks to accomplish in the world — a vision shared by its decision-making elite.

A grand strategy is the guiding principle for foreign policy and nearly all international relations for a nation.

“How” to achieve the grand strategy is a subject of ongoing debate among the elites in any free nation, but “what” the strategy should be is only considered on those rare occasions when a nation decides to drastically shift gears.

In such times, big changes occur. In the United States we have shifted grand strategies three times:

  1. between 1776 and 1796, from the Revolutionary War through the ratification of the Constitution;
  2. between 1856 and 1876, from the rise of Lincoln through the Civil War and into Reconstruction;
  3. and again from 1929 to 1949 during the Great Depression and World War II.

Past Grand Strategies

In each case, once a grand strategy was adopted, national leaders pursued it until world events required significant changes.

The American Founding generation rejected the Royalist grand strategy of increasing the power, wealth and empire of the Crown, and instead adopted a grand strategy of Constitutionalism, also known as Republicanism or Manifest Destiny.

This grand strategy held two major themes: First, the founders expected the United States to expand naturally and spread the new American system of free, limited, representative government from the Atlantic states all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Secondly, through example, they wanted the nations of the world to see the success of this free model and embrace it.

This grand strategy was not always implemented perfectly, but it guided American policy.

After the Civil War, U.S. leaders adopted a strategy of Nationalism: the focus shifted to increasing American national strength and status in the world.

Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were among those who helped pursue this strategic vision.

“America must take its place as a leader of nations,” became the sometimes spoken but always central focus of the U.S. policy elite.

At the end of two devastating world wars and a bleak depression, U.S. decision makers again adopted a new grand strategy — Internationalism.

The focus of this grand strategy was simple: use international organizations, treaties, international diplomacy, conferences and cooperative arrangements to make the world safe for democracy and capitalism.

The idea was to contain communism, keep it from spreading, and simultaneously support the spread of democracy and capitalism as far and wide as possible.

Hopefully, if the strategy worked, communism would not only stop growing but its support around the world would begin to diminish, to be replaced by democratic-capitalism.

In short, the foreign policy history of the United States might be summed up as Constitutionalism, then Nationalism, and finally Internationalism.

Internationalism became woefully outdated in the early 1990s — and the world found out just how outdated on September 11, 2001.

Proposed Grand Strategies

Amazingly, however, few have engaged the current vital discussion about America’s new 21st Century grand strategy.

This is partly because the grand strategy is considered and chosen by the intelligentsia — the average American doesn’t even know what the phrase means.

Another reason the grand strategy is little discussed now is that the electronic media has made any controversial policy a point of major political, partisan and societal conflict.

Few politicians today want to engage the firestorm of announcing a new grand American direction. Still, more of us need to be involved in the conversations that are occurring.

At least five proposals, some explicit and others more informal, have been made which purport to be new grand strategy proposals, but three of them are more tactical than strategic.

First, though it was informally introduced as a strategy, George Bush may have been outlining a grand strategy change in his “Axis of Evil” speech.

Certainly the full eradication of terror is a change in tactics, but to what end? What is the goal of the ongoing war on terror?

If it is to make the world safe for democracy and the spread of capitalism, it is a new tactic for the old strategy of Internationalism.

Besides, to truly end terrorism would require using U.S. might to restructure and redirect the leading terrorist-funding and supporting states in the world, including possibly Saudi Arabia and nuclear powers China and Russia.

Nothing in the “Axis of Evil” speech or since seems to advocate such a strategy. Just beating up on the smallest terrorist states, as much as they may deserve it, leaves terrorism healthy and growing.

Unless the Axis of Evil includes China, Saudi Arabia, former states of the USSR Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and over 20 other nations, a few attacks on weak opponents hardly amounts to a moving, visionary national grand strategy.

And in any case, the Obama Administration has shown little inclination to continue this overarching policy.

