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Generations

The “BIG” Problem by Oliver DeMille

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

The Wrong Size

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

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

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

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

The Two Crises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People or the Government?

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

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

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

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

The Cause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Solution

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

No other education allows a citizenry to remain free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Three Economies by Oliver DeMille

July 11th, 2014 // 9:42 am @

The Hidden Economy

TheThreeEconomies Thefuture The Three Economies by Oliver DeMilleThere are three economies in modern society. They all matter. But most people only know about two of them. They know the third exists, in a shadowy, behind-the-scenes way that confuses most people. But the first two economies are present, pressing, obvious. So people just focus on these two.

A couple of recent conversations brought these economies even more to the forefront of my thinking. First, I was meeting with an old friend, touching base about the years since we’d talked together. He mentioned that his oldest son is now in college, and how excited he is for his son’s future. I asked what he meant, and he told me an interesting story.

Over twenty years ago he ran into another of our high school friends while he was walking into his community college admin building. The two greeted each other, and they started talking. My friend told his buddy that he was there to dis-enroll from school. “I just can’t take this anymore,” he told him. “College is getting me nowhere.”

“Well, I disagree,” his buddy said. “I’m here to change my major. I’m going to get a teaching credential and teach high school. I want a steady job with good benefits.”

A Tale of Two

Fast forward almost thirty years. My friend ran into his old buddy a few weeks ago, and asked him what he’s doing. “Teaching high school,” he replied.

“Really? Well, you told me that was your plan. I guess you made it happen. How much are you making, if you don’t mind me asking?”

When his friend looked at him strangely, he laughed and said, “I only ask because you told me you wanted a steady job with good benefits, and I wanted to get out of school and get on with real life. Well, I quit school that day, but I’m still working in a dead end job. Sometimes I wonder what I’d be making if I had followed you into the admin building that day and changed majors with you.”

After a little more coaxing, the friend noted that he was making about $40,000 a year—even with tenure and almost thirty years of seniority. “But it’s steady work, like I hoped. Still, I’ve got way too much debt.”

After telling me this story, my friend looked at me with what can only be described as slightly haunted eyes. “When he told me he makes $40K a year, I just wanted to scream,” my friend said.

“Why?” I asked.

He could tell I didn’t get what he was talking about, so he sighed and looked me right in the eyes. “I’ve worked 40 to 60 hour weeks every month since I walked off that campus,” he told me. “And last year I made about $18,000 working for what amounts to less than minimum wage in a convenience store. I should have stayed in college.”

That’s the two economies. One goes to college, works mostly in white-collar settings, and makes from thirty thousand a year up to four times that. Some members of this group go on to professional training and make a bit more. The other group, the second economy, typically makes significantly less than $50,000 a year, often half or a third of this amount, and frequently wishes it had made different educational choices.

The people in these two economies look at each other strangely, a bit distrustfully, wondering what “could have been” if they’d taken the other path.

That’s the tale of two economies.

II.

Which brings me to my point. Ask members of either economy for advice about education and work, and they’ll mostly say the same thing. “Get good grades, go to college, get a good career. Use your educational years to set yourself up for a steady job with good benefits.” This is the advice my grandfather gave my father at age twenty, and the same counsel my dad gave me after high school. Millions of fathers and mothers have supplied the same recommendations over the past fifty years.

This advice makes sense if all you know are the two economies. Sadly, the third economy is seldom mentioned. It is, in fact, patently ignored. Or quickly discounted if anyone is bold enough to bring it up.

A second experience illustrates this reality. I recently visited the optometrist to get a new prescription for glasses. During the small talk, he mentioned that his younger grandchildren are in college, but scoffed that it was probably a total waste of time. “All their older siblings and cousins are college graduates,” he said, “and none of them have jobs. They’ve all had to move back home with their parents.”

He laughed, but he seemed more frustrated than amused. “It’s the current economy,” he continued. “This presidential administration has been a disaster, and it doesn’t look like anyone is going to change things anytime soon. I don’t know what these kids are supposed to do. They have good degrees—law, accounting, engineering—but they can’t find jobs. Washington has really screwed us up.”

I nodded, and brought up the third economy, though I didn’t call it that. What I actually said was: “There are lots of opportunities in entrepreneurship right now.” He looked at me like I was crazy. Like maybe I had three heads or something. He shook his head skeptically.

