And the Dumbest Guy in the World Is…

…Ian Millhiser of the hilariously misnamed ThinkProgress, who says, “The Constitution expressly states that Acts of Congress ‘shall be the supreme law of the land…anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding,’ so our founding document specifically denies the states a veto power over federal laws.”

This guy has a law degree, people.  A law degree.  And he thinks he has defeated Thomas Jefferson with this third-grade analysis.

What the Supremacy Clause actually says is: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme law of the land.”

In other words, Millhiser deletes the most significant words of the whole clause!  Jefferson (whose name Millhiser cannot bring himself to mention, so let’s just say it for fun a few times — Jefferson, Jefferson, Jefferson) did not deny the Supremacy Clause.  He would not have needed any lectures from law school graduate (and otherwise uncredentialed) Ian Millhiser.  His point was that only the Constitution and laws which shall be made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land.  Well, that’s the whole matter at issue!  Is the law in question “in pursuance thereof” or not?

Here is Ian Millhiser’s version of the Supremacy Clause; ask yourself how many states would have ratified this: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, plus any old laws we may choose to pass, whether constitutional or not, shall be the supreme law of the land.”  Oh, but the courts will tell us when a law is unconstitutional, comes Millhiser’s law-school reply.  Millhiser hasn’t read James Madison.  I’m shocked.

For a quick primer on state nullification, a primer we might call “What Law School Graduate Ian Millhiser Didn’t Learn in Law School,” see my State Nullification page.

One last thing: I’ve smacked down this genius before.  (Also, Millhiser uses the Orwellian agitprop term “neo-Confederate,” making him a zombie.)  For the rest of the smearbund: I’ve written out the rules to follow when smearing me.  Don’t diverge from the tried and true.  And never, ever link here.

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  • RobertH

    Awesome. These guys need to be deflated and to learn their history. You give it to them in one fell swoop :D

  • Bill Starr

    Jefferson, Jefferson, Jefferson…

    Valerie: Humperdinck! Humperdinck! Humperdinck!
    Miracle Max: I’m not listening!

  • Speckk

    The [il]logicians at ThinkProgress are masters of the ellipsis. They use it as settled fact in their proposition of the “. . . General Welfare” clause of the constitution.

    I pointed that out, and I’m sure I got a dozen trolls berating me for supporting a plain language reading of the constitution.

  • TruePresence

    Did you see the guy named “GoOlberman” totally call Millhiser out !?! That is priceless LOL

  • Jim Thompson

    This guy clerked for a Federal judge and worked for the American Constitution Society? Astounding! Thanks for pointing this guy out.

  • adrian

    Mr Woods, perhaps it would serve in everyone’s interest (in America at least) to understand the tyranny of the Constitution itself. It was an unjustified expansion of government power, thus any argument made towards the interpretation of it only justifies the tyrannical decisions of a few upper class elite trying to coercively organize a larger group of european immigrants, while killing off the redskin natives who wanted to simple be left alone.

  • Richard Penney

    Thanks, Mr. Woods, for taking the time refute this clown’s sorry excuse for an argument.

    It is a shame that his errors and ,in my opinion, misinformation aren’t dismissed in laughter by the American public (thanks public school system).

    As the song says “The things that pass for knowledge I can’t understand.”

  • Richard

    Dr. Woods, I hate to criticize you, but your use of the English language in this blog post’s title is incorrect. The term “dumb” is a synonym of the term “mute”. I believe the term that you meant to use is “stupid”.

    Misusing the term “dumb” sets a bad example for others, so I ask that you try to avoid misuse of the term in the future.

  • Tom Woods

    I’m all for unreasonable nit-picking, but definition number one of “dumb” is “lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted.”

  • JFF

    You can’t blame his dumbness solely on his weak mind; that’s what they teach them in law school.

