Political scientist discusses challenging government regulations through civil disobedience

Ashley Tsao

Certain government regulations should be challenged with civil disobedience, according to author and political scientist Charles Murray who spoke at the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Wednesday.

Murray said America was the land of the free for a long time, but it no longer is because of the effect of government regulation on personal liberties.

“In a wide variety of ways, the American project is already dead,” Murray said. “The American project is the idea that people can live their lives as they see fit with government only providing enough to let them live in peace.”

Murray said one way to accomplish this is through civil disobedience.

“If we are going to reclaim some of that freedom to live as we see fit, the only way to do it is to stop obeying stupid and pointless regulations through civil disobedience,” Murray said.

Civil disobedience will lead to individuals being accused of violating government regulations, Murray said. 

According to government junior John McBee, who attended the event, government regulation should be changed at a federal level instead of through civil disobedience. 

“Civil disobedience could lead to crony capitalism or people acting for personal capital gain,” McBee said.

Many regulations are immune from civil disobedience because they are necessary, according to Murray.

For example, tax codes must be obeyed because it is hard to determine whether individuals evade taxes for civil disobedience or profit, Murray said

Laura Jones, program director for the Center for Politics and Governance, said the center invited Murray because they are interested in speakers who examine the intersection of policy and politics.

“Murray has long been known as a thought leader and somewhat controversial, but in a thought-provoking way,” Jones said.

Courtney Moreno, advertising graduate student and event attendee, said it is possible to live as we please, even with increasing government regulation.

“There can be certain rules and structure set in place to guide people, but they should be voted on by the people,” Moreno said. 

The government passes restrictive laws because it expects voluntary compliance, but the government is not all-powerful, according to Murray. One way to counteract coercion is through civil disobedience by creating legal defense funds that are donated to protect individuals and companies.

There is no guarantee, however, that legal defense funds would always work, Murray said.

“The government is an irritating obstacle we have to work around,” Murray said. “I think this is increasingly going to be the story of the future.”