book review

By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission

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By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission

By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission
by Charles Murray
Crown Forum, 2015, 319 pages
Reviewed by T.J. Nelson

I n Kafka's The Trial, a man named K. is arrested, tried, and convicted for a crime. He is never told the charges against him. The bureaucrats in charge, the rules, and even the identity of the judge are all secret. Their goal is not justice, but to crush K.'s spirit.

They fail. All they succeed in doing is making K. miserable. But since it's Kafka talking, you could assume that from the beginning. (Well, they do more than that, but I won't give the ending away).

For many Americans, that's very much what our government has become: a vast, sclerotic bureaucracy that serves no other purpose than to crush our spirit and make us miserable. Its goal is to make us totally dependent and passive so it can feed us pablum, coddle us like baby kittens, and when it gets tired of us, bury us. It's not a tyranny yet, but (as Charles Murray says, quoting Tocqueville) “a state that ‘compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people.’”

Murray places much of the blame on the Supreme Court which, through a series of bad decisions, systematically overturned the Constitutional prohibitions designed to prevent tyranny. According to Murray, Alexander Hamilton (the guy who was killed by Aaron Burr) deliberately sabotaged the Constitution by advocating for the “general welfare” clause, knowing it would lead to an explosion of government. Murray describes how, through a series of court cases, it did just that. We are now, says Murray, “in a post-American country, governed by people who mouth the clichés about America as the land of the free without understanding what freedom means.” [p.122]

But the Court is not entirely to blame. Every time there's a problem, whether it's a train wreck, or poverty, or a flood, the progressives' only response is to scream for more tax money to throw at it. Conservatives get caught up in the drive for big government almost as much as liberals. The government's purpose has come to be seen as ‘helping’ people, and the puppet news media encourage that perception.

Many conservatives think the only way to recover our freedom is to teach the people to want it. We have to start a Gramsciian long march through the institutions, just as the leftists did. Murray says that's impossible, because the principle of stare decisis will prevent the Court from ever backtracking. There's only one surefire solution: lose a total war.

When the Dems are in charge, that's always something to hope for. We can always pray that somebody comes along and conquers us and then sets up a Marshall Plan. But Murray thinks there's an alternative: if everyone who runs afoul of an unjust law were simply to ignore it, the bureaucracy would be overwhelmed and it would be forced to reform. Cloward-Pivenize 'em, baby.

He explains why the lawful means are now impossible: with earmarks, the majority lose too little to care, and the minority who gain are highly aggressive in defending their pork. One might think that civil disobedience, which is the mirror image of that, is unlikely to succeed. Those who benefit are not a few but the infamous forty-seven percenters, while the shrinking minority who care about freedom would be harassed, fined, hounded, and imprisoned.

Murray's solution: create a special insurance company called the Madison Fund to protect them, pay their fines, and help them resist government oppression. Not only would this fund protect the victims of the kleptocracy, its resources would dissuade the government from the arbitrary enforcement of endless rules and regulations.

These ‘defense funds’ that Murray proposes are more than just a good idea. They're necessary. Sure, the government can just increase the size of the fines, like they've been doing in their shakedowns of big corporations like Arthur Andersen, BP, AT&T, Pfizer and so many others. But that only makes Murray's idea more necessary.

Or we could go with my solution: for every new law, we pick one politician at random and throw them into a volcano.

Reviewed on this page

By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission
by Charles Murray

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Government Is Too Big
The government is increasingly cut off from reality.

America must evolve
Change is coming, one way or the other. America must evolve to meet the challenge.

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may 16, 2015