David Brooks' column in yesterday's New York Times describes the thinking of Phillip Blond, a Brit who is advancing a Tory philosophy of individual freedom by attacking the centralization of Tory business and modern government. Blond's goal is to restore individual self-determination, both in community affairs and in the economy.
Reviving the authority of individuals over daily choices is also my interest (see Life Without Lawyers: Restoring Responsibility in America), except that my emphasis is on overbearing law, not corporate monopolies and distant officials. My elevator speech might be something like this:
Modern law has severed people from their best judgment. Teachers answer to bureaucracy, not their sense of what's right in a particular situation. Doctors go through the day with a little lawyer on their shoulders, whispering defensiveness in ordinary patient encounters. Community leaders are stymied by dictates from some legislative mandate long since obsolete. Government officials are paralyzed by the accretion of law, each word of which is zealously guarded by some special interest.
Both of us can be right, of course--Blond's concern is with centralized power, and overbearing law is the ultimate centralized monopoly. What Blond doesn't seem to focus on is how law also handcuffs the centralized authorities he decries. Even the President is powerless in the face of law. Recently it came out that $5 billion of stimulus funding for weatherproofing 590,000 homes hadn't been spent--because of a law passed in 1931 (signed by President Hoover) that requires the federal government to fix the wages of weather-proofers in each of 3,000 localities. Obsolete laws prevented the President from hiring thousands of people last year.