Home » Politics » Nullification Goes Mainstream; States Defy Washington on Drugs and Health Care

Nullification Goes Mainstream; States Defy Washington on Drugs and Health Care

by John Rubino on November 9, 2012 · 25 comments

As the federal government gradually assimilates the rest of the country, a few states have begun to fight back. From the Kansas City Star:

No state-run health insurance exchanges in Missouri or Kansas

Missouri will be unable to implement a key provision of federal health care law, Gov.Jay Nixon announced Thursday.

Meantime, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownbacksays he won’t support an application from Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger to establish a state-federal health insurance marketplace.

That means it will be up to the federal government to establish health insurance exchanges in Missouri and Kansas. The exchanges are designed to be online marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can compare and buy private insurance plans.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the states face a Nov. 16 deadline to notify the federal government if they want to run their own insurance exchange. They must be open for business by 2014. When states do not open their own, the federal government will step in and set up an exchange.

“Obamacare,” Brownback said in a news release, “is an overreach by Washington and (Kansans) have rejected the state’s participation. … We will not benefit from it and implementing it could cost Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars.”

This kind of rebellion has deep historical roots. From the American Thinker blog:

The Nullification Movement

One thing overlooked in the uproar surrounding the election is the nullification of federal narcotics law in Washington state and Colorado. If these laws are allowed to stand without challenge from Eric Holder’s Justice Department, then the green light is on for nullifying any federal law — including ObamaCare.

Nullification is based upon the principle that is best described in the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence:

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

This simple statement asserts that no government may impose its will upon the people without their consent and that if the people make it known that they do not consent then the imposition is nullified. The very first time that a nullification resolution was passed in our history was the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 to nullify the Alien and Sedition acts. The author of this resolution was Thomas Jefferson, who had to write the resolution in secret because if it were known that he was opposed to these acts, he would have been imprisoned, even though he was vice president at the time.

Jefferson had help from another of the founding fathers, James Madison. Madison wrote the Virginia Resolution, which nullified the Alien and Seditions Acts in Virginia. These nullification resolutions were never tested in court since in the next presidential election Jefferson became president, repealed the laws and pardoned all those who had been imprisoned under the Alien and Seditions acts. The idea of nullification became popular again in the decade leading up to the War Between the States as many northern states nullified fugitive slave laws.

Now two western states are using the principle of nullification against federal narcotics laws to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Both Colorado and Washington had legalization measures on the ballot, and the measures passed. But Kevin Sabet, the former Obama administration’s drug czar, stated:

“This is a symbolic victory for advocates, but it will be short-lived. They are facing an uphill battle with implementing this, in the face of presidential opposition and in the face of federal enforcement opposition.”

But as of yet, agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency have not made a show of force by kicking in the doors of local head shops and hauling shopkeepers off to jail.

If the federal government does take action, it will likely be via lawsuit. They will argue the Supremacy Clause of the constitution. But the Supremacy Clause is not a slam dunk as some would have you think. In Federalist Paper #46 titled, “The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared,” Madison comments on the idea of supremacy:

“These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone….”

Ultimately, if the federal government loses, then nullification will be used to do away with many overreaching federal laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, which has shut down agriculture in California, or to the Clean Air Act, which threatens to cause rolling blackouts across the nation.

But Colorado and Washington are not alone in the nullification movement; six other states are challenging federal law. Alabama, Montana, and Wyoming all passed measures guaranteeing health-care freedom, and Massachusetts approved a measure to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.

Last spring, Virginia passed legislation prohibiting state and local agencies from cooperating with any federal attempt to exercise indefinite detention without due process under the National Defense Authorization Act.

Idaho’s Governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter, signed the Health Freedom Act into law which essentially nullifies the Affordable Care Act.

The nullification movement is alive and well, and growing exponentially, and as a result the beltway bandits may see their power greatly diminished.


