It is almost trite to observe that a free society cannot exist without the rule of law. But on the matter of liberty, law is, at best, highly overrated. In fact, it can be downright pernicious.

As Kevin Williamson has argued, real liberty is evolutionary. Free societies are dynamic, efficient, and innovative. Law, by contrast, can become the paralyzing debris that de Tocqueville predicted might someday cover the surface of modern democratic society. It is the “network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.”

If the modern welfare state softens, bends, and usurps the will of man, law is the mechanism by whi ...