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A “permission society” is the opposite of a free society, where one has to get government pre-approval for just about anything they want to do, from purchasing a firearm to selling flowers. Sandefur explains:
About 800 years ago, the Magna Carta was issued, and if you look at it, it says that King John was giving the following freedom to his subjects. Our constitution says that we the people are giving the government these powers. Now we are saying that people are free and are giving our government these powers. That is exactly the reverse of the original permission society.
The problem is that now, in the early 20th century, intellectual leaders, lawyers, judges, law professors, and political philosophers reverse that trend, and started going back to the permission society model, arguing that freedom is a privilege the government gives to us—for example, like private property rights. The founding fathers thought of private property as an essential aspect of what it means to be human. You have the right to your body and the things you make with your body, including your wages. Nowadays, intellectual leaders tend to think of property as a space around the individual that the government creates. The government creates private property rights by not taking your stuff away. And essentially, the problem with that is that it loads the dice against freedom—it stifles innovation, it stifles discovery, it stifles opportunity, because now you have to go to government bureaucrats to get some form of permit, before you’re allowed to build a house, start a business, or have anything.
Watch the full interview here.
For more from Timothy Sandefur, read The Permission Society.