Want to Sabotage Bad Laws? Healthy Contempt is More Important Than Legal Strategy.

The enemy of defiance isn't tough cops or clever politicians; it's respect for the law


Library of Congress/Public Domain

Charles Murray gets lots of buzz for his book-length plan to kneecap the intrusive state with a campaign of defiance. Salon predictably went incoherently rabid in its reaction, comparing Murray's proposal to Scientology's long battle with the IRS (perhaps the one thing L. Ron Hubbard's creation has done with which most people are sympathetic). What's setting supporters and critics off is that Murray's By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission "describes how civil disobedience backstopped by legal defense funds can make large portions of the 180,000-page Federal Code of Regulations unenforceable." Murray wants to wage legal battle while essentially making D.C.'s regulatory spiderweb an insurable hazard.

The book's detailed description of legal strategy seems intriguing (I have to read more to be sure), but it isn't enough. What's needed is a widespread skepticism toward intrusive laws, the political system that creates those laws, and the people who enforce them. With sufficiently widespread contempt for the authorities and their rules, the strategy can be flexible and adjust to opposition; without it, the whole scheme will likely be too fragile to work.

Look, legal strategies are a game the government can play, too, and officials get to write the rules by which the game is played. That's not to say that Murray's plan is unworkable—I'd love to see it tried. But I would also expect that, if it proves effective, the feds will slap the defense funds and insurance schemes with legal or regulatory blocks, fiddle courtroom outcomes, and persecute prominent participants in the defiance movement. Getting SWATed might be more of a problem when the folks doing it own their own SWAT teams.

Maybe the feds won't get that nasty. But I'd hate to have the outcome based on a bet that the same folks who ignored FBI investigatory rules to go after anti-Keystone XL activists will suddenly discover restraint when the whole monolith of federal power is challenged.

But the key to rendering stupid laws irrelevant isn't a clever strategy, it's an overall attitude of defiance that comes up with new creative strategies after the first ones have been countered and flows around enforcement efforts like an ocean of fuck-you. And the enemy of that defiance isn't tough cops or clever politicians; it's respect for the law.

Strategy did play an important role in the underground railroad that helped slaves escape the antebellum South for new lives in Canada and the North. But the network of safe houses and volunteers was fueled by an overriding disdain for laws that treated human beings as property and required the public to cooperate in their enforcement. When that smuggling strategy was countered by government action, abolitionists were willing to forcefully rescue people from federal officials. Even when such rescues were unsuccessful, battling them consumed so many resources that authorities quietly dropped their efforts in some places.

Ex-pat tutor

Prohibition might have been shown the exit more quickly by better-organized opposition, but the important factor in its demise was the mass hostility of large number of Americans who refused to obey. They kept drinking booze, making it, and smuggling it. They did their best to render enforcement difficult, expensive, and dangerous. And their toughest opposition came not from the authorities, but from fellow Americans who supplied aid and comfort to the government, if in no other way than by simply respecting officials and institutions that deserved nothing of the sort.

The erosion of laws against marijuana has turned, too, on mass defiance rather than on unified strategy. Organized groups and efforts work against those laws, but people's willingness to ignore drug prohibition has been the real driver. Authorities responded with an initial escalation in prohibition tactics, but that never increased public acceptance of the law or its enforceability. Now marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, and Texas may be next.

So Murray's strategy is potentially part of the solution. It's an interesting idea that may well achieve some good—but only if it's driven by a healthy disrespect for the law and the creatures behind it.

And that's why, as I've written before, I'm teaching my son to break the law.

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  1. I extend respect to the law to the same extent the law extends respect to me. So none.

    1. The law is an ass and SO ARE YOU.

  2. For laws to be respected they must be respectable.

    1. For respect to be lawful it must lawfully be respectable.

    2. being respectable is one thing, and not a bad quality. But being LAWFUL inder the Constitution is necessary for any law to be respected OR respectable. Things like mass spying and data gathering, EPA regs made by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, civil asset “forfeiture (should be called “theft on general warrant”), murder of American citizens at home and/or abroad with no warrant, no probable cause, and no immediate action on their part, all of which are “legal” under the present administration, but none of which are sustainable under the Constitution, deserve NO RESPECT from anyone.

