Nullification: The Natural Way to Grow the Economy

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.


‘We’re Actually in Charge’

This past month I had the great privilege of attending the Ludwig von Mises Institute‘s summer program, Mises University. The week-long seminar in Austrian economics featured some of the best minds in free market academia and the most dedicated proponents of individual liberty. Among the lectures was “The Economics of the Drug War,” taught by Mark Thornton.

Primarily a course on the economics of prohibition, he spent some time on the recent efforts of state nullification via medical marijuana, and on the recreational use of pot in Colorado and Washington last year. Dr. Thornton explains not only the method by which state legislatures refuse to comply with unconstitutional and inhuman federal meddling, but he also covers the ways an individual can exercise restraint on federal overreach through jury nullification.


Must Read: Hayek’s Why the Worst Get on Top

Cross-posted from the Pennsylvania Tenth Amendment Center.

If you can only ever read one thing by Hayek, may I suggest: “Why the Worst Get on Top“, chapter 10 from “The Road To Serfdom“?  I can’t say it better than he did, so I’ll just give you some highlights to whet your appetite.

“…We must here return for a moment to the position which precedes the suppression of democratic processes and the creation of a totalitarian regime.  In this stage it is the general demand for quick and determined central government action that is the dominating element in the situation, dissatisfaction with the slow and cumbersome course of democratic processes which make action for action’s sake the goal….

… If the ‘community’ or the state are prior to the individual, if they have ends of their own independent of and superior to those of the individuals, only those individuals who work for the same ends can be regarded as members of the community. …


Feds and the States Tag-Teaming on Corporate Welfare

In a recent op-ed for the Indianapolis Star I discussed the symbiotic relationship between federal and state government when it comes to doling out corporate welfare subsidies. The focus was primarily on Indiana, but the issue is a national concern.

A good example is the $2 billion Shepherd’s Flat wind farm in Oregon that was largely financed with federal and state taxpayer support. Ted Sickinger, a reporter for theOregonian, has done an excellent job of digging into details behind the project (see here thenhere then here) and it appears that Shepherd’s Flat was one big taxpayer handout. In fact, the Obama administration signed off on the federal government’s share of the subsidies even though it knew the project didn’t need any support from taxpayers: 


A Tenther’s Guide to the Fiscal Cliff

Watching Republicans and Democrats squabble over the so-called fiscal cliff is like watching a duo of burglars arguing over who keeps your flat screen television. No matter which party prevails, you lose.

Tenthers, as a class, tend to be more pre-occupied with the liberty cliff, whose precipitous incline we fell off long ago. The other various cliffs – fiscal, debt, tax policy, entitlements – are really just the jagged rocks we’ve met on the way down. Which is why Tenthers tend not to wade into the whole fiscal cliff debate. If your causes are liberty, constitutional rule of law and sound currency, then it seems downright silly to sweat the details of how much the federal government should raise the debt ceiling to pay for foreign wars, Obamaphones and highways named after U.S. Senators.

Consider the numbers. The federal government now spends $3,800,000,000,000.00 per year. Various taxes supply about $2,900,000,000,000.00 of that amount. The free ride component – the annual deficit – has now accrued to a staggering $16,000,000,000,000.00 in national debt.

Faced with these appalling details, the Democrats (and Paul Krugman) respond with calls to tax and spend more. Republicans, the supposedly more fiscally continent of the two parties, grumble on about tax increases and then invariably capitulate to more borrowing and spending. And with the deck chairs on the Titanic nicely rearranged, the American people are once again free. By “free” I mean free to watch Dancing with the Stars and Real Housewives of Cleveland while an omnipotent federal government further enslaves us into a highly regulated, pathetically dependent blob of couch potatoes.

So what would a Tenther do? I’m glad you asked!  Here’s 4 steps a Tenther would take:


No Budget, No Freedom

There are rallying cries from the American revolutionary period which are still axiomatic in American Society. One was apparently coined by Jonathan Mayhew in a 1750 sermon, “Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-resistance to the Higher Powers“. It is, “No taxation without representation.” Similarly, James Otis is often credited with the phrase, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” It is claimed that Otis used this phrase in his legal argument against the Writs of Assistance.

These phrases are unquestionably correct in a free society, but what is it that makes them true? What are the characteristics of taxation without representation that make it tyrannical — and how do these principles apply to today’s American society?


New England Nullification Tradition Marches On

Though many living in New England today might be loathe to admit it, there is a long history of nullification being used in the region to defy unconstitutional federal edicts. This week, the town of Sedgwick, Maine voted to carry on that proud tradition by nullifying certain federal agricultural regulations.

They did so through what might be the most legitimate form of democratic expression left in America: the New England town meeting. (Which have been held in the Sedgwick town hall since 1794.)

According to one report, the residents of Sedgwick voted to enact a law that not only permits

“Sedgwick citizens…to produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing,”

but declares that


Why Tenthers are Projected as Extreme and What We can do about It

If our Movement revels in its maverick persona, then, we will remain divisive.  In sports, divisive is fun.   In politics, divisive is fun, but if we are sincere in our desire to win over the population, then, we need to take the sport out of it.

There are certain pitches in our message which water down our cause.  In fact, we know this to be true because we admit our cause is all but lost.   We cannot convince enough people to respect our cause, and so we have concluded that nullification is the appropriate strategy.   Perhaps it is, but we should still continue to bring about a mainstream movement, rather than a marginalized, disobedient one.

Why are we marginalized?   It is fairly easy to see why.  Despite the many reasons to complain about the state of our nation, most of us would have to admit that life here is far more preferable than most any other nation in the world.   We are so lucky to be here, and we should not take our system entirely for granted.  Most moderates and independents would probably tend to agree with this.


Obama and Infrastructure

The President is continuing his push for the federal government to go deeper into debt in order to fund infrastructure projects. While nobody disputes that the country has infrastructure needs, the precarious nature of federal and state finances indicate that policymakers need to starting thinking outside the box. Specifically, policymakers should be looking to make it easier for the private sector to fund and operate infrastructure projects.

As my colleagues Chris Edwards and Peter Van Doren have explained, the main problem with government infrastructure spending is the lack of efficiency:


Worried About Anarcho-Capitalism

Famed liberal journo Joe Conason is worried about the increasing influence of Rothbardian “anarcho-capitalism” and the related “Austrian school of economics.” As well he should be. It is these radical ideas–undistorted by the journos–that enthrall the young, and indeed any thinking person. We all know there is something desperately wrong–morally and economically–with the US empire and its police state, welfare state, and banksterism. We are, after all, living in yet another Federal Reserve depression. The average family’s income has not increased in real terms since the 1970s, the first decade of full Fed power. The state and its related corporations are enriching themselves by making us poorer.

“The Austrian craze is particularly curious because it has displaced a school of economics that ought to be more appealing to the proud and patriotic, especially those who claim to be true to the views of the nation’s founders. That would be the school known as ‘the American system’…[a]s articulated by thinkers from Alexander Hamilton to Henry Clay to Abraham Lincoln….” Very funny. Why can’t you people just be government-loving, trade-warring, state-building mercantilists? Then journos could praise you.