Some thoughts
Most non-libertarians will like some of these nullification moves and abhor others. Conservatives hate the idea of legal weed, for instance, and liberals can’t tolerate states running their own health care systems. In other words, both sides of the current US political establishment are all for a big, intrusive central government as long as it serves their ends, but dead set against it when it serves their ideological opponents. This philosophical, um, flexibility is what has allowed Washington to grow so steadily. When republicans are in charge, the powers of the federal police state grow. When democrats take over, the welfare state expands. Neither has the political capital to undo the other’s expansion, so federal power continues to metastasize.

But now this process has begun to work in reverse. Liberal states are trying to push the feds out of the realms of drugs and sexual behavior, while conservative states are trying to reassert their dominance in economics. The result might be an irregular but steady erosion of federal power.

Very few dictators go down without a fight, however, so Washington might decide to make an example of rebellious states by asserting federal supremacy in the courts and then backing up favorable rulings with legal sanctions. Will it succeed or backfire? Who knows, but it will almost certainly energize the libertarian movement that Ron Paul helped create – which would be both educational and entertaining. So by all means, let nullification debate begin.

By the way, the godfather of the nullification movement is Thomas Woods. His book on the subject is here.

  • Pete

    This should surely help James Turk’s predictions come true. Especially Turk’s predictions of $35 silver by the end of 2008, and “undeniable signs of hyperinflation in the USA by the end of 2010.” John Rubino, being the objective journalist that he is, will point out James Turk’s exaggerations and horrible predictions if Turk is ever wrong.

    • rubinoja

      Over the past ten years James Turk has given one piece of advice: buy gold and silver. In that time precious metals have been the two best performing assets in the US financial system. Had you listened, you’d have beaten just about ever professional money manager in the country. And you’re mad about what? A few predictions that didn’t come true by an exact date? Seems like you should be mad at yourself for failing to load up on precious metals. But it’s not too late…

      • Pete

        Yes, James Turk has advised buying gold and silver, because he sells gold and silver in his “Goldmoney” accounts (sponsor of Rubino’s website). He has never warned of any of the major smash-downs in the precious metals. One has to wonder if he is really an open-minded analyst, or just an alarmist gold salesman.

        I did buy gold and silver along with shares in mining stocks (mining stocks have performed poorly, contrary to James Turk’s predictions). But I also BELIEVED James Turk about an immanent hyperinflation coming by 2010. I passed on several opportunities to buy undervalued foreclosure real estate in 2008-2009 because I was convinced by the hyperinflationists that I could buy apartment buildings for a few gold coins by 2010-2011. I was paralyzed on the sidelines because I believed James Turk’s perma-bull hyperinflation predictions. I only blame myself for listening to the advice of a fool, but I have a right and a duty to warn others about the foolish advice!

        James Turk pretended that his hyperinflation predictions were based on a deep understanding of the monetary system; Just like his bogus predictions of the silver paper shorts being over run due to backwardation, and his countless log scale charts that predicted impending hockey-stick price surges that never happened.

        Now, when I listen to his commentary, I can see how clueless he is…he routinely claims that “Governments create money out of thin air.” This is completely false. In our debt-enslavement system in the US, all money is created by Banks when they issue credit (debt). The Federal Reserve is privately owned by the same individuals who own the counterfeiting banks.

        Can anyone cite an example of Turk admitting his
        prediction errors? As far I can see, he never apologizes, but keeps on
        predicting doom and gloom while promoting his Goldmoney accounts.

        John Rubino seems to think “one out of five ain’t bad” when it comes to economic predictions. Now we know who buys those New-Years psychic special editions of the National Enquirer from the Wal-mart check-out line.

        • http://DollarCollapse.com/ John Rubino

          Pete, does James Turk recommend gold because he’s a gold dealer or is he a gold dealer because he thinks gold should be recommended? Does it really matter, if gold goes up?

