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L. Neil Smith's
Number 595, November 14, 2010

"The secession of the individual from the state"

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Nullification is Statism, Withdrawal is Agorism
by Jim Davidson

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Recently, I was asked (again) to criticise and evaluate Tom Woods's strategy of nullification. Reluctant as I am to confront the Campaign for Liberty and the Rockwell enthusiasts, it seems necessary to examine this horrid set of ideas.

Jeffrey Tucker does us all a service in interviewing Tom Woods to get at the essential elements of this strategy. If you have not read Woods's book on nullification, or you aren't otherwise briefed upon it, please have a look at this video.

I think there are two fundamental flaws with this strategy. As a flawed strategy, it seems unlikely to me to be the salvation that Woods pretends it is. Worse, I think Woods knows it.

First, you have the fallacies of classical liberalism, which are themselves two. Second, you have the lamp of experience.

1A. Classical liberalism fallacy number one is consent. In its boldest and most cogent statement, this fallacy was written down as "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed." In fact, governments very clearly don't give a damned about the consent of the governed. They never have. Governments derive power from money and weapons, just like everyone else.

1B. Classical liberalism fallacy number two is protection. Again, in its boldest and most cogent statement, the preamble of the declaration of independence that you've probably memorised at some point in your life, it says, "to protect these rights [to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness] governments are instituted among men." But, of course, that isn't why governments are instituted, at all. Governments, including state and local governments, are instituted to separate the unwary from their property for the benefit of those who run the state.

What the elitist, Harvard educated, Dr. Woods is proposing is that we embrace state and local government functionaries amidst the tremendous evidence that people in government have deliberately betrayed their oaths to limit government power. I don't think that's a practical choice to take.

2. Lamp of experience. We've had a nullification crisis. We've had the inevitable result of the firm conviction of nullification by several states—the secession crisis. We know that the constitution was suborned over a century ago, possibly as early as 1828. It seems ludicrous to suppose that the 19th Century victories of the central state over the several states are going to be challenged in any meaningful way, today. Far more likely, we are going to see the people in the states who are most determined to pursue this approach going down the same path.

And the last time this was pursued to its inevitable confrontation over secession of the several states most determined to keep their states separate, what happened? A million and thirty thousand men shed their blood, were killed or were horribly wounded. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed or wounded. And that was 1861-1871. There are a lot more people today.

Dr. Woods may be willing to encourage people into a course of action that is going to get the national government geared up to nuke a few cities in the USA. I am not.

It also seems necessary to impress upon people that after the pacification of the militarily occupied states in 1871, Congress passed the act creating the corporation United States government under the guise of exercising its exclusive legislative power over the district of Columbia. We know that this corporate entity entered into agreements with the Federal Reserveless Scheme in 1913 and entered bankruptcy reorganisation in 1933.

It seems to me that the states have been totally subverted. Evidence for this subversion permeates any review of the history of the Great Depression and the "new deal" of FDR. I think if political action at the state and local level were going to bear any fruit, we would find some evidence of this happening. Instead, we find that the states are almost totally subjugated by federal highway funds. They've all raised the drinking age to 21 in response to federal pressure.

I don't think this tool is a gun pointed at the heart of the national government. I think it is an explosive which is going to go off in the face of whoever uses it, a petard if you would, which is going to hoist the person holding it—in all directions.

Finally, I would say that the state legislators I know really are psychopaths. The people I know in local government are eager to steal money called federal block grants. They are nearly as eager to rob their neighbours. If you look at their water monopolies, the fees they charge for sewage and garbage collection, the efforts they make to limit your choices in telecommunications through exclusive local monopolies for cable television and landline telephones, you get some sense of how little these people are on your side.

Agorism is a completely different path forward. It is the secession of the individual from the state. Already, there is considerable evidence that roughly 100 million Americans don't file income tax papers, don't vote, have already withdrawn to a considerable extent.

I do not consent to support the state government, nor the local government, nor the national government. Nullification would be a betrayal of that conviction. I cannot agree to support any politician at any level of government. I do not agree that the state is an answer to statism.

Tom Woods is wrong both morally and historically. Nullification is going to get a lot of people killed.

Peaceful people object to evil government. So obvious even a dog can see it.

Disobey. Your chains: break them.

Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. He is currently working on a book about travel to Mars with John Wayne Smith, a book with international fugitive Chad Z. Hower on his story, a book on sovereign self-defence, and a book compiling his letters and essays in "The Libertarian Enterprise" since 1995. Contact him at or Davidson has withdrawn from public life and does not make speaking appearances.


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