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The Three Kinds of Nations – Oliver DeMille

european_unionThere are two kinds of laws, one good and the other bad.

The first kind includes only laws that protect inalienable rights. Such laws are necessary to maintain freedom in any society. This kind of law is called Fundamental Law.

Societies without good Fundamental Law fail to grow and succeed, because the basic inalienable rights of the people aren’t protected. In such societies, there is little liberty and even less justice.

The second type of law is Selfish Law. This includes any law that doesn’t specifically and effectively protect inalienable rights. Through history, there have been two main reasons for Selfish Laws:

  1. Dictators, tyrants, aristocratic or elitist ruling classes pass Selfish Laws that give them power over other people. They analyze ways that a law could increase their authority, and they establish or support such laws.
  2. Politicians promote Selfish Laws of many varieties to try to impress people and thereby advance their political careers. Many bureaucrats and professionals join in this “game” in order to promote their own career advancement. Such people look around for laws that might be popular and then sponsor or support such laws for their own self-promotion.

Clearly Selfish Laws are the result of political selfishness. Those who promote Selfish Type A laws usually succeed by promising the wealthy, powerful and elite classes that such laws will increase their class power over the masses.

Likewise, the sponsors of Selfish Type B laws promise the masses that such laws will give them special benefits, money, programs or other helps — paid for with money taken from the rich.

Thus Selfish Laws only succeed when large groups of people buy into the selfish promises.

To cut to the essence of human history, there are really only three kinds of nations.

  1. Free Nations have a government that protects inalienable rights such as life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness (as long as this pursuit doesn’t violate the inalienable rights of anyone else).
  2. Dictatorial Nations allow a few rulers to selfishly control the lives of everyone else.
  3. Socialistic Nations allow the masses to promote an elite class of politicians, bureaucrats, and professional experts who leave the masses partially free but consistently increase their power over people’s lives through consistently increasing the number of Selfish Laws regulating all people.

The difference between these three types of societies is simple, not complex:

Free Nations only adopt Fundamental Laws that protect inalienable rights. They leave everything else up to the free enterprise of the masses. As a result, they are also the freest nations with prosperity and opportunity widespread among all.

Dictatorial Nations keep and increase the power of a few rulers by passing and enforcing lots of Selfish Laws. They keep increasing their power until some other nation or an uprising of their own people stops them.

Socialistic Nations expand the power and wealth of an elite class (they often call themselves a vanguard or a meritocracy) by consistently passing more and more Selfish Laws that allow politicians, bureaucrats and some professionals to advance their careers by promising to pass even more Selfish Laws.

They keep increasing the number of Selfish Laws until their national economy can’t compete with other nations, then they slowly become bankrupt and the nation declines. It then either returns to the principles of Free Nations, or it collapses and is taken over by other nations.

American history can be summarized as:

  1. the break from Dictatorial Law in the Revolutionary War, followed by
  2. the establishment of Free Law in the Constitution, and then
  3. the gradual adoption of Socialistic Law.

In our time, we are increasingly operating like a Socialistic Nation.

Two possibilities are ahead. We can realize our current decline and respond by cutting away all Selfish Laws and returning to a nation where all laws protect inalienable rights and there are no Selfish Laws that don’t protect inalienable rights, or we can decline and the United States will collapse as a governing entity.

One of these will happen.

We, the regular people, get to choose which — by our action, or by our inaction.

The first step is simple. We must accept the truth: Every law, at every level of government, that doesn’t directly and effectively protect the inalienable rights of all people, is a Selfish Law that must be abolished.

If we understand this, and fix our laws accordingly, we will flourish as a nation. If not, we’ll decline.



odemille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.


  1. Kyle Chapman says

    I agree with you. So what is the first step in abolishing these selfish laws? I request that you write a follow up to this article describing the most effective way for, we, the people to take action. I live in California and our state government is completely out of control. Our masses are under the belief that the government is to take care of them. The solution sounds very simple; the implementation of the action plan is going to be the challenge. I believe that it will be sped up dramatically when the state can no longer operate in deficit spending.

    I suppose the biggest challenge most average joes face is the “How to” when it comes to making changes to their representatives in a large enough number that the needed real of Selfish Law can occur.

    Keep writing. It is very important to stir the minds and bolster courage.


  2. Kyle Chapman says


  3. Great analysis, Oliver.

    In her riveting book, The Discovery of Freedom, Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder) masterfully explains why nations turn to socialism and dictatorships. She writes: “The pagan view of the universe is that it is static, motionless, limited and controlled by an Authority. The pagan view of man is that individuals are, and by their nature should and must be, controlled by some Authority outside themselves.”

    Lane explains why we would choose such a false belief. When something goes wrong and the Authority fails us, we have someone to blame.

  4. Christopher Eastwood says

    I agree, however, I think that a Socialistic Nation eventually devolves into a Dictatorial Nation. It has happened every time in the past and we can see current Socialist Nations going that same route. Funny thing is that I was just thinking about this very topic the other day, but I only drew the two distinctions (Free versus Statist). The fundamental reason this happens is because people start looking at other human beings as things to be acted upon, which is the beginning of pride, sloth, and tyranny.

  5. Outstanding. This analysis really cuts to the chase (and the quick) in highlighting the real problem of our modern government.

  6. Bill Peavoy says

    Dr. DeMille I’m with you 100%. I do have 1 question however, for the sake of clarification, but perhaps it is better left to an entirely different article. I’m wondering how roads and post offices fit in to the “protect inalienable rights” limitation? I’m also curious if this simplified concept is better applied to national laws and consequently slightly more complicated when applied to local municipal laws. How do sewer lines, limitations on barking dogs or snow shoveled sidewalks fit in? I’m having a hard time seeing the “inalienable rights” connection on those philosophically petty, yet realistically important things. What is the “general rule” or guideline against which to measure such municipal choices? Thank you in advance for your thoughtful answer to this question.

  7. Bill Peavoy says

    Lately, many of us have felt inspired to get more involved locally. If we don’t thoroughly understand the proper role of local (municipal) government, it can really “blur the lines” and confuse our understanding of the proper role of national government. Is there a good book perhaps on local governance you would recommend (besides the obvious brilliance of Laura Ingalls Wilder)? Thanks again for your consideration.

  8. Actually, it just so happens that there is a new book coming out in December on exactly this topic. It answers every question you’ve sent on this, and a bunch of others. It is entitled “We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident,” by, imagine this, Oliver DeMille. This topic is so needed right now, I think.

  9. Jesse Meeks says

    Hi Oliver,

    I wonder if there are two other categories, misguided law – laws that are created by unselfish kind-hearted people who just don’t understand the ramifications of bad policy because they lack education, and misplaced law – laws that should not be at the federal level but are worthy of state experimentation and and refinement.


  10. Jesse,
    I agree. Good categories!

  11. Bill Peavoy says

    Any chance we can preorder copies of We hold these truths?

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