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Last year I started this humble blog with a short column on the unGodly ObamaCare decision from the Supreme Court, https://perrinlovett.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/the-shared-responsibility-tax-obamacare-a-hit-with-the-supremes-4/. ObamaCare is not about healthcare for anyone. It is merely an Insurance Company welfare scheme with taxes that no-one knew were taxes (not even Obama) and bankruptcy-inducing mandates.
At the end of that early missive I promised to cover possible solutions to the mounting problem of federal tyranny. Specifically, I named interposition, nullification, and secession as possibilities. Let’s talk about those now, briefly.
Well, first let’s see how the Republicans did with reversing the law as they boasted they would. I recall some GOPer saying they would overturn the nightmarish law before the Supremes even got to rule on it. Didn’t happen. After the ruling they said they would eliminate the massive tax act before their chosen man, Mittens Romney, the founder of the ObamaCare School of Medicine, won the election. None of that happened either. With the nation staring down the barrel of a potentially economy-wrecking gun, they said they would stop the law before it took effect on January 1st of this year. Having proven themselves to be lying, delusional idiots, we can write off the buffoons of the Elaphantitis party.
Back to my proposals – I’ll take them in the order I first set forth, as that seems to be the hierarchy from least to most extreme.
Interposition is a process whereby a State of the American Union declares an Act of Congress or some other federal action to be UnConstitutional and positions itself as a shield between the feds and the citizens of the State. Wikipedia says that the federal courts have held this an illegitimate theory and that only they have the power of Constitutional review – “Judicial Review.” See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interposition. Wiki doesn’t mention it by name, but the theory of Judicial Review originated, federally speaking, in the case of Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803). Maybe you’ve heard of this landmark case, students of “Constitutional Law” are taught to revere it. I was never impressed.
First, this was one of a shady series of early Supreme Court cases concerning personal profits unfit for court review at all. Second, if this case did deserve formal investigation and resolution, then such should have been undertaken by the political branches whom the matter concerned anyway. Third, and most importantly, judicial review by the federal courts is a legal fiction. Nowhere in the Constitution is the right granted the courts to rule so authoritatively on our laws. Had the Framers intended such power, they would have written it in; several State Constitutions do grant this power to State Courts (Georgia, for example).
I do not withhold the ability of any court to say a law is UnConstitutional. Courts should point such out when discovered. In fact, any branch may make that determination. President Bush, the Dimmer, said that the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance law was UnConstitutional, then signed it anyway. Before that, obviously, Congress had deliberated on the law and must have sensed its illegality. Bush remarked that the Supreme Court would have to make the ultimate determination. They did. Ironically, the Court essentially said (and rightly) the law concerned only the political branches and since both had approved the measure, they would too out of deference. I had an outrageously humorous “discussion” about this fiasco with a political celebrity in 2004; I’ll relate that in a future post. This was a case of government gone wild. Of the three branches, law-making is the art of Congress; correcting bad laws is also.
Anyone who can read and think can declare a law within or without the bounds of the Constitution. I do it all the time. However, my power of enforcement is rather weak to say the least. The theory of interposition, and that of nullification, comes from the ability of the States to so declare a law. Their power is greater than mine and their authority is a bit more grounded than that of the Courts. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” U.S. Const., Amendment 10. UnConstitutional laws are those based in authority which is not among those very few expressly Constitutionally delegated powers of the national government ,and thus, are within the purview of the States to affect. The Tenth Amendment’s reference to “the people” is as fuzzy a concept as anything else in man’s law. Ultimately, under our form of republican government, the people have the final say on authority as exercised by their voting. The people prove time and again to be useless guardians of their own liberties.
Interposition was made famous long ago by the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions (1798), which declared the States’ ability to invalidate federal law. The practice was used to various effect in the 1800’s. Times have changed dramatically (for the worse) since that Century, with the States giving away a great deal of their former power. There was also the matter of the war between the States which decided by force and murder, rather than by law, some of these issues.
