Nullification: It’s Not Just for the States Anymore

…in fact, it never really was.

One of the most common objections I hear in any discussion about States’ rights, Nullification and Interposition is, “Well, what about Jim Crow and segregation?”  (p.s. Jim Crow laws existed in Union states such as California and North Dakota, so it’s not just the South) For a while, my most common reply was, “OK, so you’re going to shoot down the entire concept of Nullification, which resisted the Alien Sedition ActsFugitive Slave Lawsoverreaching federal drug lawsa Big Brother national ID card, etc. over one abuse of it?” To be honest, in my personal opinion, there has been a second, that of sanctuary states and cities in violation of federal immigration law, but that is again my personal opinion.  It is interesting, however that many big government types in DC in both parties who would bring up Jim Crow actually like those sanctuary states and cities.  In addition, there is a recent potential third, as North Carolina Governor Beverly Purdue (I could make a series of jokes about her being “chicken,” but I’ll save that for friendly gatherings) proposed suspending Congressional elections in 2012 to “focus on the economy.”

However, one should look at Jim Crow and segregation as a legitimate concern when discussing Nullification. After all, the federal government Constitutionally banned slavery after the Civil War, which was one good thing to come out of an awful war (again, in my opinion, the only good thing, which could have come about in more peaceful ways). The Reconstruction begun under Lincoln and Johnson took a more vengeful turn during the Radical Reconstruction. Congress refused to seat elected representation from the South. When southern states passed black codes attempting to deny blacks voting rights, and in some cases reimpose a de facto slavery, the federal government intervened, eventually dividing up the South into military occupied zones. It was an ugly mess, and from freedom’s point of view, nobody was right.


Inequality: It’s a Good Thing

Equality is the highest value of the American political Left. So the Left is always on the lookout for any trace of inequality. And of course they find it — everywhere. That’s because equality doesn’t exist in this world, except when we get down on the micro level. On the micro level of quarks, electrons, photons, and such, equality reigns supreme. Indeed, if any subatomic particle were suddenly to become unequal, the world would end. But on the macro level, the world we live in, inequality is inescapable.

We do find exquisite equality, however, in the realm of abstractions. In mathematics we have equations: Two plus two equals four. (That’s how I’m betting, anyway.) And in political philosophy we have “All men are created equal.” Immortal words, but we know they aren’t true. Even identical twins aren’t really equal, despite having the same DNA. What Jefferson was getting at is that government should treat everyone equally, not favor a few. There are only two uses of “equal” in Jefferson’s magnificent Declaration, in the first paragraph and in the first sentence of the second paragraph.

In the original Constitution, there are exactly six iterations of the word “equal” and its variations. There are two iterations in Article I, three iterations in Article II, and a single iteration in Article V. In all these instances, the Framers use the word “equal” to refer to number. In the first ten amendments to the Constitution, The Bill of Rights, there is no instance of “equal.” In all the rest of the Constitution, Amendments 11 through 27, there are only two iterations of “equal.” One is in the 23rd Amendment, and it, too, has to do with number.

The remaining iteration of the word “equal” is found in the 14th Amendment, Section 1. I’ve saved it for last because unlike all the other iterations it doesn’t concern number. It’s called the Equal Protection Clause: “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”


Comparison: Postal Service and Federal Government

The Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation’s Michael Schuyler has written an interesting paper that compares the federal government’s bleak financial situation to that of the U.S. Postal Service. The entire paper is a good read, but here are a few key points: Congress is helping to run the USPS into the ground (see here for example).…