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The Bedrock of Freedom: The Ben Carson vs. Rand Paul Debate by Oliver DeMille

The Bedrock of Freedom: The Ben Carson vs. Rand Paul Debate by Oliver DeMille

February 13th, 2015 // 9:27 am @

Measles, Vaccinations, Common Core,
and the Deeper Issue We’re All Experiencing

randpaulThe disconnect right now is tearing our nation apart. Over and over, people engage in the Surface argument, while the Deeper issue is actually a lot more important.

For example, consider the national discussion of whether the government should mandate vaccinations against measles and other similar diseases. The Surface issue is whether vaccinations are safe, or whether in some cases they are hurtful to a child. But the Deeper issue is much more important: Who should make the decision about vaccinations for your children? Government? Or you as the parents?

I recently watched two interviews with U.S. presidential hopefuls that clearly illustrate this point. In the first interview, Ben Carson was asked about measles and vaccinations. He stated that vaccinations should be firmly mandated by government for all children. Period.

Rand Paul took a slightly different approach. He said that vaccinations work and that children should be vaccinated, but that the more important issue is this: Government doesn’t own such decisions about children, parents do. Parents should have the final say.

Both of these men are medical doctors, and both have a history of commitment to the principles of freedom. But in this case, one called for government mandates and the other called for sticking with freedom. Very interesting.

Force and Reason

Ben Carson went on to say that the idea that vaccinations are widely damaging has been debunked, but then he added an interesting point. He said that of course a few children are allergic or otherwise react poorly to vaccinations, but overall the benefits of widespread vaccination are worth it.

That’s reasonable. But, if reason is to be our guide, which of the following is more reasonable:

1-Educating the populace about the scientific facts, then using government force to mandate what parents must choose for their children?

2-Educating the populace about the scientific facts, then letting parents make choices for their children?

This illustrates the current growing division between those who generally trust the government and those who usually distrust it. This disconnect is now a major feature of our nation. It shows up in numerous important issues, including:

1-The government should mandate Common Core across the nation to raise standards for schools and students.


2-Parents should have the final say on whether or not Common Core is good for their specific children.


1-The police are justified in using deadly force as needed, because law enforcement is paramount and force is frequently necessary—and police and government agents are nearly always in the right.


2-The community should be very vigilant about any use of force by the police to ensure that it was truly justified, because police forces and governmental agencies sometimes overstep their bounds and aren’t held accountable.

To Trust or Not to Trust

America is split, more each year, by these two major perspectives: “We almost always trust the government to do the right thing,” versus “We don’t usually trust the government to do the right thing.”

Through most of the 20th Century, by the way, an average of 78% of Americans held the first view (trust), while today only 23% of Americans believe the government will do the right thing most of the time. That’s a huge change.

And clearly the disconnect isn’t partisan. It divides both major parties, and it also divides independents. Just look at Common Core, for example. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are strongly against it, while Jeb Bush is a firm supporter. Bobby Jindal and Mike Huckabee supported it at the state level and then opposed it when it became a federal program. And all of these men are leading Republicans.

Or look at the vaccination issue. Some of the strongest supporters of government mandates are top Democratic politicians, while many of the communities with the lowest rates of vaccination (and highest levels of anti-vaccination activism) are university neighborhoods dominated by progressive faculty and administrators.

On the Right, many Republican voters demand that everyone get vaccinated, while a vocal opposition calls mandatory vaccination a socialistic plot. Ben Carson versus Rand Paul, so to speak, but spread through the population regardless of party.

Now, change the Surface issue, from, say, vaccinations to police use of deadly force in Ferguson, Cleveland, or New York, and the sides quickly shift.

Bad Comparisons

Here’s another example:

1-The government should regulate and then force the education of all children ages 5-16.


2-Parents should have the right to make the final educational decisions for their family.

This one clearly hits very close to home, but the divide is still there. Ben Carson said something really interesting while he was making his case for mandatory vaccinations. He compared them to seatbelt laws and also laws against texting while driving. I like Ben Carson, so this surprised me because these two things shouldn’t be treated the same. (He probably would have clarified this if he had time to elaborate.)

