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“Please, may I…?” – Part II

In The Permission Society, Timothy Sandefur wrote that there are two ways for government to regulate the actions of people. The first is the nuisance system which states that people have a right to freely act however they choose unless it will harm someone else. This includes one’s free choice as what to do with their property unless it harms his neighbor. The drawback of this system is that it is reactive. On occasion the danger of harm may be of great magnitude, either immediately or cumulative over time. Under these circumstances, the nuisance system does not preemptively protect a neighbor. On these occasions it may not be possible for the harmed neighbor to be adequately and/or timely compensated for his loss.[1] Where the potential for this type of harm is present, the deficiency in a reactive nuisance system can be mitigated through prudent but infrequent intervention and prior restraint.

The second system to regulate actions of people is the permit system which forbids people from doing anything with his property unless approved by the appropriate authorities. The permit or “prior restraint” system is proactive and does not allow a person to act until he meets the requirements dictated by the governing authorities.[2] Sandefur lists six destructive consequences of the permit system.

1. “Rent-seeking” – Even under a permit system, the laws of supply and demand continue to operate. Permits become valuable because everyone cannot have one, and in a business environment time and money are spent to acquire and preserve the coveted permit. Since the 1930s, the power of government to redistribute wealth or opportunities has grown exponentially “either by transferring money from some people to others or by granting licenses to do profitable things that are otherwise illegal.” Payments to government in whatever form they take (fees, concessions, etc.) are a form of rent charged for the privileges dispensed by government, i.e., rent-seeking. The government uses these rents for purposes that may or may not be worthwhile, but it is the government that decides what those purposes will be, right or wrong, without consultation with the electorate. And the rent received by the government will ultimately be paid by the citizens themselves.[3]

2. Knowledge problem – The permit system is based on the faulty assumption that government officials and bureaucrats in charge of granting permits have the knowledge and information necessary to make the right choices when deciding what should and should not be permitted. If the regulators/permit issuers make wrong choices, they are seldom held accountable.[4]

3. Enforcement by unelected bureaucrats – Once issued, the privileges granted by permits must be monitored and their limitations enforced. Permit issuance decisions based on vague or confusing laws or criteria effectively delegate power to administrators and judges to enforce the terms of the permits even though their decisions may be arbitrary, irrational, unfair, and pose a conflict of interest. It is difficult and extremely expensive to challenge the decisions of unelected bureaucrats and their self-created fiefdoms which have become a hostile fourth branch of government unaccountable to the electorate and certainly not envisioned by the Constitution.[5]

4. Corruption and forced concessions – Officials with power to issue permits and regulate the execution of the services granted by those permits are in the position to demand something in return. The first amounts to blatant corruption when government officials solicit and receive innumerable forms of personal gain or favor in exchange for permits or regulatory approvals. The second type is the demand by government for concessions to the government to advance or accomplish some governmentally-determined general social need, e.g., the surrender of a portion of one’s property in exchange for permission to sell or develop the rest.[6]

5. Violation of illegal requirements – Some permit requirements may be illegal in themselves. When a permit holder violates the terms of the permit, he is considered to have violated the law. Yet, the terms violated may themselves be a violation of the law. Effectively, it is difficult for the permit holder to defend himself against violating the terms of the permit by challenging the illegality of those requirements.[7] In other words, the permit holder cannot get beyond being judged guilty of violating the illegal conditions of the permit.

6. Innovation is stifled – Sandefur believes that the most troubling aspect of the permit system is that it stifles innovation. He calls innovation a fragile and elusive quality, a potential, a chance for the future. It can’t be quantified, measured, qualified, or justified. Innovation is vital to a growing and robust society. But the permit system often wants people who want to “start a new business to prove to the satisfaction of the government regulators that there is a ‘public need’ for the business before the person may set up shop.”[8]

If the citizens of a society value their freedom above all else, then the drawbacks of a pervasive permit system are fatal to freedom and the survival of a society. Article V of the Bill of Rights states that men should not “…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

This concern for the inalienable right of property is not just an academic exercise. The loss of this inalienable right impacts virtually every individual citizen in ways that are often lost in the daily information overload amidst the fast-paced buzz of life. The following example is just one of many well-intended actions of social engineers that erode the fundamental freedoms associated with one’s property and possessions.

Tulsa’s governmental fix for food deserts

A Tulsa City Counselor proposed that the City of Tulsa impose a moratorium on new grocery stores in council districts with food deserts, an area deemed to be deficient in full-service grocery stores. Counselor Vanessa Hall-Harper believes that a moratorium would solve what is believed to a problem of too many small grocery stores which prevent developers and larger full-service grocery stores from building in areas of the city considered to be food deserts. She claims that a lack of full-service stores is contributing to the decline of general health conditions in these areas.[9]

Hall-Harper cites one example in which a few of her constituents protested the issuance of a permit for a new Dollar General store in North Tulsa which they feel is inadequate. She believes this type of store discourages the building of full-service stores in so-called food deserts.[10] It would appear that for Hall-Harper and the protesters, investment of private funds in the City of Tulsa are to be dictated by political concerns and agendas as opposed to free-market forces.

But this is not government over-reach according to Hall-Harper. She says that the moratorium would be temporary and that it wouldn’t target any specific store or chains. “In my opinion, developers should work with communities.”[11]

The larger concern is that proposals of this nature have become typical of the thinking of elected government officials and especially bureaucrats who have become virtually independent and unanswerable to the electorate. Instead of a free society, we have become a “Please, may I…?” society. In a free society, a mom-and-pop grocer or a Dollar General are free to survey an area, determine if there is a need, and find an economically viable way to meet that need. These entrepreneurs must still consult local authorities about zoning matters, building permits, and the like. But, in a “Please, may I…?” society, they must also consult the local social engineers to determine if the individual or business owners’ plans fit in with the social agenda for the betterment of the community (as determined by the permission givers), even if the supposed betterment infringes on the rights and bank accounts of certain classes of citizens.

