"It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority... averts all dangers from my path... if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life” -- Alexis de Tocqueville
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, up for re-election in 2024, has turned his attention to the moral superiority of the regulatory state and “loneliness.”
His ruminations on both appear in a recent story published inThe New Republic.
“When I” -- Grace Segers, a staff writer at The New Republic – “asked Murphy whether he connected the failures of deregulation to a rise in loneliness, he said that ‘the exercise of regulating the market is the way in which we look out for the common good. When you outsource all morality to the market, and you deregulate every industry, you’re removing an opportunity for us to have a connected conversation about our morals [and] our values,’ Murphy argued.”
It is a pale argument to suppose 1) the U.S. government has been wary of regulation since the publication of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, 2) that regulating the market is the way in which we look out for “the common good,” 3) that morality in the United Sates is “outsourced to a free market,” or 4) that the deregulation of industry “removes any opportunity” we as free citizens may have to discuss among ourselves topics of morality and values.
No one, least of all in the pages The New Republic, has removed Murphy’s opportunity to ostentatiously display his morals and values, and there certainly is no shortage of regulation in the United States.
“Across the U.S.,” U.S. News reports, “state regulations contain 416 million words – more than 23,000 hours' worth of reading – and more than 6 million of those words are regulatory restrictions, or instances of such things as ‘must,’ ‘may not,’ ‘prohibited,’ ‘required’ and ‘shall.’ These rules that make up how states and their industries function aren't equally distributed; some states are home to far more of those regulations than others, according to a recent report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.”
Forbes reports: “The bottom line is that in today's America, most binding rules come from agencies (unelected) rather than elected lawmakers (emphasis mine).”
“Let's look at year-end 2016 for starters. Federal departments, agencies, and commissions issued 3,853 rules in 2016, while Congress passed and the president signed 214 bills into law—a ratio of 18 rules for every law.”
Such a surfeit of regulation has led some to wonder whether liberty itself is a social good that should not be subject, except under stringent conditions, to the vagaries of unelected regulators. Murphy is among the unconcerned.
One way not to be lonely is to court a woman, get married, have children and stay married -- preferably in that order. Is it legitimate to ask whether the breakdown of the family – Mom, Dad and 2.5 children, the number of offspring necessary to replace the current population – has anything remotely to do with America’s sense of loneliness and social alienation?
Senator Murphy was not asked by the New Republic’s reporter, what he has done while in office to strengthen any of the “little platoons of democracy,” Edmund Burke’s expression for social institutions that should remain, both de Tocqueville and Burke thought, in a freedom zone safe from ambitious regulators and social reformists with knives in their brains.
There is no such thing as an organic structure imposed by government regulators on a society that radical reformists suppose is in need of fundamental, systemic change. To change liberty’s bloom by attacking its roots is the ambition of every post-French Revolution autocrat in history, particularly fascist and socialist autocrats. All non-organic cultural social structures imposed by central authorities are easily and quickly corrupted. And eventually the corruptors turn to totalitarian measures in order to effect fundamental social change. Neither Tocqueville nor Edmund Burke were advocates of social control through central, government regulation.
National Public Radio tells us that President Joe Biden, chiefly through government regulation, plans “to eliminate fossil fuels as a form of energy generation in the U.S. by 2035. The White House set out a target of 80% renewable energy generation by 2030 and 100% carbon-free electricity five years later. With 79% of total U.S. energy production still coming from fossil fuel sources as of 2021, achieving this goal will require billions of dollars in investments.” Experts, swelling with hubris, tell us the plan is workable.
Murphy is in the service of a President apparently suffering from extreme hubris, which the ancient Greeks, not to mention Shakespeare, denounced as the bitter root of all tragedies. Aristotle tells us “Hubris consists in doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim…simply for the pleasure of it. Retaliation is not hubris, but revenge…Young men and the rich are hubristic because they think they are better than other people.”
Biden is rich, thanks in part to the questionable activities of his son Hunter, and Murphy is young – an explosively hubristic combination.
Don Pesci is a political columnist of long standing, about 40 years, who has written for various state newspapers, among them The Journal Inquirer, the Waterbury Republican American, the New London Day, the Litchfield County Times, the Torrington Register Citizen and other Register Citizen papers. He maintains a blog, among the oldest of its kind in Connecticut, which serves as a repository and archive, for his columns; there are approximately 3,000 entrees in Connecticut Commentary: Red Notes From A Blue State, virtually all of them political columns stretching back to 2004. He also appears once a week Wednesdays on 1080 WTIC Newstalk radio with Will Marotti.