Nullification vs Article V – Why Not Both? Why Not More?

Lib amend1Over the past year, a rift has deepened between two large conservative groups, both of whom are strong advocates for a Constitutionally limited federal government.

Both sides of this rift see our federal government as over-spending, over-borrowing, over-taxing, over-regulating, and over-reaching in general — well beyond Constitutional limits — all at the cost of individual freedom and economic opportunity.

Both sides decry the corruption of crony capitalism and the buying of votes through entitlement promises so huge that they are selling our children and grandchildren into debt bondage.

Both sides still believe in the Founders’ and Framers’ vision of a limited federal government with explicitly enumerated powers, leaving all other powers to the states or to the people.

Both sides believe in fighting back against the lifetime legislative-ruling-class elites in Washington (from both parties) who are steering our republic toward invevitable fiscal collapse.

So with all this agreement, where is the rift?

The rift is over the means by which to fight back. One side, broadly represented by the John Birch Society and Eagle Forum, advocates Nullification — a legal theory through which a state has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law that that state has deemed unConstitutional. On the other side are those who advocate state-legislature-driven amendments to the US Constitution under the second of the two processes specified in the Constitution’s Article V. Examples are and

The video below is a short excerpt from a debate held March 20, 2014, between proponents of the Nullification and Article V approaches. Near the end of the passionate debate, the moderator asks, in a roundabout way, my favorite question: Why not both?


Michael Farris responds from the Article V perspective, and Charlie Meadows responds from a John Birch Society perspective.

In brief, Farris says (paraphrased): Indeed, use both Nullification and Article V. Use whichever approach better fits the situation at hand. Charlie Meadows says: Use Nullification only because Article V initiatives are too risky and “we don’t have the energy” to pursue both.

The full 105-minute debate between the Nullification and Article V advocates, which took place in Oklahoma, March 20, 2014, is at this link. It takes patience to watch it all, and there’s some obvious antipathy between the two sides, although they do manage to keep the discussion civil.

MackAnother similar debate took place in the Phoenix area on March 7, 2014 (links are here and here). In that well-reasoned, clearly articulated, no-less-passionate debate, one Nullification proponent faced off against four proponents of Article V and acquitted himself rather well considering the odds(!).

Among Constitutional conservatives there are also those who advocate still other means such as politician recalls, principled civil disobedience, electing better people, changing the culture, better voter education, and so on, often accompanied by claims that their favored method is the best and only method that can work.

I am one conservative who favors an all-of-the-above approach. I believe Michael Farris is correct when he says that different circumstances call for different initiatives. For example, we cannot nullify our way to a balanced federal budget, Congressional term limits, or repeal of the 17th Amendment. Clearly, we need to amend the Constitution for those. On the other hand, we cannot defend a looming unConstitutional seizure of a rancher’s property with a Constitutional amendment — we would need an immediate nullification initiative and/or principled civil disobedience for that. In other words, when it comes to Nullification vs Article V, we need both.

Big FishWe the People need all our political tools, warriors, and conservative state legislators to fight this fight. The more tools and more warriors, the more fronts along which we attack, the better. Sure, some approaches may turn out to be ineffective or fade away while others succeed. So what? So be it. Our enemy is Big Government overreach — not our fellow conservatives.

Today, the federal government fears none of these conservative initiatives. The bureaucrats among today’s 479 federal agencies and departments do as they please, bolstered by extra-Constitutional federal court decisions when needed.

We the People will know we’re succeeding when all three federal branches begin showing some respect and restraint, fearing that the next extra-Constitutional regulation or legislation will prompt principled civil disobedience, a nullification initiative, or a new state-driven Article-V-amendment proposal. Today they fear none of these things. Tomorrow could be very different.

If you want to join on the side of We the People, I recommend you choose any of the non-violent initiatives and get engaged. Join more than one if you like. We are all implicit allies. Keep in mind who the real enemy is, and don’t waste time and energy fighting your conservative allies.

We the People really can take back our government from Washington’s Big Government statists. Although they clearly want us to think otherwise, the Constitution puts us in charge — not them.


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