Who will be hurt by the City of Tulsa social planners’ scheme to address the lack of supermarkets in certain parts of Tulsa? The real victims will be the mom-and-pop grocers who have dreams of owning their own business, a grocery store that may one day grow into supermarket. Another victim will be the Dollar Generals of the world who research an area and determine that there are sufficient potential customers who desire what they have to offer. The local community will suffer because it will be deprived of another business to supply them with what they want and need and who will also benefit from jobs created for the area’s residents. The land owner who wants to sell his property to Dollar General will suffer because he will lose the proceeds from the sale of his land, and the contractor who would have built or remodeled the building for Dollar General will suffer of a loss of revenue because the project is prohibited.

Such arbitrary actions of government (city, state, and federal) stand in opposition to the inalienable right of property which transcends even the Constitution’s documentation of those rights. These actions have a chilling effect on developers who may be disinclined to begin future projects for fear of payments that will be extracted by government officials in the form of concessions and fees to meet some unrelated social need identified by social planners in exchange for permission to do business. This is little more than a legalized form of extortion, i.e., protection money paid to government. But the greatest damage among both the populace and government officials is the loss of the simple concept of freedom upon which the nation was founded.

This article has very briefly dealt with matters pertaining to the loss of freedom to do what one wishes with one’s property and possessions. This loss of freedom has occurred because the emergent permission society is dominated by a government and its bureaucracies that have intruded into the private and business affairs of the citizenry.

As discussed in Part I, the permission society began with the massive intrusion of government into the lives of its citizens during the 1930s under new, liberalized interpretations of the general welfare clause of the Constitution. Concurrently, government expansion began in Roosevelt’s New Deal years and accelerated with Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society of the 1960s. However, the exponential growth of government intrusion into the minutest details of the daily lives of American citizens has become suffocating over the last two decades.

Perhaps the best summation of the outcome of massive governmental intrusion comes from Alexis De Tocqueville in his 1835 Democracy in America. He had a prophet’s foresight into the reasons for America’s loss of freedom as it slides into the permission society whose destination is socialism and inevitably totalitarianism.

We forget that it is, above all, in the details that we run the risk of enslaving men…Subjection in the minor things of life is obvious every day and is experienced indiscriminately by all citizens. It does not cause them to lose hope but it constantly irks them until they give up the exercise of their will. It gradually blots out their mind and enfeebles their spirit …

I may add that they will soon lose the capacity to exercise the great and only privilege open to them. The democratic nations which introduced freedom into politics at the same time that they were increasing despotism in the administrative sphere have been led into the strangest paradoxes. Faced with the need to manage small affairs where common sense can be enough, they reckon citizens are incompetent. When it comes to governing the whole state, they give these citizens immense prerogatives. They turn them by degrees into playthings of the ruler or his masters, higher than kings or lower than men. Having exhausted all the various electoral systems without finding one which suited them, they look surprised and continue to search, as if the effects they see had far more to do with the country’s constitution than with that of the electorate.[12] [emphasis added]

As noted in Part I, the intent of the Founders in proposing the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution was to foster greater trust in government by adding language to limit or restrict the ability of government to abuse its powers by infringing on the inalienable rights of its citizens. But the leaders of American government over the last century have so eroded the meaning of the Constitution and the intent of the Founders that trust in government is at an all time low. Once we trusted in God from whom those inalienable rights flow. We are now told that we must trust in the leaders of the permission society from whom all privileges are dispensed to the greatest number for the greatest good.

Larry G. Johnson


[1] Timothy Sandefur, The Permission Society, (New York, London: Encounter Books, 2016), pp. 28-29.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., p. 29.
[4[ Ibid., p. 30-31.
[5] Ibid., p. 32-34.
[6] Ibid., pp. 34-35.
[7] Ibid., p. 35.
[8] Ibid., p 36.
[9] Jarrel Wade, “Grocery store proposal on tap,” Tulsa World, May 9, 2017, A-1
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Gerald E. Bevan, Trans., (London, England: Penguin Books, 2003), pp. 807-808.

“Please, may I…?” – Part I

The word inalienable (a.k.a. unalienable) has numerous synonyms: unchallengeable, absolute, immutable, unassailable, incontrovertible, indisputable, and undeniable are just a few. This is the word Thomas Jefferson chose to describe the rights of all mankind in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Because this phrase has become so familiar to many of us who have read and revered these truths for a lifetime, they tend to become somewhat of a cliché devoid of the rich meaning and implications that are still applicable in measuring the degree to which modern government accomplishes its purpose. First, men have certain rights which are absolute. Second, these absolute rights are not bestowed by government but endowed by their Creator. Third, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are just three among other inalienable rights. And fourth, these inalienable rights are incapable of being alienated, surrendered, transferred, or altered.

In 1789, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution of the new republic memorialized several of these inalienable rights. The purpose of the Bill of Rights (the Amendments) is found in its Preamble. Congress wished to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers by proposing a Bill of Rights that would add “further declaratory and restrictive clauses” to the Constitution to improve public confidence in government. In other words, the Congress was asking the various states to ratify these Amendments to further restrict governmental abuse and thereby increase confidence in government. The Amendments described several of these rights and their associated freedoms.

Freedom or privilege?

Timothy Sandefur’s book The Permission Society describes how the ruling class has turned America’s constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms into privileges. Sandefur says that to be free means that one is able to make his own decisions, but Sandefur emphasized that such freedom did not mean that one had a right to do whatever he pleases regardless of the harm caused others. Rather, freedom meant that a person was able to follow his own will and choices with regard to his person, actions, possessions, and property without having to obey the arbitrary and rapacious will of others.[1]

To the degree that we must ask someone else to let us act, we do not have rights but privileges – licenses that are granted, on limited term, from someone who stands above us.[2] [emphasis added]

When the citizens of a free society reach a point (or a degree) that their right to act according to their own will and choices is outweighed by the privileges granted by their government and its complicit bureaucracies, then it is no longer a free society but a permission society. In such a society the citizen no longer boldly proclaims “I will…” but with hat in hand and eyes downcast, he shuffles up to his betters and mumbles “Please, may I…?”