“Entrepreneurship is hard work,” I started to say, “but the rewards of success are high and…”

He cut me off. Not rudely, but like he hadn’t really heard me. That happens a lot when you bring up the third economy.

“No,” he assured me, “college is the best bet. There’s really no other way.”

I wasn’t in the mood to argue with him, so I let it go. But he cocked his head to one side in thought and said, slowly, “Although…” Then he shook his head like he was discounting some thought and had decided not to finish his sentence.

“What?” I asked. “You looked like you wanted to say something.”

“Well,” he paused…then sighed. I kept looking at him, waiting, so he said, “The truth is that one of my grandsons didn’t go to college.” He said it with embarrassment. “Actually, he started school, but then dropped out in his second year. We were all really worried about him.”

A “Real” Job

He paused again, and looked at me a bit strangely. I could tell he wanted to say more, but wasn’t quite sure how to go about it.

“What happened?” I prompted.

“To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure. He started a business. You know, one of those sales programs where you build a big group and they buy from you month after month. Anyway, he’s really doing well. He paid off his big house a few years ago—no more mortgage or anything. He has nice cars, all paid for. And they travel a lot, just for fun. They fly chartered, real fancy. He and his wife took us and his parents to Hawaii for a week. He didn’t even blink at the expense.”

“That’s great,” I told him. “At least some people are doing well in this economy.”

He looked at me with that strange expression again. “I’m not sure what to make of it,” he said. “I keep wondering if he’s going to finish college.”

I was surprised by this turn of thought, so I asked, “So he can get a great education, you mean? Read the classics? Broaden his thinking?”

He repeated the three heads look. “No. He reads all the time—doesn’t need college for that. I want him to go back to college so he can get a real job.”

I laughed out loud. A deep belly laugh, it was so funny. I didn’t mean to, and I immediately worried that I would offend him, but he grinned. Then he shook his head. “I know it’s crazy, but I just keep worrying about him even though he’s the only one in the family who is really doing well. The others are struggling, all moved back in with their parents—spouses and little kids all in tow. But they have college degrees, so I keep thinking they’ll be fine. But they’re not. They’re drowning in student debts and a bunch of other debts. It just makes no sense.”

America Needs to Get It

He sighed and talked bad about Washington again. Finally he said, “I’ve poured so much money into helping those kids go to college, and now the only one who has any money to raise his family is the one who dropped out. It just doesn’t make any sense.” He kept shaking his head, brow deeply furrowed.

I left his office thinking that he’s so steeped in the two economies he just doesn’t really believe the third economy exists. He just doesn’t buy it, even when all the evidence is right there in front of him.

He’s not alone. The whole nation—most of today’s industrialized nations, in fact—are right there with him. We believe in the two economies, high school/blue collar jobs on the one hand, and college/white collar careers on the other. Most people just never quite accept that the entrepreneurial economy is real.

It’s too bad, because that’s where nearly all the current top career and financial opportunities are found. The future is in the third economy, for those who realize it and get to work. If you’ve got kids, I hope you can see the third economy—for their sake. Because it’s real, and it’s here to stay.

The first two economies are in major decline, whatever the so-called experts claim. Alvin Toffler warned us in his bestseller FutureShock that this was going to happen, and so did Peter Drucker, back when they first predicted the Information Age. Now it’s happening.

I hope more of us realize the truth before it’s too late. Because China gets it. So does India, and a bunch of other nations. The longer we take to get real and start leading in the entrepreneurial/innovative economy (the real economy, actually), the harder it will be for our kids and grandkids. The third economy will dominate the twenty-first century. It already is, in fact. Whether we’ve chosen to see it yet or not.

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

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

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

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Three Trends vs. Freedom by Oliver DeMille

July 2nd, 2014 // 12:57 am @

Rewriting the Future

photo 2 983x1024 Three Trends vs. Freedom by Oliver DeMilleThere are at least three great political-economic changes that have occurred in the United States in the last twenty years. Each is rewriting what our world and future looks like, and each is causing a decline of freedom. But none of them are inevitable.

The first trend is the huge growth of government, including government size, spending, and regulation in so many parts of our lives. The second is the major decline of success and opportunity for the middle class. The third is the increasingly important rise of China.