A second proposal was outlined by Ambassador Mark Palmer in his book Breaking the Real Axis of Evil (affiliate link). Ambassador Palmer goes well beyond the Bush Administration and suggests that America adopt as its national purpose the ousting of all dictators in the world by 2025.

He argues that dictatorship is the true evil in the world, and that democratic nations led by the United States and its President should strategize and implement a plan to get rid of all dictators everywhere.

He even lists the dictators by name, and gives a suggested tactical approach to ousting each — some peacefully, others by sanction and pressure, still others by force.

This proposal is not really a new strategy, but simply the tactical application of Cold-War Internationalism to a different enemy — dictators instead of communists.

A third strategy was suggested by former Secretary of State Colin Powell. He called it a “Strategy of Partnerships” and argued that the world should be kept basically the same as it is — the U.S. at the head with its allies, intervening “decisively to prevent regional conflicts,” and embracing Russia, China, and other powers in a world that increasingly adopts American values.

This would be accomplished by partnerships which put “us at odds with terrorists, tyrants, and others who wish us ill” and to whom “we will give no quarter.” At the same time, we will be “partners with all those who cherish freedom, human dignity, and peace.”

Powell’s “Foreign Affairs” article, published in January of 2004, leaves some glaring questions. The whole point of Internationalism was to encourage partnerships with those seeking freedom and peace.

But Powell said nothing about what the partnership would do, what their goals would be, except the same old Internationalism that we’ve been pursuing since 1945.

Powell’s argument, while claiming to explain the Bush strategy, was actually less of a change than Bush’s “Axis of Evil” or Palmer’s proposal to rid the world of dictators.

All three proposals have pros and cons. But none of them really proposed a new grand strategy for the United States—something at the level of change from Royalism to Constitutionalism, Constitutionalism to Nationalism, or Nationalism to Internationalism.

These first three proposals just redirect, rekindle and rehash (respectively) the grand strategy we’ve followed for 50 years — Internationalism.

Problems with Grand “Tactics”

Generals lose when they fail to learn the lessons of past wars; generals also lose when they attempt to fight new wars with old strategies. This adage applies even more to statesmen.

To put this in context, each time a new grand strategy was needed in American history, many of the leading members of the establishment held on to the past strategy, just as the Clinton and Bush Administrations still pursued the status quo — an international world where the U.S. is top dog and capitalism keeps spreading new markets for U.S. companies.

The bad news is that no nation in history has ever maintained the status quo, even though big powers like Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome, France, Spain and Britain all tried.

Nations become top powers by seeking either to change or to obtain something — not by trying to keep things the same.

Big powers only stay big powers when they remake themselves, when they adopt a new grand strategy as needed like Rome and later Britain did.

The U.S. has remade its strategy three times, and all of them came from dealing with the big challenges, not the minor nations.

Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” while there is some truth to its argument, doesn’t take nearly as much courage, grit or will as Reagan’s “evil empire,” FDR’s choice to beat Hitler, Wilson’s “world safe for democracy,” Lincoln’s decision to prove out the founder’s experiment with blood, or the Washington generation’s “lives, fortunes and sacred honor.”

In short, statesmen are needed in the next decade to formulate and implement a grand strategy which requires virtue, wisdom, diplomacy and courage at Churchillesque, Ghandi-like and Jeffersonian proportions.

Idealism

Two other proposals are more strategic, offering a truly new view of America’s future. Whether or not you like either of these strategies (and many people don’t) they are certainly a new take on things rather than the mere tactical changes of the first three proposals.

A fourth proposed new grand strategy came with the re-entry of Gary Hart into the elite dialogue. He suggested that the best way for America to impact the world, and to remain both free and prosperous, is for the United States to focus on its most primary foundation: being good and promoting the great ideals.

This argument has a long history among Democratic politicians, including perhaps most notably Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, but it hasn’t led the conversation for Democratic presidential candidates since Carter. And among recent Republican presidential nominees only Reagan pushed this theme.

