Book Forum

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

(Encounter, 2016)

Watch the Event
Date and Time
October 11, 2016 11 AM - 12:30 PM EDT
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.

If you can’t make it to the event, you can watch it live online at www​.cato​.org/live and join the conversation on Twitter using #CatoEvents. Follow @CatoEvents on Twitter to get future event updates, live streams, and videos from the Cato Institute.