This change of condition does not happen all at once in a free society. Rather, it occurs much the same way as a cancer attacks the body. The symptoms are minor at first but grow to the point of consciousness that something is not right in the body. In the early stages of moving from a free society to a permission society, the social planners provide soothing promises and placebos to soften the minor discomforts and inconveniences of life in a permission society. But in time as a society surrenders ever greater amounts of its freedom, the will to act by citizens holding the cherished but distant memory of freedom becomes too weak to resist their ever growing bondage to the rulers of the permission society. A free society can be saved only by radical surgery to remove the spreading cancer of the social planners and their bag of privileges to be bestowed to the inmates of the permission society.

Government fails when it does not accomplish the purpose for which it was instituted—to secure the inalienable rights of its citizens. In this two part series, we shall look at how the American government over the last century has eroded this confidence in government by not only failing to secure these inalienable rights but which has aggressively abused those rights for its own purposes. Specifically, we shall look at those inalienable rights associated with property which have been greatly abused by a heavy-handed, oppressive government and its supporting bureaucracy.

The inalienable right of property

We begin with a quote from an address by Abraham Lincoln to the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association.

Property is the fruit of labor. Property is desirable, is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence…I take it that it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can. Some will get wealthy. I don’t believe in a law to prevent a man from getting rich; it would do more harm than good.[3]

Lincoln’s short homily on the value of property as a positive good and an encourager to industry and enterprise is important. Lincoln’s words regarding property are admirable but utilitarian by nature. Those words do not rise to the status of an inalienable right as defined by the Constitution. The inalienable right to have and use one’s property as he desires is more than something with a calculable valuable that can be weighed in the balances against some competing thing.

Richard M. Weaver wrote that, “Almost every trend of the day points to an identification of right with the purpose of the state and that, in turn, with the utilitarian greatest material happiness for the greatest number.” Weaver argues that private property is the last metaphysical right remaining because it does not depend on some measure of social usefulness that can be bent to the greatest good for the greatest number. State control of the material elements of a society positions it to allow the denial of freedom, but private property and personal income stand as a bulwark and provides a “…sanctuary against pagan statism.”[4] The biblical worldview which was the foundation of Western civilization led to boundaries on the power of the state. As a result the power of government to dictate or interfere with private transactions was limited which supported and encouraged economic freedom.[5]

Beginning of the permission society

Prior to 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court held that:

The preservation of property…is a primary object of the social compact…The legislature, therefore, had no authority to make an act divesting one citizen of his freehold, and vesting it in another, without a just compensation. It is inconsistent with the principles of reason, justice and moral rectitude; it is incompatible with the comfort, peace and happiness of mankind; it is contrary to the principles of social alliance in every free government; and lastly, it is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.[6]

Beginning in 1936, the Supreme Court’s liberal interpretations of the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution have dramatically enlarged the powers of the federal government and encroached on fundamental property rights through its welfare programs.[7] This liberal interpretation significantly expanded what the legislature could do with regard to providing for the “general welfare” of the United States.

The debate as to the meaning of the “general welfare” clause began with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton and continues until the present day. Rather than continue the argument, let us evaluate the outcome of the distortion of the meaning of the “general welfare” clause which began in the 1930s. The results of this new liberal interpretation have caused an unprecedented assault on right of private property through:

• Eminent domain laws
• Diminution of the right of contract and obligations thereunder
• Oppressive income and property tax systems
• Onerous limitations on the possession and use of property through regulation[8]

It is in this last area of limitations on the possession and use of private property that the “Please, may I…?” society has evolved and replaced freedom with privileges. This assault on private property occurs through excessive governmental regulation which is fostered by a pervasive humanistic worldview. Humanism is intrinsically socialistic. A socialistic government allows its humanist elite to level society by their attempts to parcel out the greatest material happiness for the greatest number. This is accomplished through an onerous regulatory process which is the skeletal structure of all socialistic governments.[9] One example of this monolithic regulatory umbrella is found in Humanist Manifesto II as it proposes to create an international authority to control the environment and population growth.

…the door is open to alternative economic systems…The world community must engage in cooperative planning concerning the use of rapidly depleting resources. The planet earth must be considered a single ecosystem. Ecological damage, resource depletion, and excessive population growth must be checked by international concord.[10] [emphasis in original]

Yet, at the same time, the Manifesto self-righteously states that, “…bureaucratic structures should be held to a minimum. People are more important than…regulations.” In spite of these platitudes, calls for minimal regulations are disingenuous for humanists know that cooperative planning is code for regulation, and socialistically-oriented societies require massive amounts of regulation.[11]

In both Part I and II of these articles, our discussion is limited to loss of the inalienable right of private property through regulation in which one’s ownership and use of his or her property is no longer an inalienable right but a privilege to be dispensed by government. Such regulation has allowed unjust confiscation of private property without due compensation, limitations on the use of one’s property (which is in effect a taking of private property), and devaluation of private property through regulatory excesses. In Part II, we shall look at the two principal means by which government may regulate the actions of people and the consequences of each. One supports freedom and the other champions privilege.