  3. Salon predictably went incoherently rabid in its reaction

    Which is amusing given the Left’s history with civil disobedience. Not that I expect anything different from the “end justifies the means” crowd.

    1. If that’s their reaction to Murray’s relatively milquetoast ask for forgiveness later while suing the government legal strategy (if I understand correctly as I haven’t read it yet), I wonder what their reaction to J.D.’s aw-fuck-it strategy will be.

      1. I wonder what their reaction to J.D.’s aw-fuck-it strategy will be.

        They better make sure they have lots of fainting couches handy.

        Hopefully more than a few will have strokes.

      2. I looked at the Salon article, and I think it is incoherently rabid to call it incoherently rabid. Just because people don’t share your point of view doesn’t mean they’re ‘rabid’.

        In any case, I don’t see why massive disobedience wouldn’t work for the Left as well as the Right. It is sort of a wonder something hasn’t started already. Maybe it has.

    2. I suppose it depends on which laws you’re planning to break, and why, and how thoroughly. I run red lights on my bicycle (if no one’s around) but it hasn’t stopped the war. Yet.

    3. Same crowd that whines and protests about the 1%, while using products made by the one company with more money than any other.

      Any anti-capitalist who owns any product made by Apple has no credibility at all, not even if they bought their iPhone and MacBook used.

  4. And that’s why, as I’ve written before, I’m teaching my son to break the law.

    I hope he is singing some Priest while he is ‘Breaking the Law’.

    1. He should also make sure young Tucille is dressed just as well as those dudes in the pic.

    2. Then switch over to some Hank Williams Jr.

  5. Damn, I love 2Chill.

    “…flows around enforcement efforts like an ocean of fuck-you.”

    That part of a sentence made my morning.

    1. “God darnit, Mr. Lamarr Tuccille, you use your tongue keyboard prettier than a twenty dollar whore.

    2. This is why I come here so often

  6. The problem is, that contempt spills over. Eventually it turns into contempt for all our leaders, then our institutions.

        1. “Our” “leaders”?

    1. If you don’t already feel contempt for out so called leaders, you haven’t been paying much attention.

    2. If our ‘leaders’ do not want to be held in contempt, maybe they should consider not acting so contemptably?

  7. Another strategy is ostracism. Ostracize all government workers, especially federal workers and cops. Humans are social creatures, nothing stings more than being treated like you’re toxic.

    1. They do a good job of ostracizing themselves, because many consider the private sector to be toxic.


      Whether they worked in Manhattan or Peoria, IRS veterans talk about something else that kept them at the service: the feeling of camaraderie. It was nice that they appreciated one another, because nobody else did. “You go to a party, and if you say you are from the IRS, half the people move into the other room,” says Richard Schickel, a former senior collections officer in Tucson who retired in December 2013. “After a while, your wife and relatives get tired of listening to your stories. They say, ‘How could you take those people’s houses and their businesses?’ The only place you get understanding is with other IRS people.”

      and the IRS is still around….

    3. Yeah. I agree, but every time you talk about doing that to cops, people look at you like you’re completely fucking crazy. And usually toss out the “a few bad apples” line, to boot.

      Even people who would gladly shoot someone who tried to mug them look aghast when you suggest even being rude to someone in the State Issued Clown Suit for doing the same goddamn thing.

      I have no idea how to break through that sort of conditioning.

  8. I think that if any substantial group pursued Murray’s strategy, the feds would declare the financial backers racketeers and seize everything, lock, stock and barrel, without trial.

    1. Not if that group did it in secret.

      1. Secret Mutual Aid Societies would be perfect for this. But the thing is, it can’t just be done for the members. They have to be willing to do so for anyone making a stand. The web has great potential for this to develop.

