Ten Truths For Teenagers: Essential Ideas On Law
Do you have teens or preteens in the house?
My kids aren’t quite there yet, but a couple of years ago I felt impressed to write Lessons From a Lemonade Stand: An Unconventional Guide to Government because I recognized that it didn’t do a lot of good to feed kids healthy doses of liberty in the Tuttle Twins series and then abandon them as they entered their teen years.
At the time, I was already getting requests for a teen series of Tuttle Twins books, but I hadn’t yet figured out how I wanted to make that happen. Maybe I wasn’t quite ready for Ethan and Emily to grow up? Happily, my fatherly nostalgia passed and we’ve now got three Choose Your Consequence books for teens (with more planned for the future).
But back to Lessons From a Lemonade Stand…
I’ve always found it concerning that so many people don’t understand rights and the law. So many adults have been brainwashed to believe that all laws are inherently just and that it is only natural that government be allowed to do things that individuals are not “allowed” to do. So when writing my first book for teens, I created a list of principles that I felt would lay a sound foundation for understanding rights and law and the proper role of government.
Not all law is created equal
Law is imperfect, ever-changing, and subject to tradition and culture. There are several types of law to learn about.
An unjust law isn’t a law
A mandate that violates your freedom or compels you to do something you’re not obligated to is not a true law.
Government only has powers that we do
Government cannot possess a power unless we ourselves have that power and delegate it to the government.
Not everything prohibited is bad
There are many problematic “laws” that prohibit and punish activities that are not inherently wrong.
Your state of mind matters
It is an injustice to punish a person for breaking a law that they were unaware of or did not purposefully break.
Nobody has given consent
A just government operates with the consent of the governed, but that standard has not been met in our day.
The state ≠ the government
Government is found in business, family, church, etc. The state is different—it’s a monopoly using violence in a certain area.
Competition can cure the state
Competition increases quality and decreases costs. Subjecting the state to competition will bring the same result.
Civil disobedience is… obedience
When properly done, the breaking of an unjust law is not mere defiance—it is an effort to uphold and honor a higher law.
- Freedom declines slowly The state’s erosion of our rights is slow, steady, and incremental. We must understand our rights in order to defend them.
So why are these truths so important? And why do so many people not know them?
They’re important because they challenge the narrative that government is “us” and that it’s okay for a group of people, even if they’re elected, to do things that individuals aren’t able to do without breaking the law. Understanding these truths leads people to learn about jury nullification, to entertain the notion of appropriate civil disobedience, and to feel the desire to become active in their communities to get rid of bad laws and bad politicians. It also leads them to want to share their knowledge with others.
Why do so few people know these truths? Well… If you were a government, and you didn’t want people to know how far out of line you were in the usurpation of their rights and freedoms, would you use your influence through the public education system to teach them to limit and question your power?
Or would you maybe use it to teach them that a benevolent government grants them their rights upon condition of obedience and loyalty? Would you teach them that there are alternatives to all-powerful and overreaching government, or would you teach them that nothing is possible without the government’s permission and protection?
For generations now, children have been taught to view their government as an extension of themselves and their community. They’ve been taught that the Constitution grants us our rights and that only through the generosity of government are we allowed to keep them. They’ve been fooled to accept that those within government can operate by a different set of rules than everyone else and that deference and homage should be paid to their elected representatives.
These are lies. But they are lies that have been perpetuated for so long that the truth can seem shocking, even anarchistic, when presented in clear terms. But read the list again, and you will find that these principles aren’t really shocking at all. They are principles that some of the greatest freedom-fighters and heroes of history have known and operated under. And they are principles that are still very much true today.
One generation of teens learning these simple truths has the potential to drastically change the political landscape in this (or any) country. I hope you have occasion to discuss this list with your teens (or get them a copy of the book!). I have no doubt that they will surprise you with their insights and wisdom.