Larry G. Johnson


[1]Timothy Sandefur, The Permission Society, (New York, London: Encounter Books, 2016), p. ix.
[2] Ibid.
[3] W. Cleon Skousen, The 5000 Year Leap, ( National Center for Constitutional Studies, 1981), p. 173.
[4] Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1948), pp. 131, 134-135.
[5] M. Stanton Evans, The Theme Is Freedom, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1994), pp. 299-300.
[6] Skousen, The 5000 Year Leap, pp. 173-176.
[7] Ibid., p. 173.
[8] Larry G. Johnson, Ye shall be as gods – Humanism & Christianity – The Battle for Supremacy in the American Cultural Vision, (Owasso, Oklahoma: Anvil House Publishers, 2011), p. 249.
[9] Ibid., p. 254.
[10] Paul Kurtz, ed., Humanist Manifestos I & II, (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1973), p. 21.
[11] Johnson, Ye shall be as gods, p. 255.

The Founders’ limitation on direct democracy – Part II – Checks and balances

As discussed in Part I, the Founders wished to establish a form of government that would address the abuses inherent in various other forms of government. They chose a democratic republic which they believed would insure the continuing preservation of the new nation. The first great challenge in writing a Constitution for the democratic republic was to create a system of checks and balances between the three branches of government, between the large and small states, and between the national government and the states. In the legislative arena this was accomplished by establishing a bicameral legislature to insure that individual state voices and diverse regional interests would not be overwhelmed, ignored, or trampled upon by larger states and/or coalitions of states. The Founders believed that it was necessary to balance the will of the majority of the population (guarded by the House) with the will of the majority as determined by the states (guarded by the Senate).[1] The creation of a bicameral legislature was an overt action of the Founders to impose a Constitutional limitation on direct democracy. Without such a balancing of power it is doubtful that the Convention would have produced a document acceptable to the representatives of the former colonies. A second overt action of the Founders to impose a Constitutional limitation on democracy was establishment of the Electoral College. The remainder of this article will address this subject.

Why did the Founders establish the Electoral College?

The concern for a system of checks and balances in electing the head of the executive branch of government was also on the minds of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. When debating the procedure for selecting the president, three methods were proposed and subsequently rejected.

1. Congress would select the President – This proposal was rejected for three reasons. First, it was felt that this method would engender rancorous partisanship that would inhibit future legislative efforts. Second, because Congress was such a small body, there was concern that foreign governments could more easily influence the outcome of an election through bribery and corruption. Lastly, the election of the head of the executive branch of government by the legislative branch would compromise the president’s independence from the legislative branch.
2. State legislatures would select the President – This proposal was rejected because of the fear that the federal republic would be undermined through erosion of federal authority by a president that was too indebted to the states.
3. The President would be elected by a popular national vote – This was rejected “not because the framers distrusted the people but rather because the larger populous states would have much greater influence than the smaller states and therefore the interests of those smaller states could be disregarded or trampled.” A further concern was that a national popular election would encourage regionalism through creation of coalitions among the more populous states which would damage lasting national unity.[2]

To solve the dilemma, the Convention delegates appointed a “Committee of Eleven” to study the problem and propose a viable alternative which resulted in establishment of the Electoral College.[3] Again, this action was the Founders’ second explicit action to impose a Constitutional limitation on direct democracy.

James Madison, a signor of the Constitution and often referred to as its father, wrote:

The Constitution is nicely balanced with the federative and popular principles; the Senate are guardians of the former, and the House of Representatives of the latter; and any attempts to destroy this balance, under whatever specious names or pretenses that may be presented, should be watched with a jealous eye.[4] [emphasis added]

In the election of a president under the Electoral College system, the smaller states receive a slightly greater voice, proportionally speaking, than the larger states. In other words, the Electoral College system tends to slightly over-represent voters in the smaller states, but at the same time adds a measure of protection to those states without the clout to defend their interests from those of much larger states.

How the Electoral College Works

The Electoral College is a process whereby once each four years Americans voting in the Presidential election cast ballots to select which persons that will serve as electors to select the President of the United States. In each state, a candidate for the Presidency has his or her own set of electors that appear on the ballot. These electors are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party within that state. Even though a candidate’s name appears above the list of his or her electors on the election ballot, the voter is actually voting for those electors. The candidate whose electors receive the most votes in a state receive all of that state’s electoral votes except for Nebraska and Maine which award an electoral vote to the winner of the popular vote in each Congressional district within those states.[5]

The number of electoral votes each state has is determined by the number of senators and members of the House Representatives in that state. For example, Oklahoma has seven electors because it has two senators and five representatives. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators which total 535 electors. The 23rd Amendment to the Constitution gave three electoral votes to the District of Columbia, an amount equal to the least number of electors a state may have. Thus, there are 538 electors. To become the President, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the electoral votes which is 270.[6] If there is a tie of 269 votes for each candidate, the House of Representatives selects the President from among the top three candidates.[7]

Subsequent to the casting of votes by each state’s electors in December following the election, the governor of each state submits a Certificate of Ascertainment which declares the winning presidential candidate based on the electors’ votes. That Certificate along with each elector’s Certificate of Vote is forwarded to Congress and the National Archives. Each state’s electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on the 6th of January.[8] The newly elected president is sworn in and takes office on January 20.

2016 Presidential Election and the Electoral College

Columnist E. J. Dionne, a member of the Washington Post Writers Group, believes the majority of Americans will be disempowered in 2017 because Hilary Clinton won the popular vote by approximate 2.6 million. However, Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote by a relatively wide margin of 306 to 232 and became the President-Elect. Dionne writes:

The inherent illogic of our practices, and the fact that they have nothing to do with the Founders’ intentions, is underscored by this contradiction: We are supposed to ignore the national popular vote, but deeply respect Trump’s narrow 77,000 popular-vote advantage in three states that will tip the Electoral College his way.[9]

But Dionne is wrong on all three counts. The practices of the Electoral College are very logical when considering that the Founder’s reasons behind it are based on the principles of a republican form of government. Those practices have everything to do with the Founders’ intentions for they specifically rejected the election of the president by popular vote. And we must respect the outworking of the Electoral College, even when it contradicts the popular vote because it balances the federative and popular principles of a republican form of government about which Madison spoke.

