Charles Murray, of The Bell Curve and Losing Ground fame, has a new modest proposal, which he discussed during his presentation at the Commonwealth Club on May 18th. The proposal, outlined in Dr. Murray’s latest book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, suggests that ordinary people who are aware of how far this country has moved from the original intentions of its founders start the process of return by creating and using a legal defense "Madison Fund." We pay into this fund like we pay for insurance. When we are annoyed enough with a really useless and detrimental government rule, we break the rule and use the Madison Fund to pay for our legal defense. The idea is to make it costly for government to enforce useless rules, some of which have profound effects on ordinary people’s lives.
Some examples of this type of civil disobedience are the strategies of Uber, Lyft, and AirBnb. The non-aggression principle is followed as no one is being harmed, the public benefits from an efficient service, and the government is left with the difficult task of trying to undo a popular practice that voters are happy with. Murray suggests that everyone who is concerned with government overreach break at least one rule that enjoys a consensus of being useless and detrimental. Rules that stand in the way of our running a business or raising our families as we see fit are good choices.
The impetus of Dr. Murray’s proposal is his concern that the unique “American project,” in which government is limited and the individual is sovereign, is almost gone. Courts and legislators have corrupted the role of the enumerated powers, the commerce clause, and the general welfare, thereby reversing the powers between people and government. The Founding Fathers intended the individual to be sovereign, but today, government sees itself as sovereign. The individual, once the boss, is now the servant. Instead of the very special American project, we now have a maze of bureaucrats regulating every aspect of our lives.
Pinning our hopes on electing a president or legislators who would return the country to its Constitutional roots is not realistic. Special interests wield such power and command such immense amounts of campaign funds that change via the legislative process is unlikely. Liberty is more likely to be rebuilt when action is initiated by the people without permission.