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Politics

The Law of Liberty

December 4th, 2014 // 2:53 pm @

When freedom is reduced for some, it is reduced for all.

Liberty Bell 253x300 The Law of LibertyAmerican founding father James Otis said in 1764, “The Parliament cannot make two and two, five…. Should an act of Parliament be against any of his [the Creator’s] natural laws, their declaration would be contrary to eternal truth, equity and justice, and consequently void.”[i]

One of the great natural laws we most need to understand today is the Law of Liberty, which says that freedom is truly indivisible because if you take it from some, it ultimately reduces the freedom of everyone. This natural law is sometimes ignored for the simple reason that it isn’t always obvious in the short term, just as the reality that the earth is round isn’t always clearly evident to the naked eye.

Because this law isn’t apparent unless a person understands it, generations of human beings have reduced their own freedoms because they hoped that reductions in liberty would only hurt “other” people. In the same way that government often gets away with spending on things that break natural laws because the citizens think it is spending Other People’s Money (OPM), we frequently give away our rights when we think they’ll only impact Other People’s Freedom (OPF).

One of the most famous discussions about this law came from Christian pastor Martin Niemoller in his recollection of how Nazism spread in Germany, and how few people did anything to stop its takeover of society. Pastor Neimoller is credited with saying:

“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

“Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

“Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

“Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.”[ii]

This is an excellent description of what happens when we ignorantly violate the law of freedom, allowing others to lose their rights while justifying that they probably deserved it and hoping it will never reach the point where it hurts us or those we love.

Note that Pastor Niemoller eventually became the leader of a group of clergymen opposed to Hitler and that he was arrested and held in Sachsenhausen and Dachau prison camps for the crime of not being “enthusiastic” about Nazism. Good for him! That’s heroism. As Thoreau said, in a truly unjust society the only place for a really just man in jail. Niemoller was later released by the Allies in 1945.

When a person loses freedom because he or she has caused harm to another person, and arrest or imprisonment is needed to keep others safe or demand recompense for the harms to a victim, the loss of liberty is within the bounds of natural law. When a person is deprived of freedom for any other reason, it breaks natural law, and this hurts the entire society that allows such a violation of natural law.

Slavery is an obvious example. So is any kind of caste or class system where the laws and government treat a group of people differently because of their religion, race, gender, country of origin, beliefs, etc.

Those who truly understand freedom will stand up for the inalienable rights of all human beings, from all walks of life, because they realize that: “When others are free, then my own freedom is safer, and when others lose their freedoms my own freedom is always in jeopardy.”

The Law of Maturity

A corollary of the law of freedom could be called the law of maturity, which teaches the levels of understanding freedom. The levels of maturity include (from worst to best):

Extreme Immaturity: The desire not to be free, to leave important decisions to others and not have to live with the consequences of your choices and actions. The desire to be taken care of by someone else.

High Immaturity: The desire to be free when it suits you, but to leave many important decisions and the consequences of your actions to others. To get to do what you want, but have someone else fix any problems that arise from your bad choices and actions.

Immaturity: The desire to be free and for others to be free, as long as the others are like you (religion, race, gender, caste, same nation, or other similarities) or deemed to be “on your side,” and the desire for those unlike you or not “on your side” to not have the same benefits “because they don’t deserve them.” To have the government treat you freely, but treat “others” differently.

Low Maturity: The desire to be free and for all others to be free, and to be given forgiveness when you are asked to account for your failures, while simultaneously wanting justice to be applied to others.

Moderate Maturity: The desire to be free in all situations, to make your own decisions and live with the consequences of your choices and actions, and for others to do the same. To be free and accountable, and hope that others will do likewise.

High Maturity: The desire to be free and accountable and help all others enjoy the same. To take a stand and protect the inalienable rights and freedoms of all, including those who are different than you or even your enemies, and even if this requires great personal sacrifices from you and those you love.

In historical times most governments and nations have violated the law of freedom, which is a major reason that true freedom has been so rare in human experience. Governments and laws have withheld or taken away freedom from people based on their religion, beliefs, gender, race, ethnicity, nation of origin, disability, looks, words, ideas, friends, which books they had in their home, what religion they wanted to teach their children, and a number of other things that violated natural law.

And, through history, very few people have been willing to take an active stand for freedom when they were personally free but others were having their rights violated. This has occurred in too many ways and times to list, from the scared Christians who watched Jews slaughtered in Nazi Germany to the fearful Jews who watched Christians butchered in the Roman games, to otherwise good Americans who did nothing to stop the interment of patriotic Americans in the 1940s simply because they had Japanese ancestors or features.

