Fight Back Against the Regulatory State

Some days it seems to me Charles Murray is the last American. Not literally, obviously. There are plenty of scholars of the Founders and the Founding and people with wholesome notions about liberty whose work I respect and who are doing good things in politics and academia. What I mean is that Murray seems to have a genuinely American temperament: friendly good will, common sense and spunk. I'm sure it's not true, but I sometimes get the sense that everyone with any fight left in him is mean-spirited and arrogant and therefore unable to build a coalition (looking at you, Ted Cruz) and that everyone who's capable of listening with an eye to understanding others is inclined to be utterly supine before Stalinist tactics and manifest encroachments on our liberties (looking at you, Mike Pence and Bishop Paul Bootkoski).

Yes, the FDA has a SWAT team. Shrug. Whatcha gonna do?

Murray, however, has a big idea about what we might do. It's been called "Conservative civil disobedience" and he has a new book on the subject and a great summary of the project in this morning's WSJ.

I appreciate the way he sets the stage for why his idea is necessary.

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.
It was our boast that in America, unlike in any other country, you could live your life as you saw fit as long as you accorded the same liberty to everyone else. The “sum of good government,” as Thomas Jefferson put it in his first inaugural address, was one “which shall restrain men from injuring one another” and “shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement.” Americans were to live under a presumption of freedom.
The federal government remained remarkably true to that ideal—for white male Americans, at any rate—for the first 150 years of our history. Then, with FDR’s New Deal and the rise of the modern regulatory state, our founding principle was subordinated to other priorities and agendas. What made America unique first blurred, then faded, and today is almost gone.
We now live under a presumption of constraint. Put aside all the ways in which city and state governments require us to march to their drummers and consider just the federal government. The number of federal crimes you could commit as of 2007 (the last year they were tallied) was about 4,450, a 50% increase since just 1980. A comparative handful of those crimes are “malum in se”—bad in themselves. The rest are “malum prohibitum”—crimes because the government disapproves.
The laws setting out these crimes are often so complicated that only lawyers, working in teams, know everything that the law requires. Everyone knows how to obey the laws against robbery. No individual can know how to “obey” laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley (810 pages), the Affordable Care Act (1,024 pages) or Dodd-Frank (2,300 pages). We submit to them.
He wants a mass movement to simply disregard obviously arbitrary regulations (he has ideas about how to reach consensus within each sector about what those are and not encourage mere lawlessness), and something like akin to a private sector Legal Services Corporation to defend people and institutions that run afoul of unfair targeting. Make it painful for regulators to do dumb stuff like send cops out after kiddie lemonade stands or sue corporations over regulatory infractions that harmed absolutely no one.
Read the whole thing.  I don't know what will come of this idea, but the very way he lays it out is immensely heartening.