In some ways, this idea rekindles a thesis pushed by the American founding era. If we are a great example of freedom, prosperity and success at home, other nations will want to learn from our model — history shows that this is so.

As they do, the paradigms of freedom, justice, checks and balances and other constitutional ideals, and a sense of unity and liberty will spread.

Simultaneously, our own nation will — by focusing on the basics that truly work — increase our levels of freedom, prosperity, opportunity and wise leadership. We benefit, and so does the world.

Hart is adamant, and I agree with him, that without a refocus on the intangibles that make freedom work — the great ideals of true liberty and justice for all — America will not continue to lead the world because it won’t really deserve to lead.

This is a grand strategy indeed: Make the hard and vital changes to America that would make it truly the best it has ever been. The rest will naturally occur.

Of course, this is not a simple process, but neither is any grand strategy. Some will agree and disagree, as I do, with certain specifics in Hart’s ideas, but as a grand strategy this one has real merit.

“Atlanticism”

A fifth, albeit informal, possible grand strategy seems to be gaining momentum in the Obama Administration. Such a strategy might be called the Atlantic strategy, because it entails making the United States more like the nations of the European Union.

Unlike NATO, which was built on the idea of American leadership with the U.S. and its allies guiding the world, the Atlantic strategy assumes that the parliamentary social-democracy system of Western Europe, especially France and Germany, is the model the United States and other allies of the EU should adopt.

In this view, our courts should build a common body of precedent with Europe and Canada, the focus should be on human rights rather than inalienable rights, and our constitution and institutions should evolve to be less rigidly separated, checked and balanced and more and more like the nations of Europe.

On economic matters, the government would abandon a free enterprise posture and become much more involved in regulating, running and owning businesses. Washington would adopt and run a nationwide industrial policy with the government in charge.

This would allow, the argument goes, the nations of Europe and North America to become more alike and increasingly cooperative.

Eventually, many elites hope, supra-national organizations might even take away some of the more “troubling” sovereign powers of individual nations.

Understandably, few politicians have come right out and suggested this direction. It would certainly cause a firestorm of political backlash.

Many Americans (myself included) would be strongly against this. But the policy and direction of the Obama Administration is definitely in line with such a course.

President Obama’s position on many issues — from health care and national security, the bailouts and stimulus, to financial and environmental policy — has toed this European line. At times it has seemed almost purposely designed to impress European sensibilities.

And, in terms of popularity, it has worked in Europe and much of the world. Indeed, this move toward Europeanism has been the inclination and open objective of many American elites for quite some time.

Unfortunately, in an economy desperately in need of innovation, initiative, leadership among the citizenry, and a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit (since these are the things which promote real and lasting freedom and prosperity), this “Atlantic” grand strategy seems destined, if adopted, to cause a significant American decline.

Finally, the great international-legal thinker Philip Bobbitt has suggested that the future of nations will likely de-emphasize national governments and put more focus on smaller, and possibly even virtual, economically-oriented governments that replace the traditional nation state.

If this does occur, it will not likely be a grand strategy for a long time. Bobbitt sees it growing in influence toward the 2050s, and indeed this may compete to be a future grand strategy shift in a later generation.

Conclusion

More immediately, in the years just ahead the United States will adopt a new Grand Strategy.

The old model of Internationalism, with the U.S. fighting to become and then acting as the world’s sole superpower, supported by its group of allies, is past.

Europe has moved on, and the U.S. and Europe have in many ways moved apart. Simultaneously, a number of places have become growing competitors to U.S. economic dominance, including China, the EU, Canada, Brazil, India, Japan, and others. (We should be carefully studying and considering the grand strategy of these places — perhaps especially China.)

To top off the challenges to Internationalism, the American economy is struggling and the individual states and many businesses are barely hanging on.

If the U.S. is to maintain its prosperity, it must adopt a powerful new grand strategy and then pursue it effectively and courageously. And if it is to maintain and even regain its freedoms, it must simultaneously adopt a good grand strategy and the right one.