Nullification is essentially Interposition but with an added declaration by a State or States they will not enforce a federal law or allow enforcement within their territory. This theory was set forth also by the afore-noted Resolutions. It has been erroneously dismissed by the courts. And, it would seem to reside in a previous time. The theory has raised its head recently though, as it does from time to time. A few States have begun to void federal laws in principle at least. Montana, for example, has decided that certain federal firearms laws do not apply within the Montana state lines. It remains to be seen whether Montana or other modern States will actually take any action necessary to give life to their declarations.
In the old days, States did just that. The 19th Century was repeat with State and local agents boldly denying the federal government on certain matters. When a federal agent or officer appeared to enforce a particular objectionable action, the locals would run the fellow out of town on a rail, literally sometimes. A great read on the subject is Thomas Woods’s Nullification (2010), http://www.amazon.com/Nullification-Resist-Federal-Tyranny-Century/dp/1596981490.
Again, with the demise of State power and authority in general (see the 16th and 17th Amendments, etc.) the plausibility of nullification seems a dim prospect.
Dimmer still, is the ultimate practice of State dissent. The original 13 colonies of England, once they had declared their independence from the King, became 13 independent nations. They joined together to fight the Revolutionary War and then entered into a Federation for mutual benefit. A federation is a group of sovereign entities which come together for some purpose; they remain sovereign. The Constitution changed none of this. No language therein makes the federal union permanent and eternally binding upon the member States.
Should a State find itself at unacceptable odds with the central government, it has the power to dissolve its connections and become a completely separate nation again. Several State assemblies expressly said so when they ratified the Constitution. This is in complete keeping with the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, just substitute U.S.A. for King George, III.
Again, and again and again, the States have not only given up power to Washington over the years, they have also become somewhat dependent on D.C. and tend to exhibit a slavish loyalty thereto. This all renders the prospect of a State succeeding in the 21st Century remote. There are secessionist movements in some States, like the Free Vermont Republic. The FVR even has its own flag, but little chance of success.
There is also the specter of Mr. Lincoln’s illegal war. The war decided nothing formally or legally. Wars are not rational undertaking, just pure contests of military power. Since 1865 the several States have all but abandoned their military power while Washington has assembled the most awesome and dreaded arsenal in the history of mankind. While secession remains a perfectly legal option, the odds of success do not favor the States.
Where We Are
In today’s political climate none of these three solutions are likely to receive formal discussion by the several States, let alone action. Deprived of legal and political solutions, what then are we to do?
Some people with means are beginning to leave the United States for smaller, freer countries. I do not begrudge them their decisions. However, I do not like the idea of being run out of my homeland and into a foreign country where, as history dictates, anything can and will happen. In a way, I would rather stay and face the devil I know here.
There is always the ability of the States or of Congress to call for a new Constitutional Amendment or even a Convention wherein objectionable laws might be remedied. Amendments are hard to pass these days. It’s hard to get Congress or the legislature of any State to act productively or intelligently. Honestly, the idea of a new Constitutional Convention scares me. While one could hypothetically end with great advances in Liberty, such as returning to the Articles of Confederation or just eliminating the national government completely, I fear, given the weakness of the people and their representatives, we could end up with something far worse. Imagine 1984, Farenheit 451, Nazi Germany and the old Soviet Union all rolled into one!
Every two years or so the citizens of the States have the opportunity to turn out at least a third of the federal government’s elected morons. The power to change the government lies with the people by their dismissing representatives who do not do their bidding. The people must not be aware of this authority or else, they must approve of their government as is. Options grow thin.
Time will eventually change everything. 5,000 years from now most people living won’t remember the United States. Given the self-destructive tendencies of our government, it is likely we need not wait that long. Either way, awaiting the inevitable collapse of leviathan, like expectations of the end of days, is tedious at best.
I’ll see if I can come up with something else more actionable. You work on it too.