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A Guide to Jury Duty

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

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

A Problem and A Solution

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

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

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

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

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

Their solution? Juries.

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

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

Checks and Responsibilities

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

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

Second, jurors do have two roles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Founders and Authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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How to Fix the Middle East

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

What’s Been Missed

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fatal Misunderstanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Important Separations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Working System

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Real Fix

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

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

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

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

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

 Bleak Forecast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What We Need

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

(A Tale of Four Candidates)

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

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

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

In the 2008 election Hillary Clinton was the unanimous frontrunner.

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

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

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

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

Golf and Governing

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

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

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

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

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

Short Power, Short View

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bigger Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foreign and Domestic

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

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

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

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

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

This is the great American decision of 2016.

The importance of this choice is almost impossible to overstate!

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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

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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