Dionne calls the workings of the Electoral College an “outdated system” which will allow the current government to pursue “quite radical policies destined to arouse considerable resistance from the disempowered majority.”[10] But disempowerment has been the protocol of liberals for decades through wrongful interpretation of the Constitution in ways contrary to its plain language and intent of the Founders, through decisions of unelected judges that effectively legislate through their decrees, and a federal bureaucracy that misinterprets and corrupts the laws passed by Congress and thereby undermines the will of the people while pursuing the liberal agenda. Two major examples of this judicial and bureaucratic over-reach are the so-called public “bathroom policies” pushed by the LGBT lobby and the pro-abortion policies of the left which the majority of Americans oppose.

So are both the supposed unfairness of the Electoral College and the wrongdoings of the unelected judiciary and bureaucracy morally equivalent? Absolutely not! The Electoral College is working as the Founders intended. Without the restraining force of the Electoral College, the heavily populated liberal strongholds clinging to the east and west coasts would steamroll the interests of the citizens of a vast majority of states which eventually will become little more than administrative districts used by the federal government to impose the will of the concentrated majority on a powerless minority located in what many consider to be merely “fly over” country. The potential power of these concentrated and growing majorities without the restraining influence of the Electoral College becomes alarmingly clear when examining the following statistics.

• In 2015, nine states accounted for over half the population of the United States (meaning that the remaining forty-one states accounted for the other half).[11] Six of these nine states border the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Pacific Ocean. The remaining three border the Great Lakes.
• California is the most populous state with slightly over 39,000,000 residents. It requires the populations of twenty-two states having the lowest populations plus the District of Columbia to equal or slightly exceed the population of California.[12]
• The eleven most populous states have 270 electoral votes, enough to elect the president without the need for even one vote from the remaining thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia.[13]
• In the 2016 presidential election, 2,622 counties with mostly smaller populations voted for the Republican nominee while 490 counties with mostly larger populations voted for the Democratic nominee.[14] This large-versus-small county voting split is apparent even in those Democratic states with large population counties that vote Democratic and counties with relatively small populations that vote Republican.

Dionne’s principal argument against the Electoral College process is that it is unfair and inherently antidemocratic because some votes do not have the same proportional impact as other votes which violates the so-called “one-man-one vote” proposition. They contend that one man ought to have one vote proportional to all other votes. But proportional equality in the vote of each citizen was not the intent of the Founders for reasons which we have previously discussed, i.e., balancing both federative and popular principles as opposed to a direct democracy in electing the president which was specifically rejected by the Founders.

Should the nation abandon the Electoral College process for electing the president in favor of a popular vote, several undesirable consequences will occur. Campaigns would tend to ignore individual voters and the important interests of their state and region. Rather, the candidates would conduct an almost continual media campaign aimed at voters in the most populous regions of the country (e.g., the nine states comprising over half the population of the United States). Candidates would heavily invest in electronic media advertising and have little interest in mobilizing constituencies, addressing the interests of specific groups, or voter registration and education. Since the population centers are largely urban which tend to be more liberal, presidential campaigns would focus on and become substantially beholden to liberal interests and brush aside the beliefs and interests of the remainder of the country. Rather than being an illogical, outdated practice as claimed by Dionne, the Electoral College in light of the growing power of the more populous states is more than ever a critical component in preserving the republican form of government and balancing federative and popular principles by which it operates.

Kathleen Parker is also a member of the Washington Post Writers Group. Unlike Dionne who wishes to scrap the Electoral College altogether, Parker wanted to use the Electoral College to deprive Donald Trump of the presidency. In a recent editorial column, Parker encouraged Republican electors to ignore the rules and wishes of the voters in their respective states and not cast their 306 Electoral vote for Donald Trump. Parker hoped that a defection of 37 electors will reduce Trump’s electoral votes to 269, deprive him of the presidency, and send someone else to the Oval Office.[15] Parker wrote:

If there are 37 Republicans among them with the courage to perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president-elect, a new history of heroism will have to be written. Please be brave.[16]

In an attempt to support her case, Parker quoted Alexander Hamilton who wrote that the Electoral College

“…affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” Electors would prevent the “tumult and disorder” that would result from the candidate’s exploiting “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.”[17]

It’s interesting to note that Parker’s own low intrigue readily ignores over sixty-one million voters who judged Donald Trump as having been endowed with the requisite qualifications for the presidency (at least when compared with Clinton) in favor of a few “brave” Electoral voters who must “perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president elect.”

We should not be surprised at Ms. Parker’s audacity for this is the typical mindset of our liberal betters. In their minds they think they know what’s good for the country far better than the voters, and if they could just get rid of that pesky Electoral College thing they would really show the electorate what’s best for them.

Larry G. Johnson


[1] David Barton, “Electoral College: Preserve or Abolish?” January 2001, (accessed December 12, 2016).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “What is the Electoral College?” U.S. Electoral College, National Archives and Records Administration, (accessed December 12, 2016).
[6] Ibid.
[7] David Barton, “Electoral College: Preserve or Abolish?”, January 2001.
[8] “What is the Electoral College?” U.S. Electoral College, National Archives and Records Administration.
[9] E. J. Dionne, “The disempowered majority of 2017,” Tulsa World, December 9, 2016, A-10,
[10] Ibid.
[11] State Population by Rank, 2015, (accessed December 13, 2016).
[12] Ibid.
[13] “What is the Electoral College?” U.S. Electoral College, National Archives and Records Administration.
[14] Zeke J. Miller and Chris Wilson, “See a Map That Shows Exactly How Donald Trump Won,” Time, December 1, 2016. (accessed December 13, 2016).
[15] Kathleen Parker, “Or will the electors revolt?” Tulsa World, December 10, 2016. A-15
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid.

