May 29, 2013
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is nullification — the idea that states can limit the enforcement of federal laws within their borders.
Supporters of nullification see it as a necessary and effective tool to protect states and citizens from the ever-growing power of the federal government. Detractors think this debate was settled by the Civil War, painting proponents of the idea as “neo-Confederates.” In fact, nullification is a growing movement with support on both sides of the political aisle.
As author and historian Thomas Woods notes, nullification is as old as the republic. Its first advocates were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who drafted the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which declared, “whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.” Jefferson and Madison acted out of dismay over the Alien and Sedition Acts, which Congress adopted to make it a misdemeanor to speak out against the government, bringing Congress and the president into “contempt or disrepute.”