Put these three together, and the future seems bleak to many Americans—even if they aren’t sure why.

The irony is that the first two trends are, in fact, related. Despite what many in Washington say, the massive growth of government is at least contributing to—and may be the main cause of—the growing middle class squeeze.

Breaking the American Dream

Sadly, too many in government don’t see it that way. For some reason, a lot of people witness the deepening plight of the middle class and, inconceivably, think that the only solution is bigger and bigger government. More programs, more spending, more intervention, more regulation.

Yet the historical record is clear. Every major growth of the U.S. government has been followed by a decrease in the middle-class standard of living. Today, after over sixty years of unprecedented expansion of government, the average adult American worker can no longer provide a quality standard of living for a family. In fact, two working adults in a family seldom make ends meet.

Families are smaller, the American Dream of home ownership is switching to a European model of rentals, and more people are joining the lower classes—where family debt or government money, or both, are necessary to get by.

In fact, home ownership, once a staple of middle class lifestyle, is increasingly a financial burden on many people (see “Americans think owning a home is better for them than it is,” The Washington Post, April 21, 2014). In an article entitled “The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest” (April 22, 2014), The New York Times reported that the U.S. middle class is getting poorer and as a result “most American families are paying a steep price for high and rising income inequality.”

Middle Going Down

big government hurts Three Trends vs. Freedom by Oliver DeMilleThe middle class young are being hit especially hard. Over 40% of today’s Millennial Generation young people move back home after leaving for college or work. As a group, they are the first generation since World War II to be significantly worse off financially than their parents. They aren’t buying cars, they aren’t buying houses, and they aren’t getting married; they’re living at home, hoping something will change in the economy to bring more opportunity (see Paul Taylor, CBS This Morning, April 26, 2014).

Speaking of the American middle class, Harvard’s Lawrence Katz wrote: “In 1960, we were massively richer than anyone else. In 1980, we were richer. In the 1990s, we were still richer.” Today we aren’t (op cit. “The American Middle Class…”).

A simple comparison of low regulation in 1960 to increased but still (by today’s standards) low regulation in 1980, then increasing regulation in the 1990s and massive regulatory increases between 2000 and today show a clear pattern: when we raise regulation and grow government, we hurt the middle class and grow the lower class.

Yet many experts suggest that the solution is more, not less, government intervention, programs, spending, and regulation (see ibid). This mirrors the old quip that “the beatings will continue until the morale improves,” except in this case “economy- and innovation-killing regulation will increase until the economy improves.” In reality, the opposite is occurring—bigger government is hurting the middle class and increasing income inequality.

The Choice

Whatever the experts think, the American people have a deep sense that something is wrong. Approximately 70 percent don’t believe America is on the right track (ibid).

This doesn’t translate directly to elections, however. A lot of people think that government is the solution to our economic problems, not the cause of some of our deepest challenges.

If current trends continue, China’s increasingly competitive economy will make a reality of what many in the American middle class now believe: that our children and grandchildren will face a declining standard of living while the same generations in China will see major economic increases.

Like a George Orwell satire, we continue to do exactly what causes more problems. Yet perhaps the greatest American contribution to history—a deep belief in and commitment to moral freedom and free enterprise—goes mostly unheeded. America needs to give its own greatest export (freedom) a try.

Freedom works, as we have shown for over two centuries. Whether America declines or flourishes in the 21st Century will be directly attached to whether we choose bigger government or increased freedom. And it’s up to the middle class to make this decision and make it stick.

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

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

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

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Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer

July 1st, 2014 // 12:47 am @

A Difference Changes Everything

lawyers 1 Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer“You frequently mention that free nations have a lot of entrepreneurs,” my friend said, “but I’ve been studying the American Founding era and it turns out that many of the framers were lawyers. Why don’t you tell people that a lot more of us should go into law?”

It was a good question, so I nodded my head. “You’re right, but there is one big difference between law at the time of the founding and law today. The difference is so big, in fact, that it changes everything. Well, maybe not everything. But it changes the whole way law and freedom interact.”

I cocked my head to one side. “Actually, another friend of mine recently sent me a note about the same thing. He had always thought that most of the framers were merchants or farmers, but he was surprised to find out how many of them were lawyers. As much as I’ve said about the value of entrepreneurs to freedom, I guess I better mention how the legal profession fits.”

