by Michael Boldin

NOTE: I was recently invited to submit a column to Bob Livingston’s long-running newsletter, the Personal Liberty Digestâ„¢, and was more than happy to have a chance to share some Tenth Amendment Center views with his large readership. The article below ran in the newsletter on Friday, 07-15-11 – here.


We don’t need no stinkin’ permission to exercise our rights. We need to exercise our rights whether the government wants us to or not.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my views with readers of the Personal Liberty Digest™, and am looking forward to doing so as often as possible. So I figured we should start out with a quick introduction.

I’m a proud Tenther.

Rachel Maddow and her ilk would have you believe that this is dangerous. But, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. To me, being aTenther means I believe the Federal government is authorized to exercise only those powers that we the people delegated to it in the constitution — and nothing more.

Unfortunately, though, for a long time, things have been completely opposite. It’s gotten so bad in recent decades that I believe there’s very little the Federal government does that actually is authorized by the Constitution.

What Do We Do About It?

Do we march on D.C. and demand that the Federal politicians limit their own power?

Do we sue them in court in the hopes that the Federal judges will limit Federal power?

Do we “vote the bums out” and hope that the new bums will reject all that power left to them on a silver platter?

Power, And Some Warnings

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both warned us that if the Federal government ever became the sole and exclusive arbiter of the extent of its own powers, that power would grow endlessly, regardless of elections, separation of powers, courts or other vaunted parts of our system.

Surprise, surprise. They were right. For more than a century, we the people have been suing, marching, lobbying and voting bums out. Yet year in and year out, government continues to grow, and your liberty continues to diminish. And it doesn’t matter what political party is in power, the Federal beast keeps growing.

Power. The problem we face today is about power. And until we address the absolute fact that the Federal government has too much power, things will never change. Then, we’ll need to take the next step and acknowledge that going to the Federal government to fix problems created by the Federal government is not just absurd, but it never works.

John Adams also gave us a warning that “liberty once lost, is lost forever.” He wasn’t necessarily saying that there’s no hope whatsoever in a situation like ours. Instead, it was an important lesson on what we must face going forward. Whenever government tells us it needs more power to deal with an “emergency” — and it always seems to have them for both foreign and domestic issues — that same government will never voluntarily give that power back to the people. It will never just decide that the newfound power is something it doesn’t want. The result? Adams was trying to tell us that liberty is never regained without a long, difficult struggle by the people.

What Would Jefferson Do?

How do we fix this mess? Well, Thomas Jefferson was a pretty smart dude. In 1798, he gave a little advice on what to do when government won’t follow the limits given to it. In response to Federal violations of the 1st amendment that year he wrote that “whensoever” the Federal government exercises “undelegated powers… a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.”

Reading this, you’ll notice that Jefferson didn’t say that a nullification of the act is a pretty decent remedy. He didn’t say that nullification is just a rightful remedy, or even a good idea to try after voting bums out or going to court. He told us that any time (whensoever) the Federal government exercises powers it isn’t supposed to exercise (undelegated powers), a nullification is the rightful remedy (our proper course of action right now).

What does that mean? Well, we’re not supposed to wait for the Federal government to correct itself. We’re not supposed to wait two or four or six years for some new bums to fix things for us. We’re not supposed to wait years for the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court to give us permission to be free. We’re supposed to exercise our rights whether the government wants us to our not.


Around the country, there’s a lot of talk about nullification; but what is it, really? I can think of no better way to define it than how Tenth Amendment Center research analyst Derek Sheriff has done — by describing what it is not:

Nullification is not secession or insurrection, but neither is it unconditional or unlimited submission. Nullification is not something that requires any decision, statement or action from any branch of the federal government. Nullification is not the result of obtaining a favorable court ruling. Nullification is not the petitioning of the federal government to start doing or to stop doing anything. Nullification doesn’t depend on any federal law being repealed. Nullification does not require permission from any person or institution outside of one’s own state.

Nullification is something that’s already happening around the country – and Derek explains the process:

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.

At its very core, nullification is any action or set of actions on a State level which results in some Federal law being rendered, in practice, null and void or unenforceable.


I recently went to an event in my hometown of Los Angeles called HempCon. This was a huge production at the massive convention center in downtown LA. There were loads of vendors and businesses from every angle you can think of in support of the marijuana industry.

There were home security companies to help protect your weed. Solar power companies offered to help you grow your weed. Doctors were giving out medical marijuana cards to virtually anyone with $80 and an hour of time. There were even delivery services. Seriously. You can get your marijuana delivered to you in Los Angeles 24 hours a day… in 30 minutes or less. The pizza companies have nothing on these guys! It was amazing if you think about it from an economic standpoint. This was the market — working its wonders.

What’s the point?

Virtually every single one of those businesses was either directly violating Federal law or aiding someone else in doing so, because marijuana is illegal, according to the Feds — but not the Constitution — in all situations. And guess what: No thugs from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Administration shut the place down. Business functioned, and people did what they wanted to in freedom. That’s the way things are supposed to be.

But it’s not just Congress and some unConstitutional agencies that claim these people are breaking the law. The Supreme Court is on their side, too. In the 2005 Gonzales v. Raichcase, the Court ruled that a California cancer patient who grew six plants in her back yard, consumed them at home and never bought or sold them was somehow under purview of the “interstate commerce” clause of the Constitution — and subject to Federal, not State, jurisdiction. Basically, the justices said: “We don’t care what your State law says; we’re in charge.”

At that time of that ruling, there were 10 states that had such medical marijuana laws. After the Supremes told us they were, in essence, illegal, how many were repealed? Zero! And today, there are even more States joining in. There are now 15 States defying Washington on marijuana, and they are getting away with it.

The Blueprint

What we have here, then, is a blueprint. When enough people say no to unConstitutional “laws,” regulations and mandates… and enough States pass laws to back up those people, there’s not much the Federal government can do, but slowly and consistently back off. There are no tanks rolling into Los Angeles to shut down the dispensaries. This is far from perfect, but it can work, and it is working right now.

Transportation Security Administration, or gun rights or health freedom — or even rejecting the unConstitutional Department of Education — the solution to our problems does not lie with the Federal government. It lies in your States, and with you.

The Big Question

So here’s the final question — and my big challenge to you today. When it happens someday (and it will) that the Federal government tells you that you have to purchase a healthcare plan and you start thinking about penalties for violating that “law,” ask yourself this: Do you have as much courage as the pot smokers?

I sure hope you do. Because we the people need to exercise our rights whether the government gives us “permission” to or not!

Michael Boldin

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