I am not at all convinced that any of these five options, or anything else I’ve read on the topic, are the entire answer. I do believe that Hart’s strategy must be part of it.

In any case, it is time for statesmen (including the regular citizen-statesmen of our society) to begin to discover, present and promote the pros and cons of proposed and other possible grand strategies for the 21st Century.

If the patterns of history hold, we have less than 20 years to get the right ideas into the debate and influence the huge choice ahead.

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

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 : Constitution &Current Events &Featured &Foreign Affairs &Government &History &Politics &Statesmanship

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.

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

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

Is Government Broken?

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

Is our government broken?

More and more people think so. The current presidential administration makes periodic claims that we are in an economic recovery, but at the same time growth is still slowing and unemployment figures stay around ten percent.

With more American deaths in Afghanistan during the last week of July than any week to date, things seem to be deteriorating at home and abroad.

To make matters worse, few people believe that the opposing Republican Party has much more to offer than the Democrats.

With neither side poised to really fix things, few Americans have a lot of hope for the future of government leadership. Here a few of the issues vexing citizens.

A Missing Recovery

First, even though many politicians have been claiming that we are experiencing an economic recovery, it doesn’t feel like it to most Americans.

The Obama White House doesn’t seem very friendly to small business.

Most of the entrepreneurs and businesses who do hold cash aren’t about to hire or expand in an environment where their taxes and regulatory burden could be increased at any point by an unfriendly Administration.

Ironically, Washington is responding by promising to increase taxes and regulations. Understandably, those who hire are skittish.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Giethner said in July that we’ve reached a point where private hiring—rather than government spending—is the answer to economic growth.

But until the government starts supporting small business, and as long as it refuses to incentivize free enterprise, the economy will struggle.

Author Arthur Brooks argues that the nation is 70% in favor of free enterprise and about 30% opposed, but that the 30% are in charge.

The 30% has gained much influence over citizens by convincing them that it was private business that caused the recession in the first place.

Somehow, this view has successfully convinced much of the public that the Bush Administration, big banks, Wall Street and all small businesses are the same group.

Those who read the fine print, however, are clear that policies from the Clinton and Bush Administrations led to the mortgage crisis.

Moreover, big government and big business together caused the recession. In the meantime, both ignored small business and continue to do so.

As a result, the 70% is confused and unable to keep the 30% in check. So more government policies hurt the economy and make it unwise or unfeasible for small businesses to hire and grow.

In the meantime, much of the Right is busy labeling Democrats as “socialists” rather than helping incentivize growth and prosperity.

Both sides seem to mean well, but one has unbounded faith in government and the other is preoccupied attacking that faith.

While the two sides posture, the plight of small business is sometimes discussed but remains unaided.

What the Citizens Want

Second, this problem is deeper than most people realize.

Since World War II, the United States has promoted a mixture of free enterprise and big government. In history, societies typically emphasized one or the other.

When big government ruled, enterprise was highly regulated and taxed; where free enterprise was the focus, taxes were small, regulations were minimal, and governments were limited in size, scope and budget.

But in modern America, no politician from any party can claim success unless he/she has “done something in office.”

And to nearly all Americans, “doing something” means increasing government action to benefit the pet cause or regional constituency.

If President Obama doesn’t pass much of his agenda, his political friends and competitors alike will label him ineffective.

Americans in general want their politicians to do a lot and are disappointed when officials fail in this.

The irony of the American voter is that “doing a lot” immediately earns most politicians a place on the voters’ list of officials to vote out.

Americans today want the impossible: low taxes and lots of government programs.

The Economist summarized it this way:

In the end, the question of whether a country is governable turns on how much government you think it needs. America’s founders injected suspicion of government not only into the constitution but also into the political DNA of its people. And even in the teeth of today’s economic woes, at least as many Americans seem to think that what ails them is too much government, not too little.

