Understanding America Backwards

There’s a longstanding maxim of liberty that Americans inherited from England: ‘those things not prohibited by law are permitted.’ The burden is on the state: if there’s no express ban under law, then a person is free to act. 

Since government has to enumerate restrictions if it wants to enforce them, a free society places a practical limitation against constraints on liberty.

(A companion maxim of liberty applies in reverse to the government, itself: the state may do ‘only those things expressly permitted under law.’)

It’s a tragedy of our times that so many officials, and especially small-town ones, believe and act in the opposite and worse way: they assume that action may be limited unless they expressly concede otherwise. 

Most of these same officials consider themselves proud Americans, yet they’re ignorant of even these fundamentals of liberty.  Although those of this ilk may consider themselves proper representatives of our tradition, they’re closer to the hectoring party cadres of third-world autocracies.  

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