So often, when some people think of Nullification, they think of a formal process involving a smaller government or individual taking action by producing documents, or sending requests, or petitioning to nullify the action of a larger government. I have to admit that much of the work I do with Florida Tenth Amendment Center follows that exact template. The “formal process” idea of nullification was certainly in view when Jefferson and Madison formulated the Principles of ’98 and encouraged states to block unconstitutional federal acts. So, that’s one way to nullify, to be sure.
However, Rosa Parks nullified laws without issuing a single formal document, and there are certainly many other examples of personal nullification, both informal and frequent. So, we see that nullification is hardly a formal process. It’s any act or set of acts the makes a law null, void or simply unenforceable.
We tend to think of nullification as simply stopping a government act, but would you believe that nullification can actually BOOST the economy?
In a recent TED video by writer Robert Neuwirth, he talks about the power of the “informal economy.” He also has some other terms for this “informal economy,” like “System D” and “DIY.” He’s talking about the economy of people unhindered by government edicts restricting human interaction. What I believe he means to communicate is how vast the power of the people’s economy can be when not regulated through codified governmental laws, licenses, patents and other government regulating processes. He’s not saying the laws don’t exist, but his experience is that individuals and businesses can’t succeed by knowledge of, or submission to, all of those regulations. So, they essentially nullify them through non-compliance.
When watching the video, you may think to yourself, “What horrible places to live,” or “what sad conditions to work in,” or maybe “I’d rather live by submitting to more government and avoid these conditions.” The reason you may think these things is because of “what is seen” in the images he shows. But French political philosopher Frederic Bastiat wrote a great book called What is Seen and What Is Not Seen (available free at www.bastiat.org) that can enlighten all of us as to what actually made these conditions so horrible. And what you don’t see is that the need for opposing and nullifying laws was vital because the government laws became suffocating to human existence in these communities, smothering the livelihoods of the people. Furthermore, “what is seen” is that those who nullify the unjust laws thrive in the midst of nauseating conditions created by government regulations…regulations that attempt to stop normal human interactions.
Does this really demonstrate that nullification is a natural way to quickly grow the economy? Of course it does!
During his globe-trotting journeys, Neuwirth notes how people in these “informal economies” didn’t notify government entities about the sale of products or services the people needed to survive. They just do what people do so well. These people create, share and exchange ideas, products, services and even hope. So, how does this measure-up with the formal economy? It’s estimated, according to Neuwirth, that the DIY economy responsibly creates roughly 2/3 of the jobs on the planet. Furthermore, multinational corporations sell dramatic volumes via the “informal economy,” probably for better margin then they sell to any single big-box stores. If the “informal economy” were a single customer, it would be the largest for companies like P&G, according to Neuwrith.
Nullification is Natural
When I look at these informal economies, it reminds me of ecosystems where life interacts and transacts through non-legislated mechanisms. Rain forests and deserts, oceans and lakes, all have their own interactions, their own currencies and their own transactions without license or patents to protect or inhibit the growth of life. Their only limitations are the nature of their species and geography where they engage. You would never see a spider forced to act like a whale through legislation, because it would be against its nature. What can be more natural than the full engagement of people with others who have needs and wants that can be met through valuable interactions? What can be more natural than human creativity, development, exchange, care, collaboration – all without hindrance? What can be more natural than learning through both failure and successes? Nullification allows for all of these things to avoid compliance with unjust laws that limit the full elucidation of capabilities, allowing for an economy that mimics nature.
Global or Local
So, we find that nullification is natural, and we find it’s the fastest-growing lever for an economy; but is it really a global phenomenon? Well, I guess because it happens on planet earth you could call it “global.” But it’s not centralized. For the purpose of helping each of us engage in nullification, let’s consider a more personal reality…every action of nullification is local, and very often, it’s personal.
The decision not to comply with unconstitutional regulations, get a shop license, or follow a patent of another country, is a personal decision, typically based on the things that individuals value most – life, liberty and owned property. Very often, in order to follow some kind of unjust or oppressive law, you have to give up one of these essential, life-giving and economically thriving rights.
Nullification is not some global phenomenon that happens all across the planet because some unified multinational government dictates that these are the ways to nullify, here are the processes of nullification and these are the steps that you must take to nullify. It just organically occurs when people engage in the life that they want, in the place that they live, for others that they care about and for the property they worked so hard to obtain.
What about you and I? Are we willing to do those things that will boost the global economy in our local communities, or in our own neighborhood, or even our own homes?
Nullification is not a temporary passing trend. It’s ongoing, natural, and it’s beneficial for you personally, for your local community and for your personal economies. And it’s not really global in a centralized sense, but it is happening locally, everywhere on planet earth.
Finally, personal and local nullification succeeds through voluntary collaboration, which boosts local synergy and local wealth. In The Marketplace of Revolution, T.H. Breen details how local community collaborations to oppose local enforcement of British laws and boycott British goods created a transition of power and wealth from England to the 13 colonies in less than 24 months. These actions took place just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Seems like the American Revolutionaries understood that the formal process of nullification with documents that we touched on earlier is the follow-up communication after unquantifiable personal and local nullification has already been happening. Breen estimates a 90 percent transfer of wealth from England to the colonies happened during those couple of years. Can you imagine if 90 percent of the wealth you send to the government, or companies that benefit from government bail-outs, government grants and government subsidies, or any other “public-private” partnerships that exists was returned to your personal economy? I know I like to imagine that!
I wonder what it will take for local nullification to happen where you live?
And when it does happen, I wonder how much it will boost the wealth and quality of life for all who participate together in nullification of unjust laws!
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