I can certainly understand how this might appeal to individuals who believe that the federal government is out of control. Nullification seems to be a way for citizens to reign in Congress. But is it?
Nullification begins with a decision made in your state legislature to resist a federal law deemed to be unconstitutional. It usually involves a bill, which is passed by both houses and is signed by your governor. In some cases, it might be approved by the voters of your state directly, in a referendum. It may change your state’s statutory law or it might even amend your state constitution. It is a refusal on the part of your state government to cooperate with, or enforce any federal law it deems to be unconstitutional.
Nullification carries with it the force of state law. It cannot be legally repealed by Congress without amending the US Constitution. It cannot be lawfully abolished by an executive order. It cannot be overruled by the Supreme Court. It is the people of a state asserting their constitutional rights by acting as a political society in their highest sovereign capacity. It is the moderate, middle way that wisely avoids harsh remedies like secession on the one hand and slavish, unlimited submission on the other. It is the constitutional remedy for unconstitutional federal laws.
Consider the first sentence in the quote above: "Nullification begins with a decision made in your state legislature to resist a federal law deemed to be unconstitutional." "Deemed to be unconstitutional" by what standard? No answer is offered.
In recent years, much has been made of the difference between red states and blue states, between die-hard conservative states and die-hard Leftist states. These differences make it pretty clear that what is considered constitutional in some states is "deemed to be unconstitutional" in other states. Some states may nullify a particular federal law while other states don't. Which means, there really isn't any federal law.
The individual who defended nullification argued that the marketplace would ultimately motivate states to nullify unconstitutional laws and compete to attract businesses and residents with pro-freedom policies. Again, I can understand why this might seem appealing.
But the fact is, states (and cities) compete today to attract business. And they certainly don't do it by moving in a pro-freedom direction.
Both Houston and Texas serve as excellent examples. Both are relatively pro-business and there is no state or city income tax. The economy of both the state and the city has fared well during the recession. To any honest observer, the economic success of the city and the state is a consequence of the greater freedom enjoyed. Yet, both continually act to restrict that freedom and enact more controls and regulations.
If it were true that the marketplace would motivate cities and states to adopt more pro-freedom policies, then why are two of the freest political entities in the nation moving in the opposite direction? Both Houston and Texas have been clearly winning the economic battle, yet they are abandoning the policies that made that victory possible. And why haven't "losing" states like Michigan and California abandoned their destructive policies?
My commenter argued that the "losers" are subsidized by the federal government, and thus have no motivation to change their ways. But this flies in the face of his own argument. The citizens of Michigan and California are burdened with outrageous taxation, decreasing services, and stagnant economies. Even if the federal government is subsidizing some of this outrage, it is not, and cannot, alleviate all of the self-imposed misery. The fact is, the citizens of those states wanted all of the entitlements, controls on business, and other "perks" of big government.
Further, if competition between states will lead to greater freedom, then why has every state enacted more controls and regulations? The states have been competing since their inception, and yet that hasn't stopped them from becoming increasingly tyrannical.
Further still, the practical benefits of freedom are abundantly clear, yet most of the world has moved away from freedom. Why? And why should we believe that the demonstration of a few states will be any more convincing that the demonstration of the United States during the 19th century? The fact is, it won't convince anyone, because practical arguments are seldom convincing. The reason is because the issue isn't practicality; the issue is morality.
In Friday's post I pointed out that Glenn Beck was supportive of the right of citizens of a state to vote themselves universal health care, or free cars, or anything else "the people" wanted. In principle, he isn't opposed to government force compelling some individuals to sacrifice for the alleged benefit of others.
Similarly, my commenter stated "that people in certain states have the right to tax themselves into oblivion if that's what they want." In principle, he isn't opposed to government force compelling some individuals to sacrifice for the alleged benefit of others.
Forcing some individuals to sacrifice for the alleged benefit of others is precisely what the federal government has been doing. Glenn Beck and advocates of nullification are not opposed to forced sacrifice, they just want the states dictating the nature of the sacrifice. They just want the citizens of a state to determine the victims and the victimizers, rather than the federal government.
Life does not require sacrifice--neither forced nor voluntary. Until that is understood, individual rights cannot be protected. Until the morality of rational egoism is embraced, the only debate will be the name of our masters.