        1. Mutual aid! Solidarity! Very Leftish!

          There is some experience with this sort of thing among Net activists, such as massive, comprehensive disobedience of the IP laws.

    2. At which point, people should adopt the strategies of the French Resistance.

  9. …the feds will slap the defense funds and insurance schemes with legal or regulatory blocks, fiddle courtroom outcomes, and persecute prominent participants in the defiance movement.

    No one would ever use the courts maliciously.

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  11. You can go a long way just by lying. + it’s fun!

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  13. there is a heartening and growing move along these very lines in response to the recent attempts to curtail our right to arms (and ammunition). People in several states have, in the past couple of years, simply refused to comply with govenment tyranny. Both New York and Colorado seem to have somewhere between a five and ten percent compiance rate, Connecticut about the same, on their new gun ban/registration “laws”. Washington and now Oregon are actively, loudly, publically refusing to comply with the new rediculous, unnecessary, and ineffective “universal background check” and registration laws, and some sixty percent of the county sheriffs in Washington have publically declared they will NOT enforce it. Several Oregon sheriffs have done the same thing, and the bill has only had ink on the signature line for a few days. This is a good sign.

    1. Meanwhile, a Michigan state senator, rabidly anti-gun, has been arrested and charged on several felony counts arising from his shooting at his ex-wife’s car while on the street in Detroit, by all accounts thus far using a modern sporting rifle, or, as the mainstream hype media call them, an “assault rifle”. His hypocrisy is blatant and notable. HE will do much for the pro gun right cause…. meanwhile, incidents like the Bundy Ranch incident, the Uber driver who stopped a mass shooting in Chicago with his legally concealed handgun, an Ohio self-defense case where the Good Guy with his Legal Gun ended a kidnap/probable murder when the cops were there and refused to make a move, continue to put the Good Guys with Guns in a more public and positive light.

  14. I’d like to take some of the credit for “mass defiance” of MJ laws.

  15. That worked so well in 1940’s germany and russia.

  16. “Now marijuana is legal in Colorado and Washington, and Texas may be next.”

    Texas will not legalize this session. I live in Austin and have been following this closely. Both the legalization bill and the decrim bill were not scheduled by the calendars commitee. Rep. Todd Hunter was the chair of that committee and made a commitment to do so, but apparently was lying his ass off.

  17. Well written! It’s a concept I’ve pushed in fighting gvt-imposed universal smoking bans as opposed to individual venue choice. We have 2 difficulties in ignoring these “bad laws” though:
    1) Many innocents have been convinced the laws are to protect them rather to engineer the behavior of the smokers. This antismoking strategy has produced millions of people feeling good about acting as “moral wardens” in pressuring smokers they see smoking “improperly.”


    2) The State’s guns are hidden behind the aprons of workers literally enslaved as unpaid, untrained, uninsured, unarmed, and unempowered Citizen Vigilante Law Enforcers with threats of punishment for refusal to accept slavery as unbadged police.
    #1 can be fought by exposing the lie of the “deadly threat” of wisps of smoke in decently ventilated venues. Download, print and share the free “Lies Behind The Smoking Bans” at It’s specifically designed to show why these laws SHOULD be disrespected by exposing the misrepresentations science in creating exaggerated fears. The more it spreads, the stronger the resentment and resistance.
    #2 can be fought by the “slaves” using the classic union tactic of following the letter of the law. Don’t volunteer physical confrontation or refuse service to someone who has stopped smoking, at least for the moment. Court findings have been mixed but may work if owners avoid any open “wink wink, nudge nudge” approach to the law.
    – MJM

    1. Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a urinating section in a swimming pool. It doesn’t matter how well ventilated a room is, the STENCH goes everywhere.

      Tobacco is a smelly, filthy, disgusting, deadly addiction, and an industry that in cooperation with plastics manufacturers at the least cheered on if not outright aided the ban on hemp along with marijuana. Destroying the US hemp industry opened up huge amounts of land for tobacco and paved the way for Nylon and other synthetic fibers to take hemp’s place in products like rope, produce bags and everything else it had been used for.