          As for those periodic “smash downs”, at the risk of putting words in Turk’s mouth, maybe he considers them a normal and completely unpredictable part of any long bull market. Look, for instance, at stocks from 1980 to 2000 and you’ll see some nasty corrections — 1987 comes to mind, but also 1990 and 1994. Today they look like little squiggles in a twenty-year uptrend but those who misunderstood them and decided that stocks — and those who recommended them — were some kind of con, and responded by selling out and hiding in cash missed out on the parabolic rise of the late 1990s.

          Yes, gold mining stocks haven’t done as well as the metals. But that’s another squiggle, a divergence from a long-term relationship that will probably revert to normal in due course. If the US stays on this course, a decade from now both precious metals and the better miners will be seen as great things to have owned.

          Personally, I’ve learned to ignore short-term predictions, even when they come from people I respect like James Turk, Eric Sprott, or Jim Rickards, because experience has shown short-term markets to be really hard to call. But these guys’ long-term analysis is compelling, and it’s likely that they’ll be proven right and Greenspan, Bernanke et al will be proven wrong. In the meantime there will be spikes and corrections, and that’s the price we’ll have to pay to ride along.

          Sorry you missed out on those foreclosures, but, again at the risk of putting words in James Turk’s mouth, the inflationists generally think real estate will do okay in a dollar collapse, and don’t recommend avoiding it. In the mini currency crisis of the late 1970s home prices went up along with gold and silver, because they’re all real assets. When we change the unit of measure, everything we’re measuring will see its nominal price rise, though gold and silver will probably rise more than rental houses.

          And finally the “money printing” thing…most of the talking heads on the inflationist side of the argument know how money is created in a fractional reserve banking system, but use “the Fed is printing money” as a shorthand way of describing this process in order to save time and avoid losing short-attention-span listeners. But what they mean is the Fed adds reserves, the banks make loans, debt/money is created, etc, etc.

        • Frank

          Hey Pete, would you like him to wipe your ass for you, too?

      • Frank


    • Agent P

      Being smug over an issue rarely – if ever, brings dividends, Pete… Many people in many areas of economics have been (Horribly) wrong regarding their positions and/or prognostications of the future. However, ‘smoothing’ – to pinch a phrase from chart-speak, has a way of removing the minor ups & downs, to reveal a much clearer picture of the Long View, and as the moderator below points out, if you had been ‘in’ – well, you know where you stand. However, also as the moderator below points out, it’s not too late because what lies ahead – in the words of Grampa Jim Sinclair, is going to ‘Light your hair on fire’…

      Best of luck –

    • Hugh A. Thomas

      I read an article by Turk about 2 years ago (King World News) where he proposed we were near a “waterfall decline in the Dollar.” The Dollar is higher today than it was when he made that prediction. Inflation in our system is mainly created by the fractional reserve mechanism, whereas deposits are loaned, redeposited and loaned over and over again, creating credit that is checkbook money that chases goods and labor driving their prices higher.

      Weimar German style inflation is just the printing of cash money by government where it goes directly into the market place. Seems many don’t get this. We are not 1920’s Germany. There is no reason for most people to borrow more money at the moment, hence, no hyperinflation. New and huge bubbles will have to be invented before the Fed can kick start more malinvestment by checkbook money inflation.

      Seems 90% of talk on the hard money sites revolves around the theme, “Those sumbitches down at the Fed are printin’ money like crazy.” Now, they may be printing money, but if few are willing to borrow, the money will remain in the banks and inflation will be held in check.

      • Bad Dog

        Sure, the dollar is going up against the Euro, but only because they are worse off than we at the moment. After the Euro as we know it collapses, speculators will set their sights on the dollar, pulling money out of our banking system to deposit in now liberated European states. That won’t happen overnight. It is impossible to predict when a scan will end. It ends when those being scammed finally realize what they should have known all along.