“I agree,” he responded. “If the founders are a good example of a generation that increased freedom, why wouldn’t we just emulate them on this?”

“I wish we could,” I told him. “But it’s illegal.”

Lawyers and Laws

He laughed…but when he noticed that I wasn’t laughing he stopped. “You’re not joking?”

“No, I’m not. It’s illegal be the kind of lawyer that many of the framers were. That’s the big difference I was telling you about.”

He looked really interested, so I continued.

“Let me ask you a question,” I began. “What would happen if you read a bunch of history, legal books, judicial decisions in court cases, and important government documents, and then decided to put a sign on the front of your house with your name, followed by “Attorney at Law”? You do this without attending law school, just lots of hard study and a good understanding of law and freedom, and you start marketing for clients?”

“Uh, I’d be in trouble,” he retorted. “You have to have a license to practice law. Go before the Bar, get state approval, and all that. And you have to graduate from law school in order to do this. I looked into it years ago when I was making career decisions.”

“So you have to graduate from a state-approved law school, right?”

“Of course.”

“Is that what the framers did to become lawyers?” I asked.

“I’m not sure. Some did, I think. Like Jefferson. Though I remember reading that Patrick Henry took the Bar without law school. Come to think of it, so did Jefferson. He studied law with mentors, but not at an official law school. Same with…well, a lot of the framers. Law schools didn’t come until later.”

“That’s the difference,” I told him. “In the founding era, depending on the colony, you could read and take the bar, or work as an apprentice, or read under the tutelage of a mentor, or in most of early American history and our Westward expansion a person could just practice law by hanging out a shingle and taking on clients. In our day, you have to graduate from a state approved law school and then get personal state approval in the form of a license. It’s a totally different process.”

Goal and Outcome

“Are you saying the way we do it now is worse?” he asked.

“That depends on how you are measuring it. A lot of people will say that the type of training students get in modern law schools is much better than when early lawyers just read a lot of books and cases. They’ll say that the modern methods turn out much better professionals than the old way ever could.

“And, honestly,” I continued, “this argument has merit. But only if the goal is professionalism and maintenance of the legal profession. In the founding era, the goal was different.”

“What was it?”

“It was to check the government. Think about it: When law schools have to be approved by the government, and the accreditation agencies for law schools have to be approved by the government, and all licensing for attorneys is overseen by the government, the attorneys are bound—at some level—by the government. The government can take away their licensing and their livelihood at any time, so lawyers are bound to do things in the approved and accepted ways. They can check the government only in ways the government allows.

“You can argue that this is a good system, or not. But it is very different from how the founders saw it. They viewed lawyers as powerful checks on government, as self-made experts who read the law, studied history, pored over court cases and government documents and the writings of the freedom philosophers—and used all this wisdom to keep the government honest. To keep it in its proper role. To keep it in place. Not to impress it or bow to its regulations and authority, but to stop it when needed.

A Broken Check

“But if the government licenses lawyers and every step of becoming lawyers, they can’t really go around checking the government at every turn. At least not at the same level as if they are truly independent. For example, when Edmund Burke wanted to warn the British Parliament against going to war against the American colonies on March 22, 1775, he told them they should avoid such a war because so many Americans were students of the law.”

I then shared Burke’s words when he said:

Permit me, Sir, to add another circumstance in our colonies, which contributes no [small] part towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their education. In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study…. [A]ll who read, and most do read, endeavor to obtain some smattering in that science. I have been told by many an eminent bookseller, that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported…. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England…. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources…. They [foresee] misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.

I sighed. “The founding era had truly independent lawyers who owed nothing to government. And many American citizens read and became lawyers, not through official law schools like today, but as checks on government. That’s a whole different system. Citizens were the best checks, if they truly knew the law, because that’s where the lawyers of the era came from.”

My friend was nodding, so I added, “In fact, the same is true of teachers. In the founding era, teachers were hardly ever required to be certified or licensed like they are today. They just studied, read, and started tutoring and teaching. Those who were really good naturally attracted more students—same with lawyers attracting clients.

Freedom and Licensing

Lawyers 2 Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising AnswerAgain, today, certified teachers really work for and answer to the state—the entity that certifies them – and in most cases, pays their salaries. Independent teachers who just read and start teaching are more suited to be good checks on government, not its outreach program.

