For more than a half-century, it has become abundantly clear that our nation faces increasing irreconcilable differences. At the root is the fact that there is one group of Americans who mostly want to be left alone and live according to the rule of law and the dictates of the U.S. Constitution while another group of Americans wants to control the lives of others and ignore both the rule of law and constitutional restraints on the federal government. Should those Americans who favor the rule of law and constitutional government fight against or yield to those Americans who have contempt for the rule of law and constitutional government? Let’s look at a few of those irreconcilable differences.
Some Americans prefer to manage their own health care needs. Others wish to have the federal government dictate their health care. Some Americans want their earnings to be taxed only for the constitutionally mandated functions of the federal government, which are outlined in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. Others think American earnings should be taxed for anything on which Congress can muster a majority vote. Though there is no constitutional authority for federal involvement in public education, some Americans want the federal government involved. The list of irreconcilable differences among the American people is nearly without end. These differences survive because of the timidity of those offended and the brute power of the federal government.
I think reconciliation is impossible; therefore, separation is the only long-term peaceful solution. Separation and independence do not require that liberty-loving Americans overthrow the federal government any more than they required Gen. George Washington to overthrow the British government in order to secede or required his successor secessionist, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, to overthrow the U.S. federal government.
You say, “All those government acts that you say violate the rule of law and the Constitution have been ruled constitutional by the courts!” That’s true. The courts have twisted the Constitution, but Thomas Jefferson warned, “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions (is) a very dangerous doctrine indeed and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.”
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State governors and legislators ought to summon up the courage our Founding Fathers had in their response to the fifth Congress’ Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. Written by Jefferson and James Madison, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 stated that those states’ legislatures considered the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional. They said, “Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government … and … whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.” The 10th Amendment to our Constitution holds, “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.”
The federal government should not be permitted to determine the scope of its own powers. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No. 28, said, “The State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority.” One response to federal encroachment is for state governments to declare federal laws that have no constitutional authority null and void and refuse to obey them. In other words, they should nullify federal laws that violate the Constitution. In good conscience, liberals could not object to nullification. There are hundreds of so-called sanctuary cities in the U.S. — liberal places that have chosen to nullify federal immigration laws and harbor immigrants who are here illegally.
Former slave Frederick Douglass advised: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. … The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” We Americans appear to have very limited endurance in the face of tyrannical oppression.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.