  • kopavi

    When Empires collapse, they typically follow one of two paths, either they collapse into a dictatorship (USSR=>Russia) or a much weaker but democratic country (the UK). I’ve often wondered how the US would go when the loss of Empire was imminent. Ron Paul had the right idea pointing out that many of the presumptions of the federal government, as demonstrated by the Department of Education taking over state’s rights in managing education of k-12, are infringements of the Constitution. “Nullification” is a clear path to reducing Federal power in a democratic manner. Yeah, the Federal powers that be will fight, but a path to reducing those powers via the Constitution is available. Let the battle be joined.


  • Tom

    Obama isn’t a good president to put it mildly. At least we didn’t get the corporatist neocon Romney and his pernicious warmongers. I’ve read Mr. Wood’s book on nullification and he got it right. We need to nullify laws while on jury duty. Just stand our ground and say NO to incarceration or long probation for marijuana possession. We need to disassemble the federal government. The feds have ruined the political experiment called America. To my friends in CO, I look forward to visiting your fine state again. May I suggest the superb Master Kush for deep body relaxation and a lift in attitude. None finer.

  • Agent P

    Hey John –

    Save that first paragraph above from ‘Some thoughts’. You have described near perfectly, what I ‘coined’ myself some years back as ‘Smörgåsbord Constitutionalism’- i.e., you pick what you like, and ignore or toss the stuff you don’t…

    I would add that this aspect – at least in part, is a Major reason the Republican party is finished in it’s current form. While the Democrat part is a ‘known commodity’, the GOP has twisted and contorted in an effort to ‘please everyone’, while in the process, alienating almost everybody because of their unmoored, wishy-washy stance on Constitutional precept.

    The ‘new’ party that emerges in the next decade, will likely be a party that coalesces around ‘Freedom’. Not the freedom to marry your boyfriend, have an abortion, take vacation trips to foreign countries or flip houses, but the real Freedom to be ‘left alone’ of overly intrusive State Power. Many Republicans feel this oppression already in economic and certain social issues, while Democrats writhe over it in foreign policy and other social issues that are sensitive to them. In the middle somewhere – being incessantly beaten down, is Liberty – and the Real freedom to ‘choose’. Property rights. Parental rights. Gun rights. Marriage freedom. The rights of Businesses to be free of oppressive regulation, etc., etc. In essence, the Supremacy of the Individual vs. the (very) Limited powers and duties of the State.

    The discussion in the future will revolve not around ‘Right vs. Left’, or ‘Democrat vs. Republican’ rather, it will revolve around clarity of our Founding principles. If you are outside of that sphere of thought, it will be you and/or your political special interest group who feels the chill of the political ‘wilderness’, and those who have endured through decades of State-sponsored ‘terror’ will be set Free.

    All the best –

  • QEternity

    Nullify an overly intrusive and expansive government ?

    We can only hope for such change!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Zuniga/1389494145 David Zuniga

    D’accord, “Agent P”; that first paragraph under “Some Thoughts” was an excellent decription of the false dialectic that began with Lincoln’s war.

    John, the same dialectic mechanism, in slow motion, has been the swings of the SCOTUS, illegal at both poles, but in their political times, always the “will of the majority” anyway, and so added to the unconstitutional ‘stare decisis’.

    Madison, whether in his Virginia Resolutions or in the 46th Federalist, could only work with what America had at the time: neo-nascent and almost vestigial State judiciaries, and State legislatures in the entire South driven by a single economic issue (retaining slavery) that flew in the face of the Declaration of Independence and of Natural Law.

    Today, things are very different. The fifty sovereign States have robust legislatures and courts, and after 150 years of prehensile federal arrogation — plenty of reason to use them.

    A new issue (retaining sodomy) now has cachet in progressive courts and legislatures, but like slavery it flies in the face of Natural Law and common morality. The Sodom Confederation now numbers twelve States; it may consider its ‘enlightened’ position unassailable, but I think the People will soon demonstrate that they’re of a different mind.

    In terms of constitutional law principle and precedent, as well as tactical efficiency, I compare Tom Woods’ nullification stand to that of Thomas Jefferson, and my interposition stand, to that of Madison. I think it sends the wrong message for sovereign States — creators of the federal servant — to, like recalcitrant children with a tyrant parent, refuse to comply. That’s nullification.