“The same can be true of any government licensing, such as psychiatric experts. Those who are licensed go to court and give their expert opinions, but people usually don’t take note that these experts can only make a living if they stay licensed. They must comply with state needs, trends and whims. They aren’t independent experts, they are naturally prone to support the government—at least more than they need to be real checks on it. If they don’t, they risk their licensure.

“Of course, if you ask many attorneys, certified teachers, psychiatric experts or others in this position, they’ll often assure you that this isn’t the case. But how can it not be? In any other setting this would be a clear conflict of interest. They’re dependent on the government, given their standing by government, and trained according to government-approved curriculum; this potentially weighs in every situation.

“They may feel that this isn’t full government control, because they can work within the system to fight for various views, and this is true. But it still amounts to a de facto conflict of interest, and it certainly doesn’t promote checks on government abuse the way a non-licensed system used to do.

“So to say that the American Founders had a lot of lawyers is to say that there were a lot of regular people checking the government, while to say that we have a lot of lawyers today is to say we have lots of professionals at least somewhat beholden to the government. The same applies to certified teachers and any others licensed by government.

Following the Old Route

“If society wants lots of licensing, then that’s what we’ll get. But let’s not believe that it creates checks on government abuse. If anything, it does the opposite. When Tocqueville said in Democracy in America that as the lawyers go, so goes America, it was too true! When lawyers were a clear, independent, unregulated check on government, the government was much smaller and more frequently checked. Today, when lawyers and credentialed teachers and many others are beholden to government for their continued licensing, there are fewer checks. Still some, but fewer.

“Of course, some of the lawyers, teachers and others still follow the old route—they are licensed, yes, but they read deeply, think about freedom and are a credit to their professions in the way they stand up for what is right. But the system is still very different, and anyone who cares about freedom should clearly understand the differences.”

“This all makes me want to be a lawyer,” my friend said. “To get licensed and use my law school education to really fight even more for freedom.”

“Bravo,” I replied. “I know a number of lawyers and teachers and others who do the same. I think they are courageous and vital freedom fighters. I also believe that we need a lot of similar leaders in the non-licensed areas, like entrepreneurship, the arts, private school teaching, and so on. If everyone does his or her best in his/her chosen life purpose, that’s where we’ll get the best results as a society.

A Little Bit of Lawyer

“But,” I paused, “this assumes that nobody’s best life purpose is to work daily to reduce freedom. That would be a tragedy, and I don’t believe this is where anyone should dedicate his or her life. Sadly, sometimes people don’t realize this is what they’re doing. We should all take stock of how our daily work is impacting freedom—no matter our profession, career field, job, or work.”

“If we’re hurting freedom, even just because that’s what our career tends to do, we have to change something,” he concluded. Then he paused, pondered, and added, “To sum up, I guess the founders were all a little bit lawyer, a little bit entrepreneur, and a little bit leader.”

“They even had a word for this,” I agreed. “Several words, in fact. Citizen. Voter. Elector. Constituent. American. All of these used to mean you were a little bit lawyer, a little bit entrepreneur, a little bit leader. You’re right.”

He smiled as he nodded. Then he said slowly, “That’s what we need today.”

(Learn about the 3 major ways to deal with these trends in FreedomShift, by Oliver DeMille)

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

odemille Were the Founders Lawyers or Entrepreneurs? A Surprising Answer Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

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

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

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Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention?

June 3rd, 2014 // 11:18 am @

An Invitation to Join the Current Debate

Please participate in a conversation with us. Here goes:

Background

I received the two emails within a week of each other, and they really made me think.

First of all, they made me happy. I’m so glad there are two people out there so passionate and studious about a topic that most Americans don’t ever think about.

That’s great.

bilde Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention?

Image Credit: IndyStar.com

The fact that there are two such people actually making contact means there are certainly a lot more engaged with the issue, and actually these were only 2 of dozens of notes I’ve received on the same topic. Wonderful.

We need this kind of citizen participation in order for our freedom to work and last.

