You’d think people on the Left would support the idea of state nullification, people tell me, because, after all, they support civil liberties, an easing of the drug laws, food and drink freedom, etc. You’d think so, but a casual glance at left-wing thought-control sites like ThinkProgress and Media Matters will throw cold water on that one pretty quickly. Nationalism and uniformity trump everything else. I mean, what are you, a “neo-Confederate”?
Once in a while you do still come across someone on the Left who actually believes, and doesn’t just pay lip service to, old leftist slogans like “question authority” and “small is beautiful.” One such person is Kirkpatrick Sale, who has had a long and prolific writing career that includes, among many other titles, Human Scale (1980).
I don’t agree with Sale on everything, needless to say, but I deeply respect his refusal to be defined or imprisoned by media-imposed categories. Sale and I have met only once, at a Liberty Fund colloquium years ago — at which I was defending nullification, long before I wrote my book on it — and he told me then that he agreed with me completely. A mutual friend recently sent me Sale’s greetings and expression of support for what I’m doing on the nullification front.
Sale just reviewed a book called Most Likely to Secede: What the Vermont Independence Movement Can Teach Us About Reclaiming Community and Creating a Human-Scale Vision for the 21st Century. Now watch how he speaks. He’s a human being trying to figure out how to solve problems, even if that means stepping outside the boundaries of what Hillary Clinton would like us to say. He is not an automaton enforcing approved opinion, pointing and shouting at heretics. (Ian Millhiser, you may learn something here.)
Here’s a bit of what Sale has to say:
I presume to review this book, even though I am a contributor to it, because it is a fine representation of an increasing tendency across this land of resistance to a federal government grown inept, corrupt, overreaching, overlarge, and overintrusive. That tendency may be labeled, for convenience: nullification.
It doesn’t matter that the word does not appear in this volume, for its spirit does. The volume is called Most Likely to Secede, and it grows out of a secession movement in Vermont that has been active, off and on, for a decade now. But I don’t think secession really is in the immediate future. Instead the subtitle comes closest to what this book is all about—state independence. It is a collection of essays from a magazine called Vermont Commons, which started publishing in 2005, and they deal with every aspect of what it takes for a state to assume unto itself all the processes that have been ceded to (or seized by) the federal government over the years: money, business regulation, energy, health, education, democracy, food safety, information, the commons, and social policies such as abortion and marriage….
If the food movement in Vermont—which has done a lot in recent years to promote local farming and marketing—is ever to set up a truly independent and truly local agricultural system it will have to find a way to push back federal regulations and practices: that is, nullification.
Or take education. Another essay here lays out all the ways in which Vermont could have schools that develop independent thinking, regardless of grades and testing, and gives examples of this being done in a few places in the state. But it is hard to expand these models when the state government is obligated, by state and national laws, to have standardized education. “One vital goal of Vermont independence,” writes Ron Miller, a founder of the “holistic education” movement, “is an educational culture that respects and encourages learning on a human scale, that supports caring and loving communities of learning.” But it runs up against “authoritarian educational policy” and federal “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top” requirements. “National educational policy is one more reason why we need to challenge the burgeoning power of the American empire,” he writes. “We ought to decline the Federal government’s inducements to participate in any ‘race to the top’.”
But declining that means more than a polite “no thank you.” It needs a deliberate campaign to nullify federal laws. That takes courage, but that’s what a surprising number of state legislatures are now displaying.
Read the whole thing. (Thanks to Klint.)