Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
Iowa Republican
August 2, 2010

When I appeared before hundreds of members of the Iowa GOP late last June on the eve of the state party convention and received a standing ovation from throngs of party loyalists, I knew the business-as-usual crowd would be annoyed. I had just finished explaining that if we are serious about limiting government, as opposed to giving pretty speeches and wringing our hands, we will have to make use of all the mechanisms of defense Thomas Jefferson bequeathed to the states, and not just the ones that don’t offend Katie Couric or the New York Times.

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Nathan Tucker has fired the inevitable shot back, in the form of a more or less predictable review of my book Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century. I urge you, dear reader, to download a free chapter of the book at, and see if it intrigues you. Mr. Tucker, I am sorry to report, is not intrigued.

Jefferson’s argument is stated simply enough. If the federal government is allowed to hold a monopoly on determining the extent of its own powers, we have no right to be surprised when it keeps discovering new ones. If the federal government has the exclusive right to judge the extent of its own powers, it will continue to grow – regardless of elections, the separation of powers, and other much-touted limits on government power. In his famous Report of 1800, James Madison reminded Virginians and Americans at large that the judicial branch was not infallible, and that some remedy must be found for those cases in which all three branches of the federal government exceed their constitutional limits.

I argue, along with Jefferson and his long and honorable pedigree, that the states created the federal government, which they obviously did, and that as a principal to the federal compact each state reserves the right – if I may quote Jefferson himself – to “judge for itself, as well of infractions [of the Constitution] as of the mode and measure of redress.” Otherwise, the federal government will expand without limit.

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