In celebration of Constitution Day, ATG highlights the book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission by Charles Murray, an American libertarian political scientist and author who first became well known for his book, Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950-1980.
In Chapter One, “A Broken Constitution”, Murray argues that “the Constitution that once sustained limited government is broken, and cannot be fixed by a Madisonian* majority on the Supreme Court.” He explains how our “legal system is increasingly lawless” and that the “legislative process has become systemically corrupt no matter which party is in control.”
Murray shows throughout the first part of his book – “Coming to Terms With Where We Stand” – how the American way of life that was once built on individual liberty and limited government is being “gutted.” From trying to run a business to following our religious beliefs to raising our families, the government – with “laws that are so complex they are indistinguishable from lawlessness”, regulations that strangulate, and an incomprehensible tax system that is “4 million words long” – is dictating more and more how we should live our lives and threatening us if we don’t passively and willingly comply.
“As Tocqueville predicted, we have experienced not tyranny but a state that ‘compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people,’” Murray writes. However, he also offers a hopeful message that “we the people”, with a combination of technology which has empowered the individual and a “systematic civil disobedience” can begin to push back on the growing power of government to restore our traditional freedom and rebuild American liberty.
As Murray writes in his conclusion: “The disappearance of the authentic America would be an immeasurable loss…[i]f America becomes like the advanced social democracies of Europe as it threatens to do it would mean the loss of a unique way of life grounded in individual freedom.”
He continues: “No other country throughout the history of the world began its existence with a charter focused on limiting the power of government and maximizing the freedom of its individual citizens.”
It has been written that “Ronald Reagan understood, perhaps, more than any other modern President, how important the U.S. Constitution is to a free and civil society.” With this in mind and in light of the Republican Presidential debate held at the Ronald Reagan Library yesterday evening, we share quotes from Ronald Reagan’s famous speech, “A Time for Choosing”, that he delivered on October 27, 1964 in Los Angeles in support of Barry Goldwater for President. It was this speech that led Ronald Reagan to be known henceforth as “The Great Communicator”:
“The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.”
“You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream – the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order – or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”
“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, government’s programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” “If government planning and welfare had the answer, shouldn’t we expect government to read the score to us once in a while?” Reagan asked, “Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help? But the reverse is true. Each year, the need grows great, the program grows greater.”
“This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government, or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”
Other notable Reagan quotes:
“The most terrifying words in the English language are, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
“I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands liberty contracts.”
Read also the Heritage Foundation’s Lecture: “A Constitutional President: Ronald Regan and the Founding.”
*Murray defines “Madisonian” as, “people who are devoted to limited government…classical liberals, libertarians and many conservatives.” He wrote that Madison “more than any other individual, midwifed the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It was his Constitution that preserved limited government for the first century and a half of America’s existence.”