The Founders’ limitation on direct democracy – Part I – Republicanism

Republicanism refers to the principles or theory of the republican form of government. It can also mean the principles, practices, or policies of the Republican Party of the United States, but that is not the meaning which will be discussed herein.

When American colonists won independence from the British, the Founding leaders deliberately set about to establish a form of government that would address the deficiencies found in other forms of government and to curb the excesses thereof. After considerable thought, debate, and deliberation, they chose to become a democratic republic. “Republic” refers to public concerns, that is, the general welfare of the public expressed in political terms. A democratic republic is not a totalitarian democracy controlled by one or a few or a direct democracy which is absolutely controlled by the populace.[1] Because the Founders had experienced the excesses of a capricious and excessive use of power by their former rulers, they were particularly interested in a form of government that would limit the use of power by its various components. This limitation was accomplished by a relatively complex system of checks and balances on each component of government at the federal level (Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary) and balancing the needs of a national government with the rights of its member states in their areas of self-governance.

The America form of government was to be a constitutional democracy based on laws as opposed to an absolute democracy based on the direct will of the people. The intricacies and workings of the Americans’ republican form of government are spelled out in the Constitution and Amendments thereto. Russell Kirk in his brilliant description of the American Republic wrote that the Constitution guiding the American political state is but an expression of the “…laws, customs, habits, and popular beliefs that existed before the Constitutional Convention met at Philadelphia.” These laws, customs, habits, and beliefs were derived from and molded by their political experience under colonial rule, the legacy of English law, efforts at governance under the Articles of Confederation, and perhaps most important the general consensus regarding certain moral and social concerns.[2] These moral and social concerns were substantially formed by a Judeo-Christian view of the world and how it worked.

In every age and people group men desire two things: freedom and order. These are inherently conflicting needs which are found within the operation of governments as well as in the personal affairs of men. The task of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention was to create a government which would harness these conflicting needs.

The Convention delegates had a great aversion to direct democracies which they saw as resting on the shifting sands of feelings and passions of the moment. Instead they chose the firm foundation of a democratic republic built upon laws created by elected representatives.

With unambiguous language, the Convention delegates and other Founders expressed their deep distrust of direct democracy. The following examples were assembled by David Barton in “Republic v. Democracy.”[3]

[D]emocracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. [James Madison]

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. [John Adams]

A democracy is a volcano which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption and carry desolation in their way…The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness (excessive license) which the ambitious call, and ignorant believe to be liberty. [Fisher Ames, Author of the House Language for the First Amendment]

We have seen the tumult of democracy terminate . . . as [it has] everywhere terminated, in despotism…Democracy! savage and wild. Thou who wouldst bring down the virtuous and wise to thy level of folly and guilt. [Gouverneur Morris, Signer and Penman of the Constitution]

[T]he experience of all former ages had shown that of all human governments, democracy was the most unstable, fluctuating and short-lived. [John Quincy Adams]

A simple democracy…is one of the greatest of evils. [Benjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration]

In democracy…there are commonly tumults and disorders…Therefore a pure democracy is generally a very bad government. It is often the most tyrannical government on earth. [Noah Webster]

Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state; it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage. [John Witherspoon, Signer of the Declaration]

It may generally be remarked that the more a government resembles a pure democracy the more they abound with disorder and confusion. [Zephaniah Swift, Author of America’s First Legal Text]

Unfortunately, many Americans today seem to be unable to distinguish the significant differences between a republic and a democracy. The principal difference is found in the source of authority to which each defers. A pure democracy operates by a majority vote and reflects the immediate will of the majority whereas a republic operates under the rule of law. The first reflects the majority of popular feelings of the moment (sometimes called a “mobocracy” by the Founders) and the second rests on the laws discussed and passed after thoughtful deliberation by the elected representatives of the people. In a republic, a constitution protects certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government even it was elected by a majority of voters. In a direct or pure or direct democracy, the majority is not restrained and can force its will on the minority.

However, it would be wrong to suppose that all laws passed by a republican form of government are just. There is one additional requirement necessary to create an enduring republic attentive to the general welfare of the people. The laws passed by a republic’s elected representatives are only as good as the sources upon which they based the laws. Here we transcend into the realm of truth, and it is the conflict about what constitutes truth that we find the root cause of the culture wars in modern America. The importance of this issue is of the first magnitude for laws based on untruths and false views of the world and the nature of man will eventually cause any system of government to fail including both republics and democracies.

John Adams was just one of many Founders and first generation of Americans who identified the singular source of truth for the principles of civil government.

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity…From the day of the Declaration…they (the American people), were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of their Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledge as the rules of conduct.[4] [emphasis added]

Likewise, Noah Webster unequivocally identified the source of truth for the republican principles upon which the nation was founded.

The brief exposition of the constitution of the United States will unfold to young persons the principles of republican government; and it is the sincere desire of the writer that our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament, or the Christian religion.[5] [emphasis added]

However, the acid of Enlightenment egalitarianism promoted by a liberal, progressive, relativistic, materialist society is ever eating away Adams’ indissoluble bond between the principles of civil government and the principles of Christianity.

One such acid promoted by the liberals is the notion that the Constitution is a “living document.” Beginning in the early twentieth century, liberals contended that the Constitution must be modified or bent to address the modern age and problems never foreseen by the Founders. If, as liberals believe, the Constitution is a living document, then its meaning and intent is pliable which allows it to become an instrument for enlightened social change to meet the needs of the hour.

A second liberal acid that threatens republican principles is decades of significant judicial activism by liberal judges usurping the role of the legislature by making law as opposed to a thoughtful judicial interpretation of the law in light of the plain language of the Constitution. Such judicial law making tosses aside republican principles of creating law by elected representatives in favor of laws made by unelected and unaccountable judges to further the goals of an elite cadre of social engineers who “know best” what’s good for America.