    In the absence of a more powerful mechanism of superintendence and sanction against our servants, nullification is better than inaction. But as James Madison asserted so often, and Stanford Law dean Larry Kramer asserts in his book ‘The People Themselves’ — We The People are the apex sovereigns over all governments.

    We’ve only needed a lawful, peaceful, efficient force-massing mechanism, to begin exercising our almost limitless array of retained powers over our servants in all three federal branches. The key is to bring Congress under control on a very short leash.

    That is the mission of AmericaAgain!, launching in the first week of December. Look for us at http://www.AmericaAgainNow.com or a beta site (no signups) is viewable at http://americaagain.nationbuilder.com.

    The best period in American history in 200 years, begins just ahead. The keystone to stopping Leviathan is arresting Congress’ counterfeiting operation begun in 1862 and joined by the SCOTUS in 1871. Since ratification of our Supreme Law, gold and silver coin have always been the ONLY lawful U.S. money.

    Our domestic enemies have guffawed at that law for 150 years. Now we’ll see who gets the last laugh. We’ll see which republic restores honest money to kill the banking cartels, and to set the marketplace free.

    D.M. Zuniga
    Founder, AmericaAgain!

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  • Hugh A Thomas

    I have no reason to believe Turk is untruthful. In fact, he seems like a sincere person. However, I do have a few things to say about all these gold/silver advocates. Many claim (including Turk, I believe) the gold and silver markets are controlled by the central banks and then they make predictions about future prices. How can this be? They claim SECRET central bank control of gold prices and then claim the price is going up soon. Another stupid claim is that silver is going up in price to its “historical ratio of 16 to 1.” Bull Crap. If this is so, then maybe gold is going down to 16 to 1 to silver, which means it has to get to $500. Another claim is that only 15 times more silver is mined than gold, so the ratio ought to be 15 to 1. By weight, there is 10 times more gold mined every year than the weight all skunk farts. Should Skunk farts be valued at $17,000 per ounce? They will say that “gold is over sold.” Well, for something to be “over sold” it has to be overbought at the same time.

    The themes are: The Fed is printing money like crazy, Europe is falling apart. I say own gold, but hell someone come up with a new angle for us readers.

  • Bad dog

    I kept wondering as I read the article, “does he know about Thomas Woods?”. This is how we fight back, not by trying to change Washington from the inside.

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  • Bresner


    I feel for you. If you want to make your head spin just read Turk and Peter Schiff, Marc Faber then go read MISH and Precter. People bitch about hyperinflation yet bond rates are at record lows. So…. people are afraid of inflation so they buy bonds at 1%….WTF are they talking about??? When has there been hyperinflation with interest rates at 1%?? Not to mention a downturn in China which will lead to less demand for commodities which will affect countries like Australia, Canada, & New Zealand.

    On the flip side:
    I was hoping I would have plenty of time to search for a house but now it appears that a mini house boom is going on. I guess I should have jumped at the chance to own when property levels dropped to only 3x avg income in the inland empire. So… we are about to go off the fiscal cliff… into recession…and presto housing boom…WHAT!!!?? This just seems like bizzarro world. We are in a time of eternal bailouts for large financial concerns and endless manipulations into markets. I don’t know how this ends or if it does.

    good luck Pete, you’re not alone.

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  • Sam

    2) End the Imperial Congress by passing a Non-Aristocracy Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, limiting Congress to two terms (House and Senate) and ending all congressional perks other than salary, office staff and reasonable operations, self-operated automobile, and coach-class airfare. All other public expenditures to be treated as illegal use of public funds, immediately and retroactively – including pensions, insurance premiums, limousines, first-class or charter air travel, meals, hairdressers, spas, club memberships, and any other benefit not enjoyed by average taxpayers.

    Have you lost your mind? Sending poor people to DC is the problem and allows the easy theft and buy off of our Congress. Pay them more not less. Useful idiots strike again.

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