Other examples include otherwise good Americans in the mid-19th century who let women be raped and men killed and children driven into the snow by American troops simply because of their Native American ethnicity, or the otherwise good Americans who allowed slavery and later segregation to flourish in the American south based entirely on the color of one’s skin.

Consequences of Breaking the Law of Liberty

Human history is full of such violations of natural law, and in every case the loss of freedom for the few has eventually decreased the level of freedom for all. When nations imprison their citizens because of their race, the same generation of officials always takes away the freedom of the majority in numerous ways. A government that allows slavery will always allow less freedom for the middle classes as well.

Find any government in history whose soldiers are allowed to rape and pillage with impunity, and you’ll find a central government that is working behind the scenes to increase government power and reduce the freedoms of the people—rich, median and poor alike. There are few, if any, exceptions to this principle in all of written history.

When a government is allowed to be unjust to one group, it establishes a precedent that all of us should carefully consider. Precedent is extremely powerful, either for good or bad. History has proven that even a good policy with a bad precedent will eventually lead to a bad policy.

For example, Caesar Augustus set a limit on taxes, but with this very action he created a precedent that the emperor had the power to establish tax levels. The Senate, which had the power to check this action, did nothing because the tax limit was low. But, naturally, later emperors drastically raised taxes and the Senate couldn’t do anything because they had allowed the precedent of the emperor determining tax rates.

Similarly, in classical Greece the Delian League allowed the great leader Aristides to single-handedly make numerous government decisions and set policies, because they trusted him. He turned out to be worthy of the trust, and the people flourished. A few years later he retired, and his replacements for many years afterwards abused the power of the office. The policy of allowing Aristides to make choices turned out well as long as he was in office, but the precedent of giving one man so much power inevitably backfired. This is one of the examples George Washington looked to when he refused to be king.

No matter how much a nation may think that it is okay to withhold freedom from any group of people (except in the case of crime), the precedent of doing so limits the freedom of everyone. The law of liberty is real. Any government that allows a loss of freedom for some is also planning or implementing additional ways to expand its power over other groups of people (or soon will do so).

Consequences Today

In our day, this should bring pause to any caring and wise citizen. A nation that allows the termination of unborn babies and withholds the freedom of opportunity from immigrants (not for defense, but on the basis of “keeping others out of our country”), is, according to the law of liberty, violating natural law in other ways.

This may be occurring in secret labs, the training of troops to go door-to-door and subdue a populace in its own nation, or in various other plans hatched behind closed doors, but the law of liberty guarantees that something like these things is happening. For example, it is natural that a nation that interred its patriotic citizens of Japanese descent was simultaneously establishing the biggest complex of secret government operations in all of history. Indeed, many of the same national leaders were in charge of both.

In fact, to know what level of secrecy is currently being applied by a modern government, those who understand the law of freedom only need to look at how much that government stands for the freedom of all versus withholding freedom from some groups—whatever the reasons.

Liberty and Justice Come From Indivisible Freedom

Freedom is indivisible in the long term, and only societies that are consistently spreading freedom to more people are trustworthy behind the scenes. Even more importantly, the attitude of the people is a clear indicator of the future of freedom. A nation of people that wants to withhold the opportunities of freedom from any group(s)—including immigrants—is likely to elect officials who will perpetuate governments based on secrecy and power rather than transparency and honest freedom for all.

The law of freedom is a wake-up call to all modern nations. When any group is being treated with suspicion by government or allowed to have lesser freedoms than the majority, the government is not to be fully trusted and the people’s freedoms are in jeopardy.

If this uncomfortable reality hits too close to home in your nation, you know that the law of liberty is probably being violated. The most effective and immediate solution is to look around, find a group that is being denied its rights and opportunities, and help take a stand for freedom—even if you aren’t part o this group. When freedom is unjustly lost for some, it is lost for all of us. Any injustice reduces our liberty.

 

(This article is an excerpt from We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident by Oliver DeMille.)

[i] Cited in Sigmund, p. 102.

[ii] Note that there is disagreement about the way this quote has been quoted and translated over time, and many believe that in the actual quote there were only four stanzas, not five, and that the fourth stanza in the longer quote included here was added later and not part of the original.

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odemille The Law of Liberty 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 Bad Guy in America

December 2nd, 2014 // 9:52 am @

Question:
“How much of the First Amendment would you like us to ignore?”