“But there is a catch. However much Americans say they want a small government, they seem wedded to the expensive benefits of the big one they actually have…With deficits running at $1 trillion a year, and in order to stay solvent, they will have at some point to cut spending, pay more taxes, or both….To balance the books, politicians have sometimes to do things the people themselves oppose—even in America. That will be the true test of whether the country is governable.”

Americans must either choose big government and be willing to pay for and submit to it, or they must move toward smaller, less intrusive government and be willing to enjoy fewer government programs.

When voters want the prosperity of freedom along with the bread and circuses of massive government, every election is a referendum on incumbents.

Eventually, though (and the day of reckoning appears to be close on the horizon), something will have to give.

Unfortunately, few societies make such hard choices until they are forced upon them by war, depression, pandemic or other major crises.

Sadly, few nations have the leadership or the fortitude to adopt the simple solution of spurring major growth and prosperity by de-regulating, de-taxing and freeing up the economy.

Freedom works, but few in history have been willing to adopt it.

Lost Leaders

We are unable to overcome these and many of our deepest challenges because of the way we distribute leadership in our society.

The American founders envisioned a truly great educational system, built around schools in every locale, to train their youth in the great ideas of mankind’s history, as well as the latest practical arts and sciences.

They built the early American schools to train empowered citizens who would protect freedom, foster prosperity, leadership, and character in all walks of American life.

They wanted an educational system that prepared their youth to become effective in their families, communities, and careers.

This vision helped create a nation that by 1946 produced over half of the world’s goods and services with only 6% of the globe’s population.

Freedom works, and the success of the American constitutional-free-enterprise model was spectacular. In the process, this system over time addressed, and — in some cases, even began to resolve its biggest negatives, including slavery and other inequities.

Unfortunately, by the late 1930s, the citizens and leaders who built this great model of success, freedom, and prosperity sent their children and grandchildren to schools which rejected this system, and instead adopted a new style of education focused mostly on career training.

Sadly, these American schools established by the our founders were replaced after World War II by the German model which was based on socio-economic class divisions.

In the “new” system, the elites still received leadership education (like all citizens had before 1939) while the middle and lower classes were educated only for jobs.

As this system grew, a Germanic-style grading system reinforced class-society advancements among the youth.

The maladies of credentialism, class divisions, and reliance on experts made their way into mainstream American culture. From 1939 to 1979, these contagions grew and infected the Founders’ classless and “free American” vision.

In such a system, the motto was: “A students work for B students.” The concept of “The Company Man” spread and Americans became addicted to big institutions.

Freedom and entrepreneurial values gave way to competing for executive positions and benefits packages. The goal of employeeship replaced the American dream.

Career became the purpose of schooling in almost everyone’s mind, and ownership and leadership values begin to literally disappear.

Eventually big institutions became truly massive, and anything except employeeship was considered inferior and backward.

In this environment, young people with a sense of leadership, idealism and ambitions to make a great impact on society split between the Left and the Right.

Those coming from traditionally conservative families tended toward majors and careers in business, while youth from more liberal backgrounds leaned towards the media and legal professions.

Most of today’s national leaders were part of this split.

The Reagan era ushered in a revolution of support for and promotion of free enterprise ideas and values.

Numerous non-traditional business models (like multi-level and network marketing) put individuals at the center of building a personal business rather than working as an employee, and eventually non-traditional educational options (from private and charter to home and online opportunities) grew in popularity.

Employeeship was still the dominant view, but a rising minority embraced the freedoms and prosperity of entrepreneurship. The dot.com boom and Roaring 90’s soon followed, and the entrepreneurial sector slowly grew.

Today a new culture of education and business is evolving out of the Great Recession and all that led up to it. A new maxim seems to be much more complex than in past generations:

  • B students work for C students
  • A students teach or work in government
  • Those who cared little for grades and a lot about learning are building small businesses

Note that “those who cared little for grades and a lot about learning” often come from non-traditional private, charter, home and online learners, as well as from immigrants who are leading in entrepreneurial successes. And more than a few come from the traditional schools.