The Debate

Second, well…just consider these two notes:

“Oliver, why do you support a Constitutional Convention that will send delegates from each state to rewrite our Constitution? Don’t you know that the participants will be almost entirely today’s politicians and attorneys, and possibly a few famous Establishment Academicians from the Ivy League or Berkeley thrown in, and that they’ll reject everything in the Constitution, get rid of the three branches and the checks and balances and who knows what else? Anyone who supports this just doesn’t understand freedom.”

I had to respond that I have never supported a Constitutional Convention, in fact I have written against it on various occasions. Some readers got confused when I quoted a couple of well-known supporters of a Convention, thinking I agreed with them.

Actually, those who read my full article could see that I quoted them to show that they were up to no good—because these particular supporters of a Convention want to use it to reject the Constitution and go to a Parliamentary system. Bad idea for freedom.

I have to point out, however, that some people who support a Convention do so for all the right reasons. Still, if a Convention happens, its actions will all depend on who gets sent as delegates.

The second note was very different, though similar in tone:

“Oliver, how can you not support a Constitutional Convention? I know you think it will be hijacked by today’s lawyers and politicians and used to throw away the Constitution and replace it with something much worse, but how is that any different from what’s happening anyway? If we don’t hold a Convention, we’ll continue to see the politicians and special interest groups just circumvent the Constitution, and the President, Congress and Court just ignore it when it’s inconvenient.

“This problem is getting worse, and most people really think that we’re under the Constitution. But we’re not. It’s ignored or circumvented every day, and this trend is only growing. At least with a Convention the loss of our freedoms will be out in the open. People will know what’s happening. And there is a chance, a slim one I grant you, but a chance, that the people and states will send good delegates who really do something to refocus on the principles of the original Constitution and help restore our freedoms.

“Without a Convention, there is absolutely no chance of this at all. Why don’t you support at least a chance for freedom? Without a Convention, Washington will just continue to destroy the Constitution piece by piece until our freedoms are entirely gone. A Convention gives us a slim chance for freedom, while no Convention gives us no chance.”

I’ve heard this argument before. In fact, I heard it from one of my mentors, W. Cleon Skousen, who said almost exactly the same words. When he said this back in the 1990s, I argued that the Constitution was still mostly intact, and we should give the natural tension between branches of government the time it needed to correct the problems.

He countered that it was headed in the wrong direction and would soon become unsalvagable without either a Convention or some major world crisis that forced a Convention—or something like it. Most of his predictions have certainly come true, the Constitution is much less followed or valued than it was just twenty years ago when he and I enjoyed in a number of deep discussions on this topic.

For example, the Spring 2014 edition of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy has no less than 8 full articles on how the federal government is right now further ignoring or circumventing the Constitution and drastically encroaching on state’s rights!

Would such states now feel the need to send good, freedom-supporting delegates to a Constitutional Convention just to get their rights back?

Should those of us who have opposed a Convention change our minds before all of Cleon’s predictions happen?

Or will a Convention just speed up the loss of our freedoms and give us less time to do something else—outside a Convention—that really could work? After our long and deep discussions, Cleon and I agreed on how we thought this point would go.

More later on what we decided…

What Do You Think?

So, what do you think of these two arguments? More importantly, where do you stand?

Will a Constitutional Convention help us?

Do you think it gives us a slim chance for a restoration of freedom?

Do you think anything else realistically gives us a better chance?

I have a strong opinion on this, but before I share more about it I want to see what you think. Seriously, what do you think can turn our nation in the direction of freedom (and end our current direction of decreasing freedom and inevitable decline)?

Is a Convention the answer?

What, if any, other truly realistic policy answers are there? Specifically?

I’m excited to see how many people care enough to answer, and what great ideas you have.

How to Share Your Vote

Please don’t just rehash the two views above. If you think a Convention is a bad idea, for the reasons above, just write: “My vote is against a Convention.” If you think a Convention is needed for the reasons above, just write, “I’m for a Convention.”

But if you have any third ideas beyond a Convention that can really fix America, or different reasons for or against a Convention, please share them.

[Be civil and polite in this; I’ll just delete any name-calling or uncivil responses or words toward anyone or any view joining this discussion. Every view deserves to be heard.]

This topic is too important to turn impolite.

This is a very important discussion, and I’ll tally the responses and share some that really add to the topic, along with my own ideas on what needs to happen—in a future article.

I look forward to reading your thoughts!

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

odemille Where Do You Stand on a Constitutional Convention? Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

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

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

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