The main intent of “don’t text while you drive” laws is to protect other people from bad driving, while the focus of seat belt laws is to protect the driver.

In the case of Common Core, supporters often speak as if their major goals are to improve society, while many parents who dislike Common Core care mostly about the education of their own children. And pro-vaccinators often cite public health statistics at the same time that anti-vaccination parents point to anecdotal examples where specific children were harmed.

Simplicity and Standards

This all makes sense, if we take the time to really consider it. In short, those thinking in terms of the mass population naturally overlook the specific, individual cases (“they’re just anecdotal”) while many a concerned parent logically ignores the statistical tables (“my son isn’t just a number”) and focuses on the potential danger if her child just happens to be one of those who is harmed.

Both views have merit. Both are reasonable. Both make sense. But back to our original question: To whom are we going to give the final say?

The answer depends on what level of society is best equipped to deal with each specific situation. Consider:

  • If it’s a question about nuclear attack or foreign invasion, the federal government was designed to deal with it.
  • If it’s a question of crime or direct danger to everyone, it’s a state or provincial issue.
  • Or, if anything in level B can be handled more effectively at a local level, it should be.
  • If it’s about what’s best for an individual’s education, prosperity, or health, let the individual choose. This is the essence of freedom. If it’s about children, let’s trust the parents.

This simple little system is essential to freedom. Without such standards, freedom is quickly lost.

The Level

So, let’s get specific. Do the measles meet the “danger to everyone” level in B or C above? No. So leave such health decisions to the parents. Same with Common Core. Of course, if Ebola is the issue, level B kicks in because it truly is a “direct danger to everyone.” It may even be level A, depending on the circumstances. But Common Core and the measles are nowhere near level A. Not even close.

In fact, this system of doing things at the right level, and only at the right level, is the key to maintaining freedom and applying wisdom on nearly every issue. For example:

-Seat belts? Level D.
-Drunk driving or text-driving? Level B. (It would be level C if people didn’t travel very much, but in our current world conditions, if every local area has a different law, far too many drivers will be confused and the laws will be ineffective at protecting the life and liberty of others.)
-Police using deadly force? Level B.
-Oversight of any use of deadly force? Levels A-D.
-Compulsory school laws? Level D only. Seriously, leave to families those things best handled by families.
-Dedicated study and wise oversight of all laws? Level D.

This isn’t just the Deeper level; it is the bedrock of freedom.


odemille President Obamas Free College Tuition Plan 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.

Category : Aristocracy &Blog &Citizenship &Community &Constitution &Culture &Current Events &Economics &Education &Featured &Generations &Government &Leadership &Liberty &Politics &Prosperity &Science &Statesmanship

18 Comments → “The Bedrock of Freedom: The Ben Carson vs. Rand Paul Debate by Oliver DeMille”

  1. SC

    9 years ago

    Very well put. Thank you. I’ll be sharing this and hoping that people will read and actually understand.

  2. Chris Nichols

    9 years ago

    One phrase I hear tossed about quite often is “It’s for the greater good.” Vaccinations and Common Core are two issues where this can be heard.

    I cringe whenever I hear this phrase myself because I never hear anyone talking about the “individual good”. It’s deemed “selfish” and “uncaring” or even “dangerous” these days.

    Most people don’t realize that the “individual good” IS the “greater good”… FREEDOM is the greater good! However, freedom is also the greatest risk to the individual and most people shy away from it and opt for the “safety” and diminished responsibility of the collective.

    It’s because people don’t exercise their “individual good”, or think that exercising it every November is good enough, that they are losing it at an ever increasing rate.

    Anyone who says “government should” for something that isn’t expressly within the domain of government, usually wants to impose their individual good on everyone in order to get the best of both worlds, but it ultimately limits everyone else’s.

  3. Stephen Blanck

    9 years ago

    I believe that if we are going to allow parents to make decisions to not vaccinate their children we should inform them that if their child becomes sick and infects other children they are wholly responsible for the damage to the other children and their families.
    I have seen adults who are uneducated by choice. they had all the opportunities and failed to take advantage of them. Do you believe that we should let ignorant people make these types of decisions. Should the state remove the children from the home for abuse if the parents lack the sense to take care of their children?

