During a recent radio appearance, a caller challenged my assertion that state legislatures should nullify the federal health care act, along with a slew of other unconstitutional measures.

His reasoning?

The federal government might be mean to us.

He came up with a litany of actions the feds might take. They could yank all of the state’s funding. That would mean no more roads or schools! They could stop paying benefits to people living in the state and create a rebellion of dependent people. They could virtually quarantine and isolate the state until it complies. Heck, they could even roll tanks into the streets!

OK, he didn’t include the tanks, but I honestly think that was in the back of his mind. The caller was clearly in awe and scared to death of the federal government. He wasn’t about to risk its wrath for something as trivial as stopping them from cramming a one-size-fits-all health care system down 300 million American throats.

At the time, I tried to convince the caller that the feds wouldn’t dare retaliate in that manner. It would prove politically suicidal.  I argued the feds would likely back down, especially if a bunch of states nullified. That was, after all, Madison’s viewpoint.

Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States, which would seldom fail to be the case, or even a warrantable measure be so, which may sometimes be the case, the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union, the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State; the embarrassment created by legislative devices, which would often be added on such occasions, would oppose, in any State, very serious impediments; and were the sentiments of several adjoining States happen to be in Union, would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter.

But when I thought about it later, I had to concede the caller had a point. The feds might well retaliate. They could certainly yank funding. They could conceivably tell the “rebellious” states they weren’t providing any more federal assistance. Heck, if things got really crazy, the feds could even roll in federal agents, arrest state legislators and declare martial law.

Would they?

Probably not.

Could they?


On paper, the federal government could crush any state, or even a number of states united in opposition. It is big, powerful and overbearing.

So was England in 1776.

In fact, England arguably stood as the most powerful nation on the planet at the time. It was said “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” Her navy ruled the seas. Her army could turn vast fields into a sea of red. She wielded enormous economic power. And she held the colonies tightly under her thumb.

But that didn’t stop the Americans from looking the British square in the eye and declaring, “We will live as free and independent people!”

The colonists valued liberty more than security, especially a false security under a despotic and tyrannical ruler who refused to respect any limits on his own power. I’m certain more than one hand trembled as it gripped a quill pen and inked a name on the Declaration of Independence. Those men must have felt the icy fingers of fear as they boldly pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

And this guy is afraid the feds might yank some funding.


At some point, you must face down a bully. You can only let him take your lunch money for so long. If you continue to allow him to dominate you, he will take more and more and more. At some point, you’ve got to punch him in the nose.

Yeah, he might punch you back.

You know what? Then it’s on.

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The U.S. federal government thinks its power unlimited. The feds believe they can control any and every aspect of your life. If they can’t directly control it, they will tax you into submission. The general government has no respect for its constitutional boundaries and mocks the states that created it – the states it was meant to serve, not lord over. The Supreme Court decision legitimizing the insurance mandate… I mean penalty – err, tax – should prove to everybody once and for all that the feds will never limit the power of the feds. Washington D.C. won’t fix the problem that is Washington D.C.

The states must stand up and do their duty. They must interpose to halt the progress of evil. Nullification IS the rightful remedy. Not a rebellion, but a legitimate check on federal power.

We simply cannot live in fear. If we do, we will live in chains.

On Aug. 1, 1776, Samuel Adams delivered a speech at the State House in Philadelphia. He offered a message for those who would shrink in fear.

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

Mike Maharrey

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