by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Charles Murray, already controversial for writing books on how welfare hurts the poor, on ethnic differences in IQ and on (less controversial, but my favorite) happiness and good government, has written a new book that argues that it’s time for civil disobedience. Government has become so oppressive, constantly restricting us with new regulations, that our only hope is for some of us to refuse to cooperate.
Murray’s suggestion — laid out in “By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission,” will make some people nervous. He argues that citizens and companies should start openly defying all but the most useful regulations, essentially ones that forbid assault, theft and fraud.
He writes, “America is no longer the land of the free. We are still free in the sense that Norwegians, Germans and Italians are free. But that’s not what Americans used to mean by freedom.”
He quotes Thomas Jefferson’s observation that a good government is one “which shall restrain men from injuring one another (and) shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits.”
But our government today tries to do much more.
While we try to invent new things, government constantly seeks new ways to control us. The number of federal crimes on the books is now 50 percent larger than back in 1980 — a time when many people mistakenly thought the U.S. would cut the size of government.
Murray says, correctly, that no ordinary human being — not even a team of lawyers — can ever be sure how to obey the 810 pages of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 1,024 pages of the Affordable Care Act or 2,300 pages of Dodd-Frank.
What if we all stopped trying? The government can’t put everyone in jail. Maybe by disobeying enough stupid laws, we can persuade judges that only rules that prevent clear, real harm to individuals should be enforced: “no harm, no foul.”