Have you ever had the thought that our political system is hopelessly broken? Libertarian political scientist Charles Murray is the rare scholar who not only writes accessibly and eloquently about critical issues, but actually sticks his neck out and proposes practical solutions to them.
In his new book “By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission,” Murray, author of such books as “The Bell Curve,” “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010” and “The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead” lays out the plan for one of his most ambitious projects yet: Restoring limited government in an America whose political system is broken.
Apropos the release of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s “The 10,000 Commandments” report indicating that in 2014 federal regulation and intervention cost American consumers and businesses $1.88 trillion, making the total size of the regulatory pie equal to the world’s 10th largest economy, Murray aims directly at the heart of the regulatory state with a potent but peaceful weapon.
During an in-depth interview which you can listen to in full here, Murray explained why he believes the political process is “hopeless,” and how he intends to cripple the Leviathan hyper-regulatory system:
I spend five chapters actually in the book making the case that everything is hopeless with the political process, and let me start with the Constitution.
I used to think if we had five Nino [Antonin] Scalias or five Clarence Thomases on the [Supreme] Court that we could make a lot of progress. And I have been disabused of that notion for the following reason: There were a series of four or five Supreme Court decisions from 1937 to 1943 which changed — well, changed isn’t the right word — unleashed the government from the constrictions of the Constitution. It unleashed them from being stuck with the enumerated powers, it redefined the Commerce Clause to mean manufacturing and agriculture even if it only has indirect effects on interstate commerce.
Then you had a lesser known decision, but just as important whereby in 1943 in a decision involving the National Broadcasting Company, the Supreme Court said “You know, the Congress doesn’t have to supply a specific intelligible principle in it’s legislation,” which more or less says to the regulatory agency “You’re supposed to do A, B and C.” It can say “Give us fair broadcasting rules,” and that’s good enough. Well, this unleashed the regulatory state to go out and make up whatever regulations they wanted.
… [O]ur legal system is increasingly lawless. It just doesn’t correspond to what we usually think of as the rule of law. And the other thing is that the political process is systemically corrupt. I don’t mean we have more corrupt people in the government, I mean the system now operates in ways that are indistinguishable from the way that a kleptocracy operates.
Pretty grim argument, but I think it’s one that you can sustain.
Murray explains how he came to the conclusion that the solution to what ails us lies in civil disobedience:
Maybe I should start by telling you how this whole thing came to me. The origin of the book was a guy who was a friend of ours who was getting in trouble with the regulatory state for idiotic reasons. He was being asked to do mutually contradictory things. He was being fined heavily. And he said to the bureaucrat who was doing this, “I’m going to fight this in court.” And the guy said to him “You try that and we’ll put you out of business.” And he knew that was true.
And I got so angry when my wife told me about this that I had an image — I’m not making this up — I had an image of a guy in a pinstriped suit maybe riding on a horse who comes up, taps the guy from the government on the shoulder and says: “We are taking this man’s case. We are not going to charge him a penny. We are going to litigate this until you are sick of it. We are going to seek publicity that will embarrass you. And when you finally get your fine levied, we will pay it for him. And if you bother him again we’re going to come back again.”
That in a nutshell is what I want.
I have two frameworks: One is what I call “The Madison Fund,” which would be a very large foundation funded probably by rich guys mostly, but for the benefit of ordinary small business people and homeowners. And it would take lots of those cases. It would put enormous pressure to bear on the enforcement resources of the regulatory state, which aren’t nearly as great as most people assume.
Murray explains in detail how precisely “The Madison Fund” would function in the face of a host of hurdles, the outsized impact that such a legal defense group could have in terms of ending the “arbitrary and capricious” enforcement of endless ridiculous regulations.