As we learned with the Civil War, states cannot simply secede from the union or nullify federal law. However, they can take a page from Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi by simply refusing to enforce federal law.
The federal government itself is selective in which federal laws it enforces. For years, the feds have ignored their own immigration laws. Now, some states, most notably my home state of Arizona, are trying to enforce those laws and the Obama administration is trying to stop them.
If non-enforcement is legal and laudatory, the states should do so as well. Many states have already said they will not enforce the new health care reform bill. California has legalized many forms of drugs that are banned by the federal government. Technically, federal law still applies, but the states choose not to enforce them. Thus, if the federal government puts out a warrant for an individual who failed to comply with the health care law, the state law enforcement agencies could choose to ignore the warrant.
Of course, this situation is far from ideal. It would create chaos and uncertainty, but that is far preferable to the certainty of centralized control and tyranny.
On an individual basis, we are already seeing this civil disobedience. Millions buy goods over the Internet without paying sales tax. Legally, if the Internet retailer does not charge it, it is still the individual’s responsibility to pay it to the state. But nobody does and many buy online to avoid the sales tax and, thus, save money.
Additionally, the American people, by and large, are already “going Galt,” meaning they cut back on the hours worked to give less money to the government. Why work extra hard to have most of the money confiscated by the government and given to those who do not work? Why save and live below your means when you can go deep in debt and then get a government bailout or “government loan modification?”
Along the same line of “going Galt,” our high rates of taxation have also given a huge boost to “do it yourself.” See this post!
In a democratic system, the majority can always vote to take from the minority to give to the majority. The United States has left its republican roots (small government, rule of law, indirect elections) and become more democratic (direct election of Senators, ballot propositions, poll watching). Now that we are a democracy, the liberal/socialist/union/bureaucratic wing finds ways to create a majority of “takers” to elect them into office. Voting them out, permanently, has become impossible. We can overthrow them for an election cycle, maybe even a generation, but the left-wingers always reappear in some new disguise.
It is time to take more permanent action. Conservative states have to lead this effort. They have to oppose federal law through the courts and through non-enforcement. Individuals can go Galt and avoid paying taxes, but risk being sent to jail or having liens put on their property. States though have little to risk by opposing the federal government. A state cannot be put in jail. Fund can be denied it, but that is unlikely and is likely to further calls for secession.
I look to the states to lead us back to republicanism and federalism. And I look to the individual to vote for and defend the Constitution from the always growing federal government, from the many complicit state governments, and from the large population of people who vote themselves benefits at the expense of others.