In this provocative book, acclaimed social scientist and bestselling author Charles Murray shows us why we can no longer hope to roll back the power of the federal government through the normal political process. The Constitution is broken in ways that cannot be fixed even by a sympathetic Supreme Court. Our legal system is increasingly lawless, unmoored from traditional ideas of “the rule of law.” The legislative process has become systemically corrupt no matter which party is in control.
But there’s good news beyond the Beltway. Technology is siphoning power from sclerotic government agencies and putting it in the hands of individuals and communities. The rediversification of American culture is making local freedom attractive to liberals as well as conservatives. People across the political spectrum are increasingly alienated from a regulatory state that nakedly serves its own interests rather than those of ordinary Americans.
The even better news is that federal government has a fatal weakness: It can get away with its thousands of laws and regulations only if the overwhelming majority of Americans voluntarily comply with them. Murray describes how civil disobedience backstopped by legal defense funds can make large portions of the 180,000-page Federal Code of Regulations unenforceable, through a targeted program that identifies regulations that arbitrarily and capriciously tell us what to do. Americans have it within their power to make the federal government an insurable hazard like hurricanes and floods, leaving us once again free to live our lives as we see fit.
By the People’s hopeful message is that rebuilding our traditional freedoms does not require electing a right-thinking Congress or president, nor does it require five right-thinking justices on the Supreme Court. It can be done by we the people, using America’s unique civil society to put government back in its proper box.
The twin propositions of this book are that we are at the end of the American project as the founders intended it, but that opportunities are opening for preserving the best qualities of the American project in a new incarnation.
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Charles Alan Murray (born 1943) is an American libertarian political scientist, author, columnist, and pundit currently working as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, DC. He is best known for his controversial book The Bell Curve, co-authored with the late Richard Herrnstein in 1994, which argues that intelligence plays a central role in American society.
He first became well known for his Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980 in 1984, which discussed the American welfare system. Murray has also written In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government in 1988, What It Means to be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation in 1996, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 in 2003, and In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State 2006. He published Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America's Schools Back to Reality on August 19, 2008.
His articles have appeared in Commentary Magazine, The New Criterion, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Murray has received a doctorate honoris causa from Universidad Francisco Marroquín.