A third acid that undermines republican principles is an abusive and adversarial bureaucracy largely insulated and unaccountable to the legislative bodies. Regulatory oversight is a necessary and proper function of government. However, under the expansive interpretation of the Constitution’s general welfare clause beginning in 1936, much of regulatory oversight has become an autocratic function of a nanny-state bureaucracy intruding into the lives of a free people capable of making rational decisions without government interference.[6]

In summary, republican principles of government as implanted in the Constitution by the Founders have been muted, ignored, or misinterpreted by liberal maneuverings and intrigues. We have become a nation guided by feelings relative only to the moment. Therefore, human nature, through its passions, appetites, and desires of the moment, is released from the prescriptions of history, custom, convention, and tradition. This was not the intent of the Founders. Their true intent mirrored the beliefs of Thomas Jefferson who Sherwood Eddy described as being one who “… stood for a strict interpretation of the conservative Constitution to prevent ever-threatened encroachments upon the rights of the people, the legislature, and the states.”[7] In other words, Jefferson was an “originalist” and would have only contempt for the concept of a “living Constitution.”

Because of the unrelenting assault on the biblical worldview for three generations and a lack of truthful teaching in our schools about America’s founding republican principles, America is seeing a shift by a growing segment of its citizens to a humanistic worldview devoid of belief in a transcendent God, objective truth, and the fallen nature of man. The consequences of such a shift in the America cultural vision were foreseen by our Founding fathers.

The only foundation for…a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.[8] [Benjamin Rush – Signor of the Declaration of Independence, attendee at the Continental Congress, physician and first Surgeon General]

Without morals, a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion…are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.[9] [Charles Carroll – Signor of the Declaration of Independence, lawyer, member of the Continental Congress and first U.S. Senate]

We have no government armed in power capable of contending in human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.[10] [John Adams – One of the drafters and a signor of the Declaration of Independence, 2nd President of the United States]

In summary, the Constitution won’t save America if its citizens abandon republican principles of government which must be inseparably entwined with virtue, morality, and Christian principles. Such abandonment leaves the Constitution powerless to guide the nation as it enters the turbulent waters of the humanistic moral relativism of Enlightenment egalitarianism. And the ultimate consequence of this abandonment is a loss of liberty.

Larry G. Johnson


[1] Russell Kirk, The Roots of American Order, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1991), p. 415.
[2] Ibid., p. 416.
[3] David Barton, “Republic v. Democracy,” January 2001. (accessed December 13, 2016).
[4] William J. Federer, America’s God and Country, (Coppell, Texas: FAME Publishing, Inc., 1996, 1994), p. 18.
[5] Ibid., p. 678.
[6] Larry G. Johnson, “The fragility of free speech in America,”, March 21, 2014.
[7] Sherwood Eddy, The Kingdom of God and the American Dream, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1941), p. 124
[8] Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral & Philosophical, (Philadelphia: Thomas and Samuel F. Bradford, 1798), 93. Online source: http://fromthisconservativesviewpoint.blogspot.Com /2013/01/the-only-foundation-for-republic.html (accessed May 9, 2013).
[9] “Letter of Charles Carroll to James McHenry,” dated November 4, 1800. Bernard C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry, (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers, 1907, 475.
Online source: Quoted by Dave Miller, Ph.D., Apologetics Press. (accessed May 9, 2013).
[10] Federer, America’s God and Country, pp. 10-11.

“…my big fear is, we are Rome.”

San Antonio Spurs basketball coach Gregg Popovich is angry and frustrated about Donald Trump’s election. He was particularly upset with Trump’s’ rhetoric during the campaign.

I can’t imagine being a Muslim right now or a woman or an African-American, Hispanic, a handicapped person. How disenfranchised they might feel. For anyone in those groups that voted for him, it’s just beyond my comprehension how they ignore all that. Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenure and tone and all the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic. I live in that country where half the people ignored all that to elect someone. That’s the scariest part of the whole thing to me.… Everybody wants him [Trump] to be successful, it’s our country, we don’t want it to go down the drain. Any reasonable person would come to that conclusion, but it does not take away the fact that he used that fearmongering and all the comments from day one. The race-baiting with trying to make Barack Obama our first black president illegitimate. It leaves me wonder where I’ve been living and with whom I’m living…My final conclusion is, my big fear is, we are Rome.[1]

What is the essence of Popovich’s remarks? First, he believes that anyone who voted for Trump was voting for intolerance, bigotry, hatred and distrust of women, and intense hatred and fear of homosexuals. Second, Popovich says that Trump’s opposition to Obama amounted to fearmongering in which he was trying to make the first black president illegitimate.

This fact is that many of the millions that voted for Trump were not necessarily enamored with him or approved of his rhetoric. They voted for Trump because it was a vote against Clinton and her policies which meant it was also a vote against a continuation of the policies of President Obama and the Democratic Party. In spite of all the bitter rhetoric on both sides, the campaign was substantially driven by fundamental differences in the worldviews of those who had to make a choice between the two candidates. This conclusion is easily confirmed by examining the results of thousands of other elections in America. From local and state government elections to the Congressional level, there was a backlash against the Clinton/Obama vision of America which was being driven by an overreaching cabal of governmental, cultural, academic, and media elites that sought to impose a sterile, secular, humanistic worldview on a nation that would not let go of its Judeo-Christian roots.

Popovich and others of the liberal persuasion fail to see that there are two camps, one on each side of the fault line that divides America: those promoting a humanistic secularism and those upholding the Judeo-Christian foundations of the nation. Liberals see themselves as the gatekeepers of what is culturally acceptable and denigrate and marginalize those who dare to disagree, i.e., Christians, conservatives, and those opposed to a growing nanny-state socialism. Liberals believe the culture wars are over and that they won. Because they are now in charge, they will dictate what is truth for the moment and what conduct is unacceptable. However, whether approved by the majority or not, the humanists’ truth is relativistic and has no basis for determining what is right and wrong. Their relativistic answers for what ails both men and culture are based on a false understanding of man and his origins. Their humanistic philosophy is disconnected from reality (truth) and ultimately leads to failure in both individuals and societies.