  4. Sherri Einfeldt

    9 years ago

    As the saying goes “we are free to make our own choices but not free to choose the consequences of our choices.” So if parents choose not to vaccinate their children, then schools (and other entities) should be free to keep those children out during the quarantine period. Period.

    And as a teacher I can assure you that there are very many parents who are clueless as to what’s best for their child. So what about the rights of the child?

  5. Tom

    9 years ago

    If vaccines work so great, then the only children at risk are those who don’t get vaccinated. So other parents should have no worry about whether or not another student has not been vaccinated if they have vaccinated thier child. So what is the worry?

    Those children of those should not have government nanny state down thier backs. This is parents rights.

    There is also a lot of evidence that vaccines don’t actually work or did not have the effect that history claims. Many of the diseases rates of infection in the population were already dramatically lowering by the time the vaccine rolled out. But history is written to suggest that it was ONLY due to the vaccine which is not the whole truth.

    Vaccines are totally ineffective in any child under about 24 months. Yet the hospitals are giving the infants many vaccines within 24 HOURS and many more in the first 2 years. And is why they need multiple doses and boosters later.

    Even now we hear how they are recommending boosters for measles. Why? If they work so good why do they need a booster?

    If is all beside the point. Parents make life and death decisions for the health and safety of thier kids each and every day why would this right be taken away from them and given to the government?

    If ther is any freedom what so ever, it should be for an adult to decide what he puts into his own bloodstream. AND for a minor, that decision is left totally to the parent. Period.

  6. Jason Fredrick

    9 years ago

    Hi Oliver
    Can you do an article on Common Core? I have been digging around and I have been having a tough time finding out anything meaningful about the ins and outs of it. Such as:
    1. Who developed it?
    2. Examples of what it specifically teaches in different subjects?
    3. Why is the government so tyrannical about forcing it on every child in this country?

    Even if you could point me in the direction of where to find the answers to these questions, I would greatly appreciate it.

    God bless
    Jason Fredrick

  7. Jason Fredrick

    9 years ago

    I forgot to add in my last comment- I look forward to seeing you in Moline, IL next weekend. It is going to be a great time! The I-Wireless arena is going to be overflowing!

  8. Jennalee Riley

    9 years ago

    I agree Rand Paul is on the right track. I am just old enough I had the measles and very seldom life threatening. I know a group of people not vaccinating due to major problems and complications from them. I also agree some parents don’t have their childrens best interest. But again I agree keep the government out of as much as possible. How do we best do that is the big question?

  9. Tony Sorenson

    9 years ago

    Hello Oliver. I just finished reading chapter 2 of your book The US Constitution and the 196 indispensable principles of freedom. It’s a great read as all your books are. I support your ideas most of the time. However, I wonder about your comments above? Montesquieu called the federal republic the solution to democracy. I suppose that’s the same or at least similar to a constitutional republic which I believe we have here in the USA. I believe the federal government is overstepping their bounds in every area of our lives! We need to stick to what the U.S. Constitution allows the federal government to do. If I’m not mistaken the federal government’s original charger was to raise the militia, mint coin, settle disputes between the states, conduct foreign policy, deliver the mail, and guarantee life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No mention of an interference with the masses except to maintain the constitution. We are now rated as the second largest economy in the world behind China and we are 20th when it comes to personal freedom. God help us all!

  10. Mama Rachel

    9 years ago


    I take issue with the following statement you made:

    “And as a teacher I can assure you that there are very many parents who are clueless as to what’s best for their child. So what about the rights of the child?”

    As a teacher, who are you to say that you know best for any child that is not your own? If you believe in inalienable rights given by God, then it would follow that you would understand that God alone gives parents the right and stewardship to raise their children as they see git. God sent those children to that specific home with those particular parents.

    Even if you do not believe in God, surely you can see that biologically, mothers and fathers are those best suited to care for the needs of their biological offspring.

    As for the rights of a child, children are born into homes with parents that will care, feed, protect, and nurture them, as well as make decisions for them until they ate mature enough to make decisions for themselves. My two year old would love nothing more than to eat chocolate cake for every meal and play in the street at all hours of the day. If we put the rights of children above the rights of the parents, chaos and anarchy will be the result every time!