Since small business accounts for 80% of America’s economic growth, this is a significant development. Unfortunately, the number of people in the entrepreneurial sector is still very small.

Whether purposely or as a side effect, we are still training the overwhelming majority of our youth to believe that being A students means getting a good job and that employeeship is the greatest goal for education and even lifestyle.

Satirist P.J. O’Rourke addressed the problem this way:

America has made the mistake of letting the A student run things. It was A students who briefly took over the business world during the period of derivatives, credit swaps, and collateralized debt obligations. We’re still reeling from the effects…

“It was a bunch of A students at the Defense Department who planned the syllabus for the Iraq War….The U.S. tax code was written by A students….Now there’s health care reform—just the kind of thing that would earn an A on a term paper from that twerp of a grad student who teaches Econ 101…

“A students must do what teachers and textbooks want and do it the way the teachers and texts want it done….Such brisk apple-polishing happens to be an all-too-good preparation for politics. This is because a student’s success at education and a politician’s success at politics are measured mostly by input rather than outcome.”

Perhaps even more disturbing is that most of our Idealistic youth with ambitions to improve the world are still going after jobs in big business or big government.

The thing is, working for a big corporation or in a government job are unlikely places to really make a positive difference in the world.

We are distributing leadership in the way aristocratic and socialistic societies always have, and the future will unfold accordingly unless something changes.

We desperately need a rebirth of the entrepreneurial ideal.

The New Religion: Employeeship

Unfortunately, it’s not just the schools and universities that are continuing this outdated focus on jobs as the end-all of education and life.

Movies and television often demonize entrepreneurs while dedicating most of their time to stories about employees.

Full-time sports channels seem to dedicate as much time to the business side of athletes as to the entertainment, making sports role models as valued for their lucrative contracts as for their abilities on the playing field.

Even elected officials more typically refer to their role as a job than as public service.

Recent administrations and the media have referred to the constitutionally-titled commander in chief as the nation’s CEO. There are many other examples.

Because the “job-is-life” view is so prevalent, it has even become normal for successful entrepreneurs to see their work as done as soon as they can live comfortably.

In earlier generations (those that built and maintained American freedom), such successful entrepreneurs considered it their duty to spend the second half of their life helping society greatly improve.

Perhaps only parents and community leaders can effectively counter this trend and help more youth who want to help improve the world seek a true leadership education and seriously consider engaging in entrepreneurial careers.

Repairing the Break

So, to answer our question, yes, government is broken. The break is repairable, but it will take some major work and effort on the part of this generation.

When freedom is decreasing through constantly increasing regulations, government is broken. When the free enterprise system is under attack from our own government, government is broken.

When a tenth of our working society can’t get a job, and when the government responds by increasing taxes and regulations on those who could provide the jobs if they were free to do so, government is broken.

When two parties hold a monopoly on government, and where both increase spending and regulation no matter who is in office, government is broken.

But all of this misses the real point.

When most of society seeks employeeship above all else and every facet of life revolves around employeeship, much more than government is going to be broken.

Employeeship certainly has a place in effective nations, but it should be prioritized behind things like family leadership, citizenship, and private ownership.

Another name for these is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (or alternatively, as Jefferson originally wrote, “life, liberty and property”).

A successful society is made up of at least the following things:

  • Effective parents, grandparents and other family leaders who help raise good, wise and industrious adults to take their place
  • Citizens who are well-educated in freedom and leadership and who keep government, business and other officials in check so the society can remain free and prosperous
  • Owners who improve the prosperity of society, in a free enterprise system where all can be owners
  • A constitutionally guaranteed freedom where all are treated equally before the law and all are protected in their inalienable rights

How the President Can Repair the Economy

In the 2008 election President Obama was supported by the Left (who loved his promises of economic liberalism), but he was elected by independents who saw in him a possible end to the corruption of the Bush years and a potentially great leader for the United States.