 Answer:
“How many lives would we want to save?”
State of Affairs television debut

The Enemy?

Hawaii Five 0 2nd Season Cast 300x168 The Bad Guy in AmericaAlmost every police drama and movie has a similar bad guy. The hero, usually a dedicated police officer or government agent with a painful personal past and an interesting partner or sidekick, takes on this bad guy in every possible way.

The more forcefully this great agent fights against this bad guy, the more the audience loves him/her. And the more aggressively he overcomes this bad guy, the higher the ratings.

If the bad guy were a murderer, a terrorist, or a rapist, this would be great drama. Unfortunately, however, in modern American TV and movies this bad guy is almost always the United States Constitution.

At first blush, this is surprising. But to anyone who has watched today’s police dramas, it’s no shock at all. According to most current producers and directors, apparently, the big roadblock to justice in the United States is the Constitution—with its “terrible justice-killing checks and balances, probable cause and warrant requirements, inalienable and property rights, etc.”

Idea War

This system of checks and balances was designed by the Founding Fathers to keep the government and its agents from abusing the people, but on television the checks and balances are pesky, frustrating, justice-blocking bad guys that keep good police officers and federal agents from making everything right for all of us.

As I’ve discussed in earlier writings, this pattern shows up repeatedly on some of the top rated TV shows in our nation—from the Law and Order franchise to three NCIS series, and from Hawaii Five-0 to Blue Bloods, CSI, White Collar, State of Affairs, Chicago PD, and a dozen other very popular television programs.

The lesson is portrayed over and over—the best government officials are those who routinely find creative ways to ignore or circumvent constitutional rules and use government power to bring about their brand of personal justice.

If anyone is watching these programs—and millions are watching, for hours every night—then a chunk of our citizens are learning the false view that the Constitution is outdated or ill-conceived, and that real freedom and justice in society come from Constitution-breaking government agents. The Constitution is almost always portrayed as the bad guy.

This reminds me of two important thoughts. Nietzsche taught that art, entertainment, media, and ideas are incredibly powerful in society, even more powerful than government, because media, arts and ideas have huge influence on how the people see the world and what they want from their government. And, as Victor Hugo put it, “One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.”

What It Is

This is a huge problem for the future of freedom. If the Constitution is the bad guy and these are the kind of police officers and government leaders young people are being trained to desire, imagine what kind of leaders they’ll want in Washington and the White House.

Most people today have already been conditioned to want a government that is never gridlocked, meaning that checks and balances don’t get in the way of government agents, bureaucrats, or top decision makers.

This is the opposite of freedom.

Period.

Where are the artists, producers, writers, and actors who will teach our generation that a good Constitution with effective checks and balances is the best chance of the regular people ever being free?

Exactly the opposite lesson is now mainstream, and its influence is growing.

Not good.

If you or members of your family watch television or movies, it’s important to have a talk with them about this reality. These programs provide excellent examples of how freedom is being lost—if only we’ll look for this lesson and discuss it together. Without such discussion, the wrong lessons are being internalized.

 

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odemille The Bad Guy in America 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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Should We Have A Constitutional Convention or Not?

November 18th, 2014 // 9:49 am @

(The Only Way We’ll Ever Get America Back on Track)

Months ago I wrote an article about competing views on holding a Constitutional Convention to help get America back on track. I listed some of the pros and cons of both views, and asked readers for their thoughts.

Two Surprises

I was surprised by two things: 1) the huge number of responses to my article, and 2) the extremely strong emotions people shared about how we must avoid a Convention at all costs, and, alternatively, how without a Convention America is truly doomed.

I knew people felt strongly about both sides of this issue, but I didn’t realize just how passionately many people feel it.

I got hardly any responses that were lukewarm. Everything was ice-cold hatred of the very topic of a Convention, or boiling-hot support of its absolute necessity. The most interesting thing about this is that pretty much everyone who responded—from both sides—is deeply committed to freedom, to the principles of the Constitution, and to the vital importance of America’s future freedom.

I mentioned in my original article on this topic that I had my own opinion. I read each response carefully and with an open mind to see if anything swayed my views. After reading them all, I remain committed to my original viewpoint. And I’m ready to share it.

The Reality

For those who are adamantly supportive of either side, my thoughts are likely to be frustrating. I see the value of both views. I think a Convention is either a wonderful idea or a terrible idea, and we won’t truly know which until after it is held (if it ever happens, that is). Thus, we should either not hold it at all, or we should hold it but be sure there is a real chance of it doing the right things.

