By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission                                                                               A review by Jack Kettler


By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission
by Charles Murray
Crown Forum, New York

Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His first work was published in 1984, Losing Ground and in 2012, Coming Apart.

What others are saying:

By the People is a study in contradictions. It is simultaneously depressing and inspiring, technical and profound, infuriating and charming, but always compelling. Charles Murray plays the role of a liberty-loving Lenin asking the question, 'What is to be done?' To this end, he offers a practical guide to repairing our broken constitutional order. It is that rarest of books: a populist manifesto grounded in fact and logic.” - Jonah Goldberg

“A road map to recapture true American exceptionalism. With passion, brilliance, and a keen sense of the radical essence of what America means, Murray dismisses what passes for political debate today and offers an audacious plan to restore the liberty our founders bequeathed to us.” - Edward Crane, president emeritus, Cato Institute

“Liberty without permission? Selective civil disobedience? I'm in! At first I balked, but Murray makes a convincing case that a Madison Fund might scrape away the sclerosis of the suffocating state. As usual, his original arguments expand the way I think. When law is so complex that it's indistinguishable from lawlessness, when the tax code is 4 million words long, something like systematic disobedience is badly needed.” - John Stossel

By The People is logically divided into three parts:

Part 1 Coming To Terms With Where We Stand

Part 2 Opening a New Front

Part 3 A Propitious Moment

In part I, Murray chronicles our broken Constitution, and our lawless legal system to lay the ground work for what follows. Murray notes; “Civil law that is sufficiently arbitrary and capricious is indistinguishable from lawlessness.” (36) He follows with; “Law that is sufficiently complex in indistinguishable from lawlessness.” (37) He continues; “Law that is sufficiently discretionary is indistinguishable from lawlessness.” (41) And finally he says; “Law that permits the state to take private property without compensation, or to force the transfer of private property to other private individuals, is indistinguishable from lawlessness.” (44)

In part II Murray sets forth and lays down ground rules for selective civil disobedience. He creatively comes up with a workable reasonable way to capitalize on public support to engage in selective resistance to bureaucratic over reach and tyranny. Establishing what he calls the Madison fund is a concrete effective way to fund resistance to fed gov tyranny. While it is true the fed gov has deep pockets, Murray demonstrates that each fed gov regulatory agency has limited resources when coming to number of attorneys. (142) This means there are limits to how many cases an agency like the EPA can try and prosecute. Murray's proposals are well thought out and clearly within the tradition of the Jeffersonian doctrine of nullification.

In part III Murray provides hope for a return to relief from bureaucratic tyrannical overreach.

In Murray's work you will learn how far our government is systemically broken. We've all heard about legislation and how it could not make it out of committee or the speaker or majority leader will not allow a bill come up for a vote. Murray introduces the reader to the corrupt practice of the “tollbooth” and how it works. (93) In short, no legislation moves without money being extorted to fund political campaigns. This happens no matter which party is in power.

In addition, Murray demonstrates how persuasive and corrupt the lobbying system works and how it is near to impossible to reform. When moving from a congressional staff position into lobbyist work is called “cashing in.” (92) Out of touch politicians have no incentive to reform this corruption because they believe that cannot attract quality staffers unless they have the opportunity making a financial killing by working for foreign interests instead of American interests.

This book is truly and eye opener. It certainly deserves wide distribution since it provides serious proposals to reclaim liberty. That battle will not be easy since in the words of Milton Friedman: “Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.”

Mr. Kettler is the owner of the website Undergroundnotes where his political and theological articles can be read.

Jack Kettler