There is an old saying in the world of computers – garbage in, garbage out.

Consider this simple equation.

(2+2)(7) +2 = 30.

Now imagine somebody comes along and asserts I have the answer wrong.

“The correct answer is 37,” my mathematical nemesis insists.

“How do you figure?”

“Well, it’s simple,” he replies. “Five times seven equals 35. Then you add two and come up with 37”

Of course, I quickly counter that to find the proper answer you must multiply four times seven. But he continues to assert that I am incorrect, insisting the answer comes out to 37, because to properly work the problem you first add two plus two, which equals five. Then you multiply five times seven to get 35 then add two to come up with the final sum of 37.

You see the problem here. Although he follows the proper mathematical steps to find the correct answer, he bases his math on a false premise – that 2+2= 5.  As long as my friend insists 2+2=5, he can never come up with the proper answer. His mathematical reasoning is sound, but only from the point of his fundamental error.

Garbage in, garbage out.

I see this same logical fallacy when I debate people on the legitimacy of nullification. Take this comment on an article on the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullifying the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

“The (U.S. Supreme) Court held that under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, federal law controls over state law, and the Constitution gives the Supreme Court final authority to make constitutional decisions. The Court held that the Framers never intended to allow each state to interpret the Constitution for itself. Rather, the Constitution set up the Supreme Court to ‘finally and conclusively’ interpret the Constitution. “

Notice the false premise upon which our commenter’s reasoning rests – the Supreme Court has the power to “finally and conclusively” determine the constitutionality of a federal act. Therefore, the states have no power to nullify.

And his basis for this assertion?

Why the Supreme Court says so!

Garbage in, garbage out.

In fact, nowhere does the Constitution declare the Supreme Court the sole and final arbiter of the constitutionality of an act. The Supreme Court came up with that notion itself.  By that reasoning, I can declare myself emperor, and so it shall be!

In fact, the whole idea fails the logic test. The Supreme Court has the final say because the Supreme Court says so? Really? That’s your compelling argument?

Thomas Jefferson blew this illogical notion out of the water in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.

The several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.

Madison expands on this in his Report of 1800.

The Constitution of the United States was formed by the sanction of the states, given by each in its sovereign capacity. It adds to the stability and dignity, as well as to the authority of the Constitution, that it rests on this legitimate and solid foundation. The states, then, being the parties to the constitutional compact, and in their sovereign capacity, it follows of necessity, that there can be no tribunal above their authority, to decide in the last resort, whether the compact made by them be violated; and, consequently, that, as the. parties to it, they must themselves decide, in the last resort, such questions as may be of sufficient magnitude to require their interposition.

In other words, if the people created the federal government through their states, and insisted that their state governments and the people themselves retained all powers not delegated, it makes no sense allow the federal government to determine the scope and extent of those powers. It’s like appointing my mom the final judge in a dispute between you and I. My mom is a sweet person. Pretty honest and forthright too.  But would you agree to that scenario?

I think not.

The commenter’s “logic” turns the servant into the master.

And yet this person, and others like him, will continue to call nullification invalid. They will continue to insist that the Supreme Court stands as the sole and final constitutional judge. And they will continue to cite the Supreme Court as the basis for their assertion.

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It all reminds me of the tactic often used by my mother when I questioned her authority as a teenager.

“Because I said so!”

Well, yeah, OK. That worked even when she wasn’t right, because mom had the power to ground me and take away my car keys.  But that fact didn’t make her reasoning sound. And saying the Supreme Court possesses all of the power because the Supreme Court says it possesses all of the power isn’t any more logical than my mom screaming, “Because I said so.”

The fact remains; 2+2 does not equal five, and if you continue to insist it does, you will never come up with the right answer.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Mike Maharrey

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