Charles Murray, in his new book, By the People: Rebuilding Liberty without Permission, argues that America’s constitutional checks on the growth of spending, taxation, and regulation have largely been undermined. The result, he fears, is an America moving rapidly toward the kinder, gentler tyranny Alexis de Tocqueville warned about. Murray focuses—wisely in my view—on the massive expansion of federal regulations as the vehicle hurtling us down that road.
Murray documents how the regulatory state, by shifting legislative powers to the Executive, has given Congress the green light to pass broad laws that are little more than aspirational resolutions—for better workplace safety, improved public health, energy conservation, clean air, safe drugs and food, you name it—while leaving the writing of rules to achieve these goals to anonymous, off-stage executive bureaucrats.
Given this hollowing out of the Constitution, and the cultural and political changes that drove it, Murray concludes that America is so far down the road to serfdom that the political process can no longer restore the Founders’ vision of an institutionally constrained federal government. A solution, if one exists, must rely on massive civil disobedience and a populist and moral critique of regulatory predation. Yet, is it prudent to fully dismiss “normal” political approaches?