I don’t have time to write a full post about this, but if you check out my twitter feed today you’ll see that I’ve been engaged in a heated debate about the instrument of nullification.
I’m a supporter of individual rights and of federalism – meaning the compact view of the Constitution: that the several sovereign states formed the federal government and the Constitution is their contract delegating specific powers to the said national government. This means that whenever the federal government does something, like passing a law taking over healthcare, outside of the tight boundaries placed on it by the Constitution, the states are the ultimate authority and each individual state can choose to nullify the unconstitutional act. I’m not going to go over all of my reasoning for this, but if you are interested, check out Tom Woods’ book on the subject and this article answering objections to it.
Anyhow, due to our woefully horrible education system in this country, many people have the following bass-ackwards version of the history of nullification:
The theory of nullification was first invented in the 1800s’ by advocates of slavery. They used nullification of tarrifs as a test run in the 1820s. Of course, what they really had in mind was maintaining the institution of slavery against any possible attempt by the federal government to abolish it. Then America fought the Civil War in order to end slavery, but the ideas of states’ rights and nullification were later revived in the 1950s’ by belligerent white southerners in an attempt to block the racial integration of schools. The Civil Rights Movement started and the feds had to step in and force the southern states to treat everyone equally. THE END.
This is of course, nonsense. The real history of nullification is one of success, from fighting high taxes peacefully, to freeing slaves, to resisting a national ID, and legalizing marijuana. That doesn’t stop people, especially Southern people, from reacting to nullification with calls to civil war and federal supremacy, as shown on Twitter:
— Rusty Shackleford (@AsmodeusX13) February 12, 2013
And then the Civil War happened. RT @itismyblog No state would have ever ratified that. The Federalist and anti-Federalist papers prove this
— Todd Kincannon (@ToddKincannon) February 12, 2013
— Jacob Perry (@jacobperry) February 12, 2013
Now, the fact is, the Civil War (sic) started because the Southern states seceded and the Federal Government decided that the union was involuntary, and started a war to force the South back into the fold. The war was in no way a response by the Federal Government to any sort of nullification in the South. In fact, the only nullification that was going on at the time was Northern states like Wisconsin refusing to comply with the Fugitive Slave Act.
So, why is it that supposedly educated people respond with these horribly wrong-headed notions of civil war? The only thing I can come up with is Stockholm Syndrome:
Stockholm syndrome, or capture–bonding, is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.
Does that description match the reaction of the anti-nullification crowd? Perfectly, if you ask me. Especially from today’s sampling on Twitter.