Rebuilding Liberty with Charles Murray

My colleague Fred Smith has a new review up, this time of Charles Murray’s most recent book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty without Permission. Murray argues that constitutional constraints on federal power have been so thoroughly eroded that conventional political activism in favor of smaller government is pointless. He instead advises embarking on a systematic campaign of civil disobedience in defiance of the government’s ever-growing regulatory apparatus.

Fred admires the radical nature of Murray’s planned campaign against government overreach, but expresses some concerns about how its targets would be chosen:

Murray seems to believe that common sense provides adequate guidance for sorting out “good” from “bad” regulations and that Americans oppose many of the bad ones. Yet, recent debates over financial, health, and environmental regulations cast doubt on this. Many feel that America is overregulated, but support specific regulations—such as for example, the left’s support for more restrictive environmental and financial regulations and the right’s calls for tighter security and immigration restrictions.

Citing polling data, Murray finds reason for optimism in the fact that trust in government is declining and that businesses view regulations as increasingly burdensome. But that does not necessarily indicate support for a specific reform agenda. Congress, too, has lost the trust of the American people, yet more than 90 percent of all Members of Congress are routinely reelected.

Fred also discusses legislative alternatives to fighting overregulation, like the REINS Act, and emphasizes the need for an alliance between business leaders and free market intellectuals:

There are mutual advantages to such an alliance. Free market policy organizations are less vulnerable to political pressures, more credible as spokespeople, and skilled at crafting and promoting the narratives needed to advance the moral and intellectual case for reform. Meanwhile, businesspeople possess the localized knowledge, resources, and real-world experience to convey the human costs of overregulation. Businesses also enjoy cooperative links with their customers, employees, suppliers, and investors—relationships that give them both an audience and the clout to advance powerful narratives.

You can read the full review at CapX, the news and analysis site from the U.K.’s Centre for Policy Studies. CPS works to limit the role of the state, encourage enterprise, and enable the institutions of civil society to flourish. Americans who have had limited experience with CPS will nonetheless likely be familiar with the group’s co-founder, a former MP for Finchley.