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.

Going beyond the drug war, he suggests that individuals and states should apply nullification to a host of evils perpetrated by the federal government, including massive spending, debt, and foreign intervention. A host of problems are created and exacerbated by the federal government, and nullification can serve as a useful tool in relieving them. Everything from interference with immigration and the misuse of National Guard troops, to issue related to environmental protection and the 2nd Amendment may be remedied through peaceful non-compliance.

Dr. Thornton summed up the heart of nullification when said that “we’re actually in charge. It’s not the power elite, it’s not the establishment; it’s not the bureaucracy that’s really in charge. […] We’re in charge.” Indeed, we – the individuals of the states – are the ones who ought to be in charge, and who should stand firm, unwilling to cow to those who would be Our Betters.

The entire lecture is worth listening to, as it’s filled with information about how interference with the market process alters the natural order resulting from voluntary trade. If you’re pressed for time however, begin at 51:00 for the section on nullification. Then be sure to come back when you have more time and listen to the whole talk.

Joel Poindexter
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