Even after the election, liberals continue to perpetuate the party line in support of the illusion that Clinton lost the election because Trump’s rhetoric appealed to the baser instincts of less-educated white people who are fundamentally racist, anti-women, and homophobic and which propelled a “white-lash” of votes. This tactic has been used by liberals for many years including Barack Obama. During his 2008 campaign for the presidency, Obama attempted to explain his difficulty in winning working-class voters in Pennsylvania and the Midwest because of their frustrations with economic conditions.

And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.[2]

Hilary Clinton used the race and religion tactic in trashing Trump’s supporters at a mid-September campaign fundraiser.

You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? [applause and laughter from the audience.] The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.[3]

Clinton then said some of these people were “irredeemable” and “not America.”[4]

Approximately 120 twenty million Americans voted in the presidential election. Using Ms. Clinton’s calculations, she believes thirty million Trump voters are deplorables, many of whom she considers irredeemable and not reflective of American values. In spite of a half-hearted apology the following day, she continued her assault.

It’s deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices, including retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people.[5]

For the liberal gatekeepers of a politically correct culture, they believe they are the only ones allowed to judge the views and voices of the people and determine what is hateful and intolerant. Those that have been judged as having violated the humanistic standards of what is acceptable must not be given a national platform to spread their message to millions of other people because they belong in that basket of deplorables. This is operative mindset of liberals and the reason why the voice and influence of Christianity in America has been denigrated, muted, and marginalized for the last several decades as our elite humanist overlords rose to power in every facet of American life.

The issues that divide America are far more important than the winner of a single presidential election. However, the election was exceedingly important in deciding the trajectory of the nation in addressing those issues. Popovich does not address those issues that divide America other than to say that a vote for Trump was a vote for intolerance, bigotry, hatred and distrust of women, and fear of homosexuals. Because of Popovich’s distorted view, he feels America is a crumbling society reminiscent of the Roman Empire. Let’s examine that empire and determine if its decay was the result of a Christian worldview or false pagan and humanistic worldviews.

Roman Practices

The first widespread persecution of Christians under the Romans began under Emperor Nero in A.D. 64. There were many reasons why the Christians were harassed, hated, despised, imprisoned, tortured or killed during the first three hundred years of the church’s history. One of the principal reasons for the persecutions was the church’s beliefs which stood in opposition to Roman culture. Christian morality condemned Roman practices of abortion, infanticide, abandonment of infants, suicide, homosexual acts, and the degradation of women, all fixtures in the culture of the Roman Empire.[6] Which aspects of the culture of the Roman Empire do the humanists and secularists champion in today’s America? Substantially all of them: homosexuality, abortion (and infanticide in some quarters), suicide, and sexual degradation of women. So we see that it is the beliefs, causes, and practices of America’s modern liberals, progressives, and humanists that are similar to the practices of the failed Roman Empire.

Roman gods and the Roman state

The Romans were not anti-religious and dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to all gods. Also, the Roman rulers did not object to Christians worshiping Jesus and were very willing to give the Christian God a place in their pantheon of gods. But those prickly Christians had to insist that they worshiped only Jesus as God and his Father, the infinite, personal God. These beliefs were considered treasonous because they threatened the unity of the state. To make matters worse, the Christians believed their God established the absolute universal standard by which to judge not only one’s personal morals but the actions of the state as well. Because Christians adhere to higher moral standards of behavior, such behavior casts the humanists in a negative light. As a result, Christians are labeled as judgmental, non-progressive, and intolerant.

In the Roman Empire, any group that presumed to judge the actions of the state or question its authority could not be tolerated and were treated as enemies of the state.[7] By modern liberal standards, those early Christians would be labeled as intolerant, non-inclusive, and even bigoted. A similar judgment has been pronounced on many Christians in today’s America. As a result, humanist elites also see Christians as enemies of the state which has resulted in their loss of jobs; massive fines for practicing their faith in their businesses; denial of work in certain professions; enrollment at many universities; and banishment from certain media, cultural, and entertainment venues.

The Roman world disintegrated because it was culturally and spiritually impoverished and no longer had a unifying common core of belief. The Christian virtues that had gained stature in the fourth century and offered a worldview built on the reality of divine truth had not time to infuse life into the dying empire. Likewise, the rise of the secular-humanistic worldview and its ascension to the corridors of power in all of America’s institutions have compromised and supplanted the once vibrant Christian character that permeated the nation’s central cultural vision. As a result there is no longer a unifying common core of belief without which American culture will eventually disintegrate. Popovich is correct in believing America is becoming Rome but not for the reasons he thinks.

Larry G. Johnson


[1] “Spurs’ Popovich on Trump’s election: ‘That disgusting’,” NewsMax, November 12, 2016. (accessed November 12, 2016).
[2] Gleanings, “Obama: ‘They cling to guns or religion’,” Christianity Today, April 13, 2008. (accessed November 12, 2016).
[3] Amy Chozick, “Hilary Clinton calls many Trump backers ‘Deplorables,’ and G.O.P pounces,” The New York Times, September 10, 2016. (accessed November 11, 2016).
[4] Dan Merica and Sophie Tatum, “Clinton expresses regret for saying ‘half’ of Trump’s supporters are ‘deplorables’,” CNN Politics, September 12, 2016. trump-basket-of-deplorables/ index.html (accessed November 12, 2016).
[5] Chozick, “Hilary Clinton calls many Trump backers ‘Deplorables,’ and G.O.P pounces,” The New York Times.
[6] Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2001, 2004, pp. 25,
[7] Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1976), p. 24.