There’s been a lot of debate about nullification lately, so I just thought I’d blog briefly on the topic. Let’s put aside the ideology for a moment and just look at this from the perspective of history. Luo Guanzhong, Chinese author of Romance of the Three Kingdoms wrote “The world under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide. This has been so since antiquity.” Even the Biblical story of Genesis 11 which details an ancient world where all humanity is gathered in one place ends with God pronouncing judgment that men should be scattered across the planet and prohibited from creating a single, unified government. “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this,” God says in Genesis 11:6, “then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
The danger of monolithic governments as history shows is that, in fact, they do tend to do whatever they like. Nothing is impossible or impermissible when power becomes centralized and concentrated. Whenever absolute state power – that is, monopoly of force – is invested in the hands of a few, those subject to that power usually tend to become expendable assets for political visions of grandeur.
Power, however, can never be concentrated long as a shared perception of justice is necessary for order. Once that perception is lost, coalition building to shatter the monolith begins. As Henry Kissinger writes in Diplomacy, “If the good of the state was the highest value, the duty of the ruler was the aggrandizement and promotion of his glory. The stronger would seek to dominate, and the weaker would resist by forming coalitions to augment their individual strengths. If the coalition was powerful enough to check the aggressor, a balance of power emerged; if not, some country would achieve hegemony.”
It is no accident then that American politics has seen a rise of so-called “special interests” jockeying for power. Because the federal government has grown so immense over the years, collectively people understand that the only way to get things done is to organize to leverage federal political power according to their interests. These factional interests however are obviously not beneficial to all, so counter-coalitions arise to check the existing coalitions. State and municipal governments have been exercising their own “checks” on federal regulations over the last four years because their own local desire for political hegemony is now threatened. The wave of nullification bills in state legislatures and city councils is really not a “conservative” or “liberal” or even libertarian movement as much as it is an inevitable outcome of government that has become too big for the nation as a whole to bear.
The world saw this pattern not long ago in the breakup of the USSR as Soviet republics, no longer sustainable within the communist system, broke off and even splintered from the splinter republics in what political scientists now call “Balkanization.” Like it or not, history has shown the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence to be an established pattern rather than a quaint suggestion that in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.
People can call nullification whatever they like – liberalism, neo-confederalism, take your pick – but the fact of the matter is that if you build a government too big it will result in fracturing at the end.
Nullification is the predictable response to a system that no longer benefits the majority of its members. So if the objective of conservatives is to “save America” they should remember MEP Nigel Farage’s Star Wars tribute from one of my interviews that the more an empire tightens its grip, the more worlds will slip through its fingers.