Charles Murray is Jeb Bush’s favorite author. You all remember who Charles Murray is: he, along with Richard J. Herrnstein, wrote the book The Bell Curve, published way back in 1994. The Bell Curve, to cut to the part that became most controversial, stated that African-Americans and new immigrants were essentially of lower intellectual capability because of their genes and their environment and this lower intellectual capacity was leading to a litany of social ills in the US and the US should do everything it could to manipulate the social order to stem this downward spiral, including reducing immigration, eliminating affirmative action, and eliminating policies that supposedly encouraged poor women to have babies. One can see that the environment part wasn’t the controversial bit. One can also imagine that The Bell Curve was and is a huge hit with a certain segment of the conservative movement. Ted Cruz comes readily to mind.
The major problem with The Bell Curve, for there are many but we will mention only one since this isn’t about that book, is that Herrnstein and Murray decided that the ASVAB, a standardized IQ test used by the US military, was a good general indicator of intelligence and used the data compiled in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth as their evidence and as the basis for their conclusions. Once they had concluded that we were on a intellectual downward spiral based entirely on the intellectual inferiority of certain groups, it was inevitable that their recommendations would be draconian, to say the least. Interestingly, raw scores on IQ tests for many populations have been rising about 3 points per decade during the 20th Century. Also of interest is that the first IQ tests were administered with the express purpose of showing how much more intelligent the French were than many of the populations of the countries they had colonized. So there’s that.
Charles Murray has come out with a new book nearly as much fun as The Bell Curve. In By The People, he argues that American freedom is being gutted by rules and regulations from the Federal Government that do not allow people to be free. Why, you can’t discriminate against someone based on your religious beliefs! You can’t speed down an empty highway! You have to make a banister railing 42 inches high! We must have limited government! The Federal Government is out of control! And so on and so forth. To be honest, I haven’t read the whole book, as I don’t have the stomach for it. It’s more of the same gnashing of teeth you get from so-called Libertarians, who believe in Liberty for themselves and no one else. It’s also the usual lament that the Federal Government is the one interfering in everyone’s every day life by over-regulating while ignoring that States, Counties, Municipalities, Cities, and Towns all have regulations of their own, in many cases more onerous than any the Federal Government supposedly is shackling us with. Murray manages to ignore those because he’s a “small-government” type, dontchaknow. Small government meaning in this sense, like-minded individuals regulating the crap out of everyone they disagree with.
Now, I don’t know why stair railings need to be 42 inches or higher, but I would suspect that this measurement wasn’t chosen simply because the person who came up with it liked the number 42. In fact, I suspect that there is a very good reason for why stair railings are meant to be at least 42 inches high. Charles Murray finds this to be an unnecessary regulation.
He also finds being pulled over for driving exceedingly fast on an empty highway to be unwarranted. How this is the fault of the Federal Government is questionable as many states set speed limits, but for argument’s sake, let’s go with it. So why should police pull you over for driving too fast on an empty highway? I mean, it’s empty, right? Except, of course, the people who made the speed limit regulation for that stretch of road, if they are the Federal Government, probably did so based on something, like maybe the fact that many people die in accidents on that stretch of road because they were driving too fast. This is, of course, assuming that the Federal Government set that limit and not the State, County, Municipality, etc. Murray, as usual, quite conveniently ignores those supposed small-government regulatory incursions.
And then there’s his prescription to fix it all – a plan only an Anti-Democratic Oligarchic Libertarian could love: Have wealthy groups or people bring nuisance suits against the Federal Government to the point where the time and effort to fight those suits becomes so costly and time consuming that the Federal Government will stop fighting them and capitulate. So Murray’s fix, basically, is to have the Federal Government have to waste tax-payer money fighting the wealthy to enforce the law. So stick it to the tax-payer, because as I’ve already pointed out, Murray doesn’t care about where most actual regulations come from – State, County, Municipality, City, or Town. No; his focus is solely on the Federal Government and their supposed meddling. And if you believe I’m making too much out of that, remember that segregation laws were locally on the books in the last century.
But what makes Murray either the most dishonest or the stupidest single public intellectual is the fact that we already have his solution. The wealthy already buy their way out of most forms of regulation in this country. And none of that trickles down to the rest of us. When Robert Durst can get bail for murder multiple times while some poor schmuck who forgot to pay a parking ticket gets thrown in jail because he can’t make bail, then you know the wealthy have already circumvented the rules and regulations. Remember the kid who didn’t get jail time because the judge stated he suffered from “Affluenza.” Or banks that pay out billion dollar fines only to see their stock value go up because brokers know that they are now free from any other possible investigation. And let’s not forget car companies that make calculations on whether it is more cost efficient to pay whatever fines they get than to repair a malfunction that can and did kill people.
And we talk about the reputational costs, but in many of these cases, there no longer appears to be one. The banks continue on their merry way, committing crimes and avoiding regulations with impunity. Wealthy individuals cheat the system by declaring bankruptcy ever other week – see Donald Trump – without any cost to their reputation or their bank accounts. Others commit outright crimes – see Rupert Murdoch and family – and the worst that happens is they disappear for a little while, only to come back a year or two later and become CEO of the company. So when Murray argues that we should band together and take on the monstrous government because it is regulating us too much, what he’s really saying is that we should ignore that the rich and powerful are already destroying whatever regulations and laws there are for their own benefit and pretend that that is somehow for our own good when they foul our air, pollute our water, wreck the economy, destroy the middle class, marginalize the poor, gut education, and basically work to make the planet that much less inhabitable for regular folk. Murray is doing the bidding of the Oligarchs. If this were Russia, he’d be shilling for Putin.