    The State has no vested interest in children as INDIVIDUALS, only as a body. If governments walk around requiring and forcing parents to do what the state– with no consideration for the individual– deems best, not only is freedom lost, but the state also can damage those who do not fit into the “normal” mold.

    I am a mother with a vaccination-damaged child. I have a total of thirteen children; I am not a rookie at mothering. I am responsible for those thirteen children. I feel I was called to be their mother. I do nit make ANY of the decisions that I make regarding my children lightly. I choose not to vaccinate for very, VERY personal reasons.

    I have not made my decision based on public opinions, fads, or pressures from anyone. I already trusted the State with my first child, and I almost lost her. I did not listen to my mother’s intuition when I took her down to the clinic to receive her shots. My heart was telling me something was not right, that I should stop and listen to my gut. But I was a young mother who believed that good parents vaccinated without question. I would be a “bad mom” if I didn’t conform.

    It was through faith and small miracles that my daughter is still with us. I learned a great lesson from that experience. I learned that mothers have a divine intuition that no doctor, no teacher, and no politician can ever, EVER have for my child.

    MY child.

    If you have children of YOUR own, might I suggest you consider how you would feel if a person wholly unconnected to you demanded that your child/student not be vaccinated– that shots should be outlawed. How would you feel about your right to choose and personal freedoms then?

    If you wish to have liberty for yourself, then you must be willing to give it to those with whom you disagree. You can’t have it both ways.

    Best wishes,
    Rachel Keppner

  11. Tony Sorenson

    9 years ago

    Jason, weight I suggest, for information on common core check out…..idahoansagainstcommoncore.com

  12. Oliver DeMille

    9 years ago

    Chris, I totally agree! Brilliantly stated.

  13. Oliver DeMille

    9 years ago

    Sherri, you raise several issues. Let me respond one by one.

    1) You said: “As the saying goes ‘we are free to make our own choices but not free to choose the consequences of our choices.’ So if parents choose not to vaccinate their children, then schools (and other entities) should be free to keep those children out during the quarantine period. Period.”

    Response: Of course. Of course! Quarantines are reasonable, effective, and in everyone’s interests. I know of nobody (certainly not me) who has suggested that freedom to abstain from immunizations means license to ignore quarantines. Any law or government policy that doesn’t allow quarantines in a school for a serious disease is ridiculous and oversteps the role of government.

    2) You said: “And as a teacher I can assure you that there are very many parents who are clueless as to what’s best for their child. So what about the rights of the child?”

    Response: There are also very many government officials who are clueless (for example, government officials who don’t leave schools free to enforce a quarantine during disease outbreaks). The real question is: Are we, as a society, going to trust parents or governments more? Neither are perfect. And there is a wide variety of parents, just as there is a wide variety of government officials on such issues. But any society that trusts government officials more than parents to look out for the interests of children and their rights, is going quickly in the direction of losing its freedoms. If a parent blows it, the rights of the child are sadly damaged. If a government official blows it, the rights of probably dozens if not hundreds or thousands of children, parents and future generations are damaged. If a specific parent engages in direct abuse, the law makes stipulation for that. But anything less than this must be the parents of families, not governments.

  14. Akasa

    9 years ago

    This article exemplifies an issue that does not involve so much the choice between vaccinating or not, but the choice of intrusions by the government. Either Rand Paul or Ben Carson would be an excellent choice to lead this country secondary to diminishing government responsibilities. However, they are going to run into barriers created intentionally by the liberal agenda. For example, a libertarian would support “open borders”. Unfortunately, “open borders” can not co-exist with a welfare state. This same dilemma is evident with vaccinations. Parents should have the choice whether or not they are going to vaccinate their children. This choice cannot co-exist with public education. If the people were not taxed so much to where they had to pay a tuition at the private institution of their choice, they could research which schools supports choice of vaccinations and mandatory vaccinations. Schools would have to decide whether or not it is financially viable to make vaccinations mandatory or not. Parents would have a responsibility to inform themselves about vaccinations in order to make the appropriate school choice.

