Nullification and “A Few Good Men”

Nullification is based on the federal nature of our government, on the Supremacy Clause, and most strongly, on the compact nature of the Constitution. Americans are not taught their founding history and are certainly not taught the principles that underlie their government. They talk about “checks and balances” but only the simple ones – the president’s veto power and the federal courts. But the most important of checks and balances is indeed this notion of dual sovereignty and the willingness of states to stand up to unconstitutional conduct by the federal government.

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It Only Takes One and other Nullification Truths

constitutionA few weeks ago I left a note for nullification deniers regarding some of their more frequent errors. A quick perusal of Wikipedia clears most of these up, so there’s no excuse for always being so ignorant of the subject matter. Still, some opponents of nullification seem to know plenty of its history, and yet remain plagued with misunderstanding.

For those intellectually honest enough to address the popular origins of nullification in the United States – the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions – a common rebuttal is to reference those states which opposed the “Principles of ‘98.” This fact seems to be used in order to marginalize the use of nullification and offers a convenient means of confirmation bias for those addressing this point. However, this argument is fraught with a number of problems. It ignores certain relevant historical facts that help explain the motive behind rejecting nullification at the time, it establishes a faulty chain of reasoning, and begs an important ethical question related to politics.

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A Step in the Right Direction?

Sometimes, support for state action to block unconstitutional acts springs up in the most unlikely of places. Take this gem from a former Washington D.C. prosecutor who admits he “just about always sided with the United States in circumstances in which the states have tried to preempt the federal government.” Jeffery Shapiro agrees that states should not enforce any federal acts violating the Second Amendment.

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