Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Identifying precisely which regulations are pointless, stupid, or tyrannical

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
writes Charles Murray (thanks to Instapundit).
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.

 … It gets worse. If a regulatory agency comes after you, forget about juries, proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, disinterested judges and other rights that are part of due process in ordinary courts. The “administrative courts” through which the regulatory agencies impose their will are run by the regulatory agencies themselves, much as if the police department could make up its own laws and then employ its own prosecutors, judges and courts of appeals.

 … Regulations that waste our time and money are bad enough. Worse are the regulations that prevent us from doing our jobs as well as we could—regulations that impede architects from designing the most functional and beautiful buildings that would fit their clients’ needs, impede physicians from exercising their best judgment about their patients’ treatment, or impede businesses from identifying the best candidates for job openings.

 … it isn’t just freedom to practice our vocations that is being gutted. Whether we are trying to raise our children, be good stewards of our property, cooperate with our neighbors to solve local problems or practice our religious faith, the bureaucrats think they know better. And when the targets of the regulatory state say they’ve had enough, that they will fight it in court, the bureaucrats can—and do—say to them, “Try that, and we’ll ruin you.”

 … Seen in this perspective, the regulatory state is the Wizard of Oz: fearsome when its booming voice is directed against any single target but, when the curtain is pulled aside, revealed as impotent to enforce its thousands of rules against widespread refusal to comply.

And so my modest proposal: Let’s withhold that compliance through systematic civil disobedience. Not for all regulations, but for the pointless, stupid and tyrannical ones.

 … The full set of criteria for designating regulations that are appropriate for systematic civil disobedience is necessarily complex, but the operational test is this: If the government prosecutes someone for ignoring a designated regulation even though no harm has occurred, ordinary citizens who hear about the prosecution will be overwhelmingly on the side of the defendant.

At the end of the process, we will have a large number of regulations that meet the criteria for being pointless, stupid or tyrannical. Let’s just ignore them and go on about our lives as if they didn’t exist.

 …  I propose two frameworks for implementing this strategy.
Read the whole thing™