The “Leadership Thing” swept him into office. Now, the Obama Administration could greatly boost the economy by deeply promoting entrepreneurship—both symbolically and in reduced taxes and regulations.

Such incentives would spur more hiring, investment and expansion, and a recovery would follow that Americans could really believe in.

In fact, the President could probably accomplish this without changing any policy at all, simply by warming to small business and genuinely becoming friendly to entrepreneurs.

As a friend, a member of a minority, told me about President Carter:

“I didn’t agree with his politics or policies, but I just feel that he loved me and my people and cared about us. I never felt that from Reagan or Bush, and so I voted Democratic even though I was more aligned with the politics of the Republicans.”

An old advertising proverb says that people make choices emotionally and then use logic to defend it.

No matter what Washington says, and no matter what the economic numbers show, most entrepreneurs are unlikely to increase jobs and boost the economy through investments as long as they think the man in the White House basically dislikes and mistrusts them.

Even liberal-leaning businessmen are worried that the President isn’t supportive.

The White House could drastically help the recovery simply by changing its bias against small business. If this is just a perceived dislike of business, not a real one, they can simply change their message.

If, on the other hand, the Administration really does mistrust or dislike small business, it should reconsider. After all, unlike Wall Street, big banks and big corporations, small business simply cannot be blamed for America’s economic challenges.

It has been the victim of the mistakes made by both big business and past government. Yet it keeps plugging along, keeping the recession from being much worse.

And small business certainly is the group most likely to overcome high unemployment.

Indeed, when the economy does make a serious comeback, entrepreneurs will be leading the way. Hopefully, the Obama Administration will extend its “Yes, We Can” philosophy to those who have the most potential to drastically grow our economy.

Conclusion

It is time for all Americans—from the White House to our individual living rooms—to pour out a deep, genuine and heartfelt admiration and “thank you” to those who run small businesses.

Whatever the politicians of any party do, the greatest need is for parents, grandparents and all of us to rekindle an excitement for entrepreneurship in the youth.

The future of America’s freedom and prosperity may well depend on it. As long as free enterprise isn’t flourishing, our government will be broken.

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

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 : Business &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Education &Entrepreneurship &Generations &Government &History &Leadership &Liberty &Politics

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

Why Tribes are Vital to Success in the 21st Century

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

SETH GODIN’S RUNAWAY BESTSELLER Tribes took a quaint anthropological label and turned it into a pop culture buzz-word.

And while his timely ideas helped articulate a fresh and needed approach to marketing and beyond, the power of tribal culture is far greater than any publishing or sales phenomenon.

Whether he realized it or not, Godin swerved into a truth of huge ramifications — far more significant than social networks or marketing wizardry.

Tribes are not only the shape of our past, but the key to our future; and they have everything to do with freedom.

Several millennia of history seem to argue that there is something both natural and functional about tribal society for human beings. And yet most moderns have little sense of its value, nor less, its relation to our freedom and our future.

Our Tribal Roots

On many occasions I have asked well-read college students, including executives and masters/doctoral students, to diagram the American government model which established unprecedented levels of freedom and prosperity to people from all backgrounds, classes and views.

It’s turned out to be something of a trick question, as they usually do it in the wrong order — and they invariably get the most important part wrong.

Specifically, they start by diagramming three branches of government (a judicial, an executive and a bicameral legislature) and then sit down, thinking they’ve done the assignment.

When I ask, “What about the rest?” they are stumped for a few seconds.

Then, some of them have an epiphany and quickly return to the white board to diagram the same thing at the state level. This time they are sure they are done.

“What level of government came first in the American colonies?” I ask.

After some debate, they agree that towns, cities, counties and local governments were established, many with written constitutions, for over two centuries before the U.S. Constitution and many decades before the state governments and constitutions.

“So, diagram the founding model of local government,” I say.

They usually diagram a copy of the three-branch U.S. Constitutional model — which is entirely incorrect. This little exercise would be a whole lot more amusing if its implications were not so troubling.