      1. Galane, thank you for the response, and let me respond to a couple of your points.

        You say “Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a urinating section in a swimming pool.”

        Actually that’s not very accurate. The average swimming pool gets its water changed once or twice a year. The average Free Choice restaurant gets its air changed on the order of 50,000 times per year. So saying they are “alike” is actually off by a factor of about 25,000 times or, in percent terms, you’re overestimating by two and a half MILLION percent!

        Heh, also, anyone who jumps into a public pool full of screaming kids and old folks who doesn’t realize that there are probably entire GALLONS of urine floating around in the water is pretty naive! LOL!

        In terms of “smelly, filthy, disgusting” I’d suggest you take a look at a poster I created based on what I called “Four Pages Of Hate” in the “Trenches” section in my TobakkoNacht — The Antismoking Endgame. See http:/ and see a sampling of the atmosphere that’s been created by the antismoking movement of the last 30 years.

        Re hemp/tobacco: You might want to check your timeline on the South’s tobacco fields vs. the invention of Nylon. Washington et al actually not only paved the way but traveled pretty heavily on tobacco roads in the 1700s, while hemp was also in full swing.

        – MJM

      2. Even smoking rooms don’t work because they are so disgusting, no non smoker wants to enter them the clean them and even smokers find them disgusting if not nauseating. But the law should protect those of us who choose not to smoke and are not slaves to addiction from the addicts and selfish self destructive people who don’t care about the harm they do to themselves or by smoking around others and often their own children, who should be free to breathe clean in polluted air.

        Smoking doesn’t guarantee you’ll get cancer, it can just overwhelm a body’s natural defense systems. Anyone who’s ever seen the amputations of limbs and fist sized+ masses of skin and flesh remove to deter the spread of cancer know better than to listen to the corporatist in the commercial and film industry who promote the notion that smoking is somehow sexy.

  18. Are you sure they weren’t just alcoholics?

  19. In order to play this game you have to be really wealthy, or really poor.

    If you have any assets, the costs of disobedience will quickly deplete them, and in the case of marijuana, your assets can be seized, and you will find yourself on foot, with only the funds in your wallet, and up itshay stream without a paddle.

    It’s an idea that appeals to simpletons in college classes. In the real world they are playing hardball.

  20. I don’t think I can have any more contempt for the government, its reps and officials and its laws. I see no reason to respect any laws when the people who are supposed to enforce and uphold them are totally corrupt and play games with the law everyday. Everytime I have to go to jury duty I’d like to kick the dumbass arrogant black robed dipshit down the aisle when he/she/it tells me that is the most important duty I have as a citizen.

    No one in government deserves my respect because they have done everything they can to prove they don’t deserve it. I only fear them. And if they were to get vaporized in nuclear fireball, I’d probably applaud.

  21. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
    ? Audre Lorde

    A.L. isn’t saying, “give up, all hope is lost,” she’s just saying fight more cleverly; in rejecting conventional wisdom you can find success; there are tools outside of the master’s tool shed.

    1. Actually, in the smoking arena, Audre is incorrect. Smoking bans were promoted on the basis of science. The science however didn’t actually support the bans, so it was poorly done and then deliberately misrepresented and misinterpreted.

      The basic tool, scientific research, was sound, but the product it supposedly produced was deeply flawed. And that basic tool, when it’s applied properly, can most certainly “take down” the Antismokers’ house.

      You can see samples of how to use that tool in both the “SmokingBanLies” booklet linked to in my earlier comment and in the excerpts from my “TobakkoNacht — The Antismoking Endgame” at

      Shawington, if you have any specific, substantive criticisms of any of the material in any of the thousands of words of analysis and references cited at those two sites, please feel free to share them here. I promise I won’t mind, and I’ll try to stop back to respond.

      – MJM

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