State governments, their governors and legislatures have the ability and even the duty to win back the freedoms of their citizens who are oppressed by an overreaching federal government. The prescription for reform is spelled out in Thomas Woods’ book, “Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century.”
Woods spoke last week in Boise, and I think he’s a rare talent. His book should be considered the handbook for the 2011 Idaho Legislature. Woods’ message is so important that I’ll give a free copy to any legislator who wants it and will dedicate the time to read it. Woods makes a compelling and historically-accurate case for legislatures to nullify laws that defy the U.S. Constitution’s limited powers.
To understand this, as Woods points out, there is a forgotten history regarding nullification. In short, the Founding Fathers recognized the U.S. Constitution as a compact between multiple states. To win their support for the Constitution, states were assured that the federal government had certain limited powers, and those powers not expressly delegated to the federal government belonged to the states.
In 1798, Congress passed a clearly unconstitutional law to imprison and fine people who “write, print, utter or publish” statements and criticisms against the Congress or the president. Under the law, many were jailed, including a sitting U.S. congressman from Vermont who wrote a letter critical of President John Adams.
Thomas Jefferson and others of his era understood that the federal courts would not be a neutral broker of federal power, and therefore, the only way to curtail a Congress that would so flagrantly ignore the Constitution, was to have the states nullify those laws that are unconstitutional. Jefferson and James Madison drafted resolutions for the states of Virginia and Kentucky declaring the federal government’s actions illegal, void and of no force of law. Those resolutions passed, and were the first of many attempts by states to correct federal misdeeds. Because Americans have been exposed to what Woods calls “a comic book version” of history, many wrongly believe that nullification is a tool for cave dwellers who support such offenses as slavery. Woods goes to some lengths in his book to explain why that is a gross misinterpretation of history.
All of this brings us to Idaho in the 21st century. In at least two areas -- but certainly more exist -- state lawmakers have a duty to protect Idahoans from the unconstitutional acts of the national government. Having already taken legal action to block ObamaCare, lawmakers must now nullify it. The federal government has no jurisdiction dictating the terms and conditions under which people buy health insurance. The law is unconstitutional. Additionally, the federal government has no business imposing its edicts on the state government for the management of wolves. The state should intercede and stop the federal government from insisting on the protection of a species that is destroying Idaho wildlife, private property and livestock.
Lawmakers, having taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, can now put their pledge into action starting with the 2011 legislative session, by rejecting those laws that are an anathema to freedom and to the basic tenants of a limited federal government.