  • givejonadollar

    And another one down, another one down, another one bites the dust! :)

  • Bob Roddis

    I’ve been an attorney for 30 years (thankfully, I became a Rothbardian four years before starting law school). Attorneys will (can???) only respect court opinions. Regarding nullification (in addition to smacking down your opponents with Jefferson and the Sedition Act), ALWAYS refer to Ableman v. Booth, the Wisconsin Supreme Court case which held the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional. Indeed, the present state of our anti-nullification jurisprudence was established by the PRO-Fugitive Slave Act ruling of the US Supreme Court in reversing the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Ableman v. Booth:

    Apparently, these anti-nullification types are motivated by deep affection for the Fugitive Slave Act. These anti-nullification guys aren’t NEO-confederates. They’re just plain old Confederates.

  • Old Rebel

    An entertaining and educational smackdown if ever there was one.

    Anyone who questions the absolute power of the central government is a racist, anti-Semitic, unenlightened threat to all that is good.

  • Paul_S.

    This has been decided and upheld for over two centuries.
    Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 1 Cranch 137 137 (1803)

    … If two laws conflict with each other, the Court must decide on the operation of each.
    If courts are to regard the Constitution, and the Constitution is superior to any ordinary act of the legislature, the Constitution, and not such ordinary act, must govern the case to which they both apply.
    (This is were Carl Miller starts his constitutional arguments.)

  • Richard

    Dr. Woods,

    The idea that being dumb is the equivalent to being stupid arose from the idea that mute people are inherently stupid. I respect you greatly, but I do not think that it is a good idea to misuse words simply because other people did in the past.

    I know that you have better things to do than to verify this, but should it interest you, you can check this by looking at old dictionaries. You should find a general trend where the idea that the term dumb is synonymous with the term stupid crept into them overtime. i.e. it was not there, then it was at the bottom, then it crept to the top.

  • Alex

    Indeed, the present state of our anti-nullification jurisprudence was established by the PRO-Fugitive Slave Act ruling of the US Supreme Court in reversing the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Ableman v. Booth:

    Zombie: “Slavery”

  • Eric

    You know, there are two things I know a lot about…

    Local & Wide Area Networks, as a Vocation; and Constitutional Law, as an Avocation.

    I think if there were as many Network Engineers who knew as little about Networks, as there seem to be Lawyers who know next to nothing about Constitutional Law; I wouldn’t be posting this and none of you would be reading it.

  • Wally Hilliard

    Towards the end of “Trial by Jury” (1852), Lysander Spooner writes about how in Fugitive Slave Act cases federal judges screened potential jurors in order to weed out potential nullifiers. In the Fugitive Slave cases, the feds attempted to stomp both individual and state veto power.

  • Cory Brickner


    I think the best aspect of your book is the overall treatment of how the States entered into the Constitutional compact. They were sovereign entities that basically created a joint operating agreement to mutually benefit all those involved. How the Articles of Confederation were co-opted by Federalists and Mercantilists into a Constitutional Convention not-withstanding, to believe that the colonies would spill blood and revolt from one kingly dictatorship and form what amounts to another one, in the process making themselves wholly subordinate to Federal Government authority is absolutely incredulous. It so defies logic that one can only believe there is an ulterior and absolutely evil design in making these statements. Likewise in the same context, your book also begs the question of the states and the people being fine with the centralized federal authority having the final say on its own laws. Again, the colonies had just “been there, done that.” It’s nonsensical to suppose this and akin to allowing the wolves telling the sheep what’s cooking for dinner!

  • Anonymous

    Dr. Woods, I think you are being too harsh. I don’t think you should resort to such a personal attack on an individual, especially non-politicians. I am a big fan of yours, I look forward to your book `Rollback`, and I am an advocate of Anarcho-Capitalism. But at the same time, I think that if you want to influence followers, and also reduce the amount of uncompromising enemies, you shouldn’t use such inflammatory rhetoric. A suggestion: Instead of `The Dumbest Guy in the World`, write something like `The Dumbest Idea in the World`. Don’t focus entirely on a single misguided statist, but a handful (or better yet, a group) who repeat the same dumb Big-Government ideas.