This view isn’t very helpful if your focus is on whether or not to have a Convention. But there is a method to my viewpoint. There is a bigger reality at play here, and too often the people supporting or opposing a Convention don’t realize just how important it is. Let me explain.

One respondent wrote: “Our form of government was made for a moral people…. We need the people to change, not the Constitution!”

Powerful words. I would add two words to make this even more poignant: “Our form of government was made for a moral and wise people…. We need the people to change, not the Constitution!”

This is dead right. Those who oppose a Convention use this to make the case that “Since many of our people and leaders lack morality and wisdom, a Convention will simply throw away the best thing we have going for us—the Constitution.”

In contrast, supporters of a Convention use this same idea to argue: “Our lack of moral and wise people and leaders is causing us to reject more and more of the Constitution with each passing year. If current trends continue, we won’t even be following the Constitution within a few years—not even the little bit we are following now. A Convention is the only chance of fixing this.

“Yes, it might backfire and we’ll lose our freedoms, but without a Convention we’re definitely losing them—and nobody realizes it enough to stop it. At least with a Convention we have a chance to turn things around, and if we don’t, if it makes things worse, at least everyone will know it—openly and immediately.”

Both views have real merit.

But there is a solution. It will work if we have a Convention, and it will work if we don’t have a Convention.

It isn’t easy, but it is possible. It can happen. It will be difficult, but without it we will lose our freedoms—regardless of whether or not we have a Convention.

What is the solution? We need at least 3% of the populace to really understand the Constitution. That’s approximately the percentage of people who actively participated in the American founding. Today we need at least 3% to deeply, truly understand the Constitution and the principles of freedom—at the level Madison and Jefferson and the Americans of their generation understood them.

If that doesn’t happen, a Convention won’t help. Likewise, if it doesn’t happen, avoiding a Convention won’t help either.

We are losing our freedoms. Quickly. Consistently. And much of it is happening in secret, in policies, laws, and programs the public doesn’t bother to read and understand.

But How?

How can we get 3% of the populace to understand the Constitution? Honestly, this is really very simple. There are five books I know of that teach what is needed. A person who reads, studies, and really understands any of the five will know enough to be part of the 3%. The five are:

Of course, reading more than one of them, or even all of them, is better. But really knowing the principles taught in any one of them will make a person part of the 3%. And when 3% or more of the people really know the Constitution, we’ll have enough critical mass to truly influence a return to its principles.

Of course, there are many other good books on freedom. What these five books have in common is that each one provides a comprehensive overview of the freedom principles needed to get our nation back on the right path. And after you read 1-5 of these, read LeaderShift by Orrin Woodward and myself. This book specifically outlines what we need to do to change our governmental structure right now—either through a Convention if one is ever held, or without a Convention by influencing elections and policy.

Whether readers agree or disagree with the principles in these books isn’t the point. What we need is 3% of the people who are seriously thinking and talking about how to apply these principles of freedom in our time. Right now. So, agree or disagree, but get focused on the principles of freedom!

The Only Way We’ll Ever Get America Back on Track

Freedom matters. We are losing it. The loss is rapid and the pace of our national decline is increasing. And there is really only one solution. In the whole history of the world, the regular people have only been free when they have demanded it. Governments don’t just hand it out. Elite classes don’t just gift it to the masses.

In all of history, the only times the people have been free are when they simply insisted on it. And this has only happened—only happened!—when at least 3% of the population really understood the principles of freedom.

That’s it. Period.

If 3% doesn’t understand, we’ll lose our freedoms.

Can a Convention help? Only if at least 3% of the people truly understand the principles of freedom. Can opposing a Convention help? Only if at least 3% truly understand the principles of freedom.

This is true.

This is real.

This is incredibly urgent.

One final thought. A lot more than 3% of the people deeply love freedom. We all need to do whatever we can to help more of them truly understand the principles of freedom. Whether or not we succeed in this endeavor will determine whether our children and grandchildren are free…or not.

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odemille Should We Have A Constitutional Convention or Not? 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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A Guide to Jury Duty

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

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

A Problem and A Solution

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

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

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

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

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

Their solution? Juries.

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

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

Checks and Responsibilities

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

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

Second, jurors do have two roles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Founders and Authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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How to Fix the Middle East

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

What’s Been Missed

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fatal Misunderstanding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Important Separations

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

For 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.

Afghanistan 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.

But 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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