The Power of Free Association, Episode 6

Something happened in American society. We lost our gumption for free association.

Free association is a combined expression of liberty that we all share together. Free association is how we organize outside of established means, such as local, state and federal governments. Free association is also something we can do outside of religion and outside of corporations. The First Amendment defines this power as the right “to peaceably assemble.”

Too often we think this means to protest on the streets or to have an occupy movement. These are sometimes not very peaceful, but they are founded on the right to peaceably assemble.

Sometimes we do not understand how powerful this right is or how to use it. First, we should ask why we have this right in The United States and why most countries do not? Prior to the Declaration of Independence, we were subject to the King who lived thousands of miles away. How would that distance influence your thinking? I can only imagine thinking something like the following: “A king, thousands of miles away, across an ocean, what do we need him for?” “What good is he?” “All he does is tax us to death.”

The farther you try to control something from a distance, the more elitist you become and the more the people begin to peaceably assemble and organize. That is what happened in The United States.

It never worked that way in many other countries because there was less of a distance between the ruling monarchy and the people. In those countries, if you dared to assemble outside the state or church, you would be throne in jail. That is still the case in many countries today, especially in China, parts of the Middle East and recently in Russia. Throughout human history, people have been forced to assemble in private. Even when tribes in Scotland conducted local conventicles, the Coventicle Act of 1664 was passed by Parliament that forbade conventicles, which were religious assemblies of more than five people that were not members of an immediate family, but outside the control of the Church of England. The oppression was so great against peacefully assembly, that people met privately out in the fields.

When we peaceably assemble, it’s a direct threat to established powers. They don’t want people to organize. They do not want people talking with each other. The right to organize and to peaceably assemble is a freedom we hold together, and we have lost touch with this freedom, mainly because we do not know its true power.

When our elected representatives fail us, or when organizations and governments become increasingly political, we start to look at organizing in a fresh way. Sometimes it takes a lot of stress or a major crisis to get us to work together, and when that crisis does come, because we have the right to peaceably assembly, we organize. This is the one true quality that makes us Americans. We start asking why are things the way they are and why not re-organize to recapture what was lost. Why not conserve what is still good. Why not imagine what could be? Americans ask these questions because we have the right to assemble and ask them.

We are fast approaching a tipping point and people are looking for better ways to organize. Most are just scratching their heads for now. That’s ok, just keep listening to the show.

Let me explain what is going through my mind. I live in a culture with a dominant religion. I am active in this religion. I mention this because religious organizations suffer from the same thing that all organizations suffer from; they suffer from power struggles. When you centralize too much control and too much wealth at a great distance from the people, this is what you get, a lot of power struggles. This gets in the way of free association.

A power struggle is the pretended support of a superior or power center for personal gain while ignoring the voice of those below. You will not find this definition of “political” in any dictionary, but you will find associated words like shrewd and crafty. The question is why?

Why do we need to be shrewd and crafty? Why do we teach leaders certain qualities of detachment as apposed to the qualities of being genuine? Why does distance seem to continually grow between the people and their leaders?

When you study the word politic or political, it is not a positive word. Derived from “polity,” which means civil government, the actual workings of government are never explained. It’s like being told that gravity exists but never getting an explanation of the real mechanics of how it works. For example, try to explain how gravity works to a modern physicist and you will have a hard time getting them to listen. I have seen this happen in front of my eyes. A theoretical physicist in my town spent most of his life creating a unified field theory in physics. He used a very remarkable epistemology, which is a very disciplined way of knowing. Someday I need to do a podcast of epistemology, it happens to be the most powerful field in all of philosophy. Anyway, this gentleman can explain in simple terms what gravity is, which he calls the graduating magnetic field, and how it works, even its affect on light. However, without a PhD or any exclusive background, he has been sidelined throughout his life. This kind of suppression of new vision eventually causes people to organize.

I tell this story because knowing the mechanics of how things work is the purest form of knowledge. And knowing how politics actually works is the key to seeing how organizations die and why the right of free association eventually rises to challenge established power centers with new vision. And that’s why we peaceably assemble, to communicate new vision.

I created an image that communicates this. I call it the Culture Cycle.

Imagine a circle…

In order to bypass power struggles, apathy, selfishness and scarcity which all lead the collapse of organizations and cultures, we need to jump directly to vision. The minute we reach success and abundance, we need to get back to vision. This means the open and peaceful assembly needs to be part of any organization. It also means it needs to be headless. I will talk about this in an upcoming show.

I just want to reinforce that vision regenerates organizations and creates thriving cultures. When vision is sidelined, suppressed and shut down, we can almost guarantee that elitism has taken hold. This is what many are feeling around the world; elitism has built up over many years.

A renaissance is coming, and it will surface in our right to peaceably assemble to launch new organizations, new businesses managed by the people, new enterprises that compete with heavy handed authoritarianism, and so much more, and all because they have a combined voice to lift these visions above the constraints imposed by controllers at a distance.

Free association is going to come back in a big way. This is how every renaissance is born, not from individuals doing great things, but from entire cultures choosing to thrive. It may start with a few visionaries, but it quickly spreads and fills the earth as waters cover the seas.

If you can see this vision, you have a friend who knows your heart. If you cannot see it, hold tight and keep following the Genuine Optimist.

About the Author
Keith is the Author of The Political Optimist and you can follow him at He is a visionary founder of Local Common Wealth (see and co-founder of Vision Impact Leadership. He is a licensed general contractor at and part time faculty member at Dixie State University.