    The point of this response to your article is not so much whether or not I agree with vaccinating or not. The greater point is whether or not that choice is even available considering the barriers that are already present. If parents are forced to send their kids to a public school because of financial restrictions and cannot afford private school, then they do not have the option to send their child to a school where vaccinations are mandatory or vice versa. This individual’s rights have automatically been impeded on. You can easily see how this would work with common core as well.

    The Solution


    Abolish the public school system. Make all schools private and let them compete with each other. This will create more options for parents when evaluating what is best for their child. I am sure people will call me a capitalist bigot for this recommendation, but if you are looking for a solution where you have the freedom of choice and still can keep your child safe this is the best solution.


    Make all public schools “open enrollment” throughout every district of every state. Public schools will be forced into a capitalist environment and will have to compete to keep their enrollees. They will have to decide things such as should we have common core, mandatory vaccinations, certain classes, certain sports, and level of technology and quality of facilities. The amount of money they obtain from the state is dependent on the amount of enrollees. This will flush out the institutions not serving the community as desired just like any other business. It sounds like a viable solution however none of that can be done unless education is 100% in the hands of the state. We know how much the federal government despises relinquishing power.

  15. Rodney Ross

    9 years ago

    I do not care for this philosophy at all. It sets up an elitist form of government and pays no attention to those who do not have opportunity. I’m all for life long education, but that can and should be instilled in any school setting.

    You stance on vaccinations sounds good; I have sympathy for the woman here who’s daughter had a bad reaction to vaccine. But what happens when the first child dies because a classmate was not vaccinated? One of the founding principles of our government is your rights end where my nose begins. Children need to be vaccinated.

    There are things the government does very well and the best is public education. You can give me statistics and test scores, but the true test of the quality of public education is how the country is doing. I like how our country is doing in spite of all our flaws. I’m not very high on our non-existant administrative leadership in our country, but let’s remember, we are the richest most powerful country in the world. That did not happen by accident; it is the result of an outstanding public school system (that certainly can improve).

    Some feel charter schools are the answer. Where I live, within two and a half miles of each other there is a private school, two regular elementary schools and three charter schools. With limited state funding for education, putting that many schools that close together is a horrible waste of money. Charters are ripe for corruption. Many in my state have been closed down because of corrupt practices, a waste of millions of dollars that could have gone to regular public schools. In 2014 the FBI raided a number of charter schools, investigating their owners on charges of corruption. There are some great charter schools, but the innovations they were supposed to instill have not happened. Research has shown that charters do almost as well as public school given the same level of students. If a student wants a Thomas Jefferson education (I’m not sure that is practical in today’s society), let them go to the private school that will provide it.

    I am all for open enrollment. That is a great way to offer choices. But if more choice is the goal, let’s fund public schools so the existing schools can offer choices more a more classical education (many already do). Let’s also fund public schools so teachers can earn a living wage.

    There is a great mythology that competition will make for better public schools. I promise you the competition for public school teachers is not in which private or charter school is around the corner, the competition is in the eyes of the children who are served in the classroom.

  16. Dawn

    9 years ago

    Thank you for writing this. It’s horrifying to see the vitriol around this with people calling for the jailing and removal of children for not vaccinating.

    In Pakistan they are currently jailing parents for refusing to give their children the oral polio vaccine. What many news outlets aren’t reporting is that the oral polio vaccine was discontinued in the West because of its high rate of actually causing polio and polio-like syndromes, so pharmaceutical companies got rid of their excess inventory by pawning it off on developing countries, like India and Pakistan.

    India has tens of thousands of cases of vaccine-induced polio and related side effects because of the oral polio vaccine. And we can expect the same from gunpoint-vaccination in Pakistan too. This is the worst case scenario that can happen when governments are allowed to mandate injection of medical products for which the manufacturers hold no liability for safety or efficacy.

    God forbid it happen here.

  17. […] to political scholar and author Oliver DeMille, “the answer should depend on what level of society is best equipped to deal with each […]

  18. Ammon Nelson

    8 years ago

    I was not aware that this was the stance of Ben Carson, he just lost my support.

    Thank you for always explaining things at the level of principles.

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