The Permission Society: How the Ruling Class Turns Our Freedoms into Privileges and What We Can Do about It

(Encounter, 2016)

Book Forum
October 11, 2016
11:00AM to 12:30PM
Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute
Featuring the author Timothy Sandefur, Vice President for Litigation, Goldwater Institute; with comments by Alan Morrison, Associate Dean and Professional Lecturer in Law, George Washington University Law School; and Stephen F. Williams, Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; moderated by Roger Pilon, Director, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute.

Throughout history, kings and emperors have promised “freedoms” to their people. Yet these freedoms were really only permissions handed down from on high. The American Revolution inaugurated a new vision: People have basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and government must ask permission from them. Sadly, our modern bureaucratic society has turned back the clock, transforming America into a nation where our freedoms — the right to speak freely, to earn a living, to own a gun, to use private property, even to take medicine to save one’s own life — are again treated as privileges the government may grant or withhold at will. In this new book,Timothy Sandefur examines the history of the distinction between rights and privileges that played such a crucial role in the American experiment, and the fight ahead to regain our freedoms. Illustrated with dozens of real-life examples — including many cases he himself litigated — Sandefur shows how treating freedoms as government-created privileges undermines our Constitution and betrays the basic principles of human dignity.

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