Being politically correct means never having to address an argument — at least when it comes to nullification.
By Thomas E. Woods Jr.
I wrote this article the other day in response to a zombie attack from Media Matters, the left-wing commissar-enforcer hypochondria site that just received a $1 million donation from George Soros.
The zombie reference is to this video I made in anticipation of how the enforcers of approved opinion would respond to my book Nullification, which makes a rigorous case for Thomas Jefferson’s argument that since the federal government will never limit itself, the states must do the limiting by refusing to allow the enforcement of unconstitutional federal laws within their borders.
The arguments against this idea are as predictable as they are unfounded. I take them down one by one in my book and have addressed some of them online, so I won’t detain you with them here.
My response from the other day applies equally to another commissar, Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress, who likes to quote 15-year-old statements against me that obviously have nothing to do with my work or what I believe. Fifteen years ago I was still by and large pro-war, pro-drug war, and much else. Millhiser describes me as – get this – a “pro-Confederate activist.” I must be the world’s laziest such activist. I am not “pro” any government at all. That probably makes me more radical than the guy thinks I am.
Millhiser likewise calls me a “would-be Jefferson Davis,” apparently unaware that Davis denounced nullification in his farewell address to the Senate. (Evidently the Woods denunciation assignments are being given to the interns.)
If what I’m saying is so obviously stupid and easily refuted, you’d think they’d just go ahead and refute it, instead of digging up old stuff they obviously know – if they have any journalistic competence at all – has nothing to do with my political philosophy. All we get is a throwaway line about nullification being an “unconstitutional theory.” Perhaps Millhiser will forgive us for wanting more by way of proof than his ex cathedra pronouncements.
But poor Millhiser is a law school graduate, which means he knows none of the relevant history. As a J.D. Ph.D. once told me, one should never confuse legal training with an education.
Millie, babe, when California decriminalizes marijuana, are you going to cheer when the feds throw these kids into government cages? What other position can a nationalist take? So this guy’s the narc, but I’m the bad guy.
But since Millhiser used only one zombie word – “Confederate” – we give him higher marks than Alan Pyke of Media Matters, who used both “slavery” and “Confederate.” Pyke says nullification is “the legal doctrine used by slave states to defend the practice [i.e., slavery]”! When I called him on this, he sheepishly replied that the nullification crisis of 1832–33, while ostensibly about tariffs, was really about slavery. (Of course, everything southerners ever said or did must have been “really” about slavery – that’s part of our unbiased historical hermeneutic.) The trouble is, every northern and southern protectionist and free trader at the time was talking about tariffs and their economic effects. No one said a word about slavery.
But the southern states might someday have used nullification to defend slavery, Pyke seems to say. Well, Iraq might someday have developed the galaxy-destroying MegaSuperBomb, too.
Now remember that nullification was used against the fugitive-slave laws, particularly in Wisconsin. So nullification was actually used in practice against slavery, but was at most a tool the South might have used at some unspecified point in the future to protect slavery. Pyke thinks these two facts sum up to: nullification is the legal doctrine the southern states used to defend slavery. (Memo to George Soros: this year’s batch of interns was pretty weak.)
All I can say, folks, is stock up on zombie repellent. They’re everywhere.
And join me in a few weeks for the four-week online course on nullification I’m offering via the Mises Academy. We’ll scour the primary sources and review the major debates – e.g., Webster-Hayne, Jackson-Tazewell, and Story-Upshur – on nullification and the nature of the Union. Der Kommissar has not read any of these sources. You will. You will know the arguments of both sides inside and out.
The last thing in the world the enforcers want is a growing number of well-educated people who can make them into objects of ridicule. If there’s one thing they hate, it’s being the butt of laughter. Don’t we ingrates know that we are to respond to their solemn denunciations with groveling and apologies? (Forgive me, O Commissar, for uttering a thought that departs from the Harry Reid-Mitt Romney spectrum!) They certainly don’t like being portrayed as zombies, or shown to have made elementary and embarrassing historical mistakes.
That’s why I’m having so much fun doing it.
Thomas E. Woods Jr. is the author of ten books, including the just released Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century. This essay originally appeared at LewRockwell.com. Copyright © 2010 by LewRockwell.com.