Recent Ashbrook Scholar graduate, Michael Sabo
, writes one of the most clear and concise explanations I have seen of why the doctrine of nullification has no part to play in any clear-eyed understanding of the principles that animate America. Moreover, Sabo argues, it ought to be rejected by those who, in supporting the work of the Tea Party, understand themselves to be arguing for a restoration of America's founding principles.
Nullification, far from being fundamental to the American Founding, is a principle at war with our Declaration of Independence and with the natural rights of individuals. It holds individual states, rather than individual citizens, to be sovereign and it thereby diminishes the principle of consent that--in so many instances--has been violated by the workings of the modern administrative state and is the basis of Tea Party dissatisfaction with the administrative state. If the Tea Party wants to hold the separate states to be sovereign, the problem is that they will be sovereign over (and, often, against) individuals. This principle does not protect individual rights but it does empower factions. In combating the evil of the modern administrative state, this seems a thin and uninspiring argument. To suggest that the states are more sovereign than THE state begs the question: Why? Upon what principle of justice? What makes the various states and their interests more important than the general welfare? In addition to simply being wrong, this argument is unpersuasive in the modern context. The problem of centralized power in "the state" is not that it violates the rights of the various states so much as that, in pulling away authority and the management of local affairs from smaller communities, the temptation to violate individual
rights is much less effectively countered.