Yesterday I highlighted a small portion of Charles Murray’s recent retirement lecture at the American Enterprise Institute. Delivered on January 8 — Murray’s 75th birthday — the lecture offered a fascinating tour of the personal, professional, and intellectual journey that took him from Newton, Iowa, to Harvard University, to rural villages in northern Thailand, to Washington, D.C., and beyond.
While researching that book, he told the AEI crowd, he concluded that America has “a terrible problem of de facto lawlessness.”
“The regulatory state was far worse than I had realized,” Murray said. “It is indeed an extralegal state within the state, that in effect passes its own laws, enforces it with its own police, then acts as jury, judge, and appeals court, all completely within the powers given to it by Congress. The level of corruption in Washington was far worse than I thought, qualitatively and quantitatively more appalling than the situation prior to the mid-1970s.”
All of which is why, whatever else one thinks about Donald Trump, we should be grateful that, as Adam White writes in The Weekly Standard, the Trump administration has “taken important first steps toward significantly changing the ways that federal agencies govern American life.”
To get a better sense of how the regulatory state, or the “administrative state,” undermines democracy and erodes basic American freedoms, watch this 2017 Reason interview with Columbia law professor Philip Hamburger, who calls the administrative state “the leading threat to civil liberties of our era.”
I’ll have more on Charles Murray’s AEI retirement lecture next week.