This sad lack of knowledge indicates at least one thing: Americans who have learned about our constitutional model have tended to memorize it largely by rote, without truly understanding the foundational principles of freedom.

We’re like apes at the switch: highly trained, but with no earthly idea what all the machinery is for — or any sense of our lacking.

Civics 101

The first constitutions and governments in America were local, and there were hundreds of them.

These documents were the basis of later state constitutions, and they were also the models in which early Americans learned to actively cooperate to govern themselves.

Without them, the state constitutions could never have been written. Without these local and state constitutions, the U.S. Constitution would have been very, very different.

In short, these local constitutions and governments were, and are, the basis of American freedoms and the whole system of Constitutional government in the United States.

The surprising thing, at least to many moderns, is that these local constitutions were very different than the state and federal constitutional model.

True, they were harmonious in principle with the ideals that informed the state and federal models. And there were some similarities; but the structure was drastically different.

The principles of freedom are applied distinctly to be effective at local and tribal levels.

Freedom at the Local Level

Another surprise to many is that nearly all the early townships and cities in the Americas adopted a constitutional structure very similar to each other. They were amazingly alike.

This is because they are designed to apply the best principles of freedom to the local and tribal levels.

But there is more. A similar model was followed by the Iriquois League as well, and by several other native American tribal governments.

This same model of free local/tribal government shows up in tribes throughout Central and South America, Oceana, Africa, Asia and the historic Germanic tribes.

Indeed, it is found in the Bible as followed by the Tribes of Israel; this is where the American founders said they found it — primarily in Deuteronomy chapter 30.

This pattern is not accidental, coincidental or imitative. It is a predictable model based on natural law and human nature; and an understanding of these leads to the establishment of efficient, effective and freedom-producing local forms.

And it is these local “tribal councils” that are the roots of freedom, from which all the more complex and over-arching forms at the state and federal levels are derived.

Detach these from their tribal-governance roots, and you end up with a very different outcome.

Foundations of American Freedom

The most accurate way, then, to diagram the American governmental system is to diagram the local system correctly, then the federal and state levels with their three branches each, separations of power and checks and balances.

But how exactly does one diagram the local level?

The basics are as follows.The true freedom system includes establishing, as the most basic unit of society, local government councils that are small enough to include all adults in the decision-making meetings for major choices.

This system is clearly described in Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Volume 1, Chapter 5, and in Liberty Fund’s Colonial Origins of the American Constitution.

These town, city, or tribal councils truly establish and maintain freedom by including in the most local and foundational decisions the voices and votes of all the adult citizenry.

These councils make decisions by majority vote after open discussion. They also appoint mayors/chiefs, law enforcement leaders, judges and other officials.

All of these officials report directly to the full council and can be removed by the voice of the council.

Representative houses and offices are much more effective at the larger state and national levels.

But the point that cannot be stressed enough is: The whole system breaks down if the regular citizens aren’t actively involved in governance at the most local levels.

In this model, every adult citizen is literally a government official, with the result that all citizens study the government system, their role in it, the issues and laws and cases, and think like leaders. Without this, freedom is eventually lost.

Indeed, in a nation where the government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, is it any wonder that a population of unengaged “citizens” is the beneficiary of a government constantly increasing its power at the cost of our freedoms? What other outcome can reasonably be expected?

Once again, the most successful tribes, communities and even nations through history have adopted this model of local governance that includes all citizens in the basic local decision-making.

The result has always been increased freedom and prosperity. No free society in history has lasted once this system eroded.

Tocqueville called this system of local citizen governance the most important piece of America’s freedom model.

Today we need to better understand the foundations of tribal culture so that we actually, truly begin to understand local and tribal governance in a system of freedom.

This will be vital to the future of freedom in a world where the new tribes are taking the place of historical communities.

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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 &Community &Constitution &Government &History &Liberty &Tribes

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