Nullification – the Freedom Meme
By Staff News & Analysis - July 12, 2010

Nullification Should Be Taken Seriously, Not Caricatured … The weeks surrounding Independence Day are always a good time to assess the American experiment in liberty. For all of our successes, there remains a lot of discontent across the political spectrum. The federal government is fighting the states over the issue of medical marijuana, for example, and we're also preparing to add to the Supreme Court a justice who apparently thinks that "Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech" with respect to speech means that "Congress shall weigh the costs and benefits of making a law" before passing a law "abridging the freedom of speech." What option do the people and the states have if they disagree and wish to hold fast to the "Congress shall make no law" principle? Or what if they think the Federal government is overstepping its constitutional bounds? Enter prize-winning historian and bestselling author Thomas E. Woods (left). I've had the pleasure of working with Professor Woods at the Mises Institute's "Mises University" summer program and trading notes about some of his projects, so I was looking forward to his new book. In Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century, Professor Woods offers a thorough-but-compact discussion of the doctrine of nullification. As he writes, "(n)ullification begins with the axiomatic point that a federal law that violates the Constitution is no law at all" (p. 3). It is, according to the framework established by the Founders, an essential part of the system of checks and balances that defined the federal union. Even though they established federal-level checks and balances, the founders were troubled by the notion that the Federal government should be its own judge. – Forbes/Art Carden

Dominant Social Theme: It is possible to do something about over-large government.

Free-Market Analysis: This dominant social theme is a larger social meme (or free-market-meme) that is not sponsored by the power elite. These memes will occur increasingly as the battle between the Internet and the powers-that-be heats up. There will be many, even in the alternative press, that simply continue to maintain that the power-elite is unstoppable and that in every way, every outcome is preordained. We have pointed out already that in many sites where this occurs the suspicion is that Anglo-American intel is involved. The idea is to make people feel powerless via carefully shepherded stories about Echelon, the CIA and secret societies such as the Illuminati. Much of this material – and many websites preaching the infallibility of the power-elite – finds a home on the Internet.

Here at the Bell, as an extension of our analysis of power-elite mainstream memes, we have taken it on ourselves to point out this latter, pervasive theme, that the power elite is in charge of all things, all ways. If the Euro-zone economy is in crisis, then it is perceived as a power elite creation. If a solution is proposed, it was because the power-elite is intent on bringing order out of chaos and creating a new synthesis. But what is one to make then of Nikolas Sarkozy's reported remarks threatening to pull France out of the EU if Germany's Angela Merkel didn't agree to a Euro-wide bailout plan?

And what is one to make now of the Constitutional challenge in Germany against this bailout plan? Here's the UK Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Prichard with a recent update: "Contrary to general belief, Germany's eurosceptic professors have not abandoned their legal efforts to block the EU rescues for European banks exposed to Greek debt, and since May 7 for banks exposed to debt from Spain, Portugal, and Ireland as well. Should they succeed, of course, the eurozone risks disintegration within days, and perhaps hours. I am not sure that investors in New York, London, Tokyo, Beijing, or indeed Frankfurt quite understand this. There are now four cases at the court – or Verfassungsgericht – arguing that these disguised bank bail-outs breach multiple clauses of EU treaty law, and therefore breach Germany's supreme and sovereign Basic Law."

The "elite planned it all" meme is almost a syndrome, a kind of sickness. One notices it for instance in the recent Rolling Stone report "The Runaway General," that eventually resulted in the firing of General Stanley McChrystal for insubordination. It didn't take long for reports to circulate that McChrystal himself had intended his own demise. The implication was that McChrystal, too patriotic and manly to quit, had nonetheless figured a way out: "Professional-death-by-reporter." The animating idea was that someone in McChrystal's position simply couldn't have made a mistake, or "misspoke."

And just yesterday, in the Bell interview with Harry Schultz, we pointed out three areas that immediately came to mind regarding the Internet's impact on dominant social themes: "First is the email data dump that revealed just how the global warming debate had been shaped and how contradicting information had been culled and ignored. … Second, we recall the WikiLeaks video of the 2007 killing of civilians and two Reuters employees by the US military … If the war in Afghanistan has a single tipping point toward disengagement, this video may have furnished it. Third, and most recently was a Boing Boing report (explored in this paper yesterday) about secret ACTA Internet copyright enforcement language … The PDF of Treaty language was downloaded to a Google user group and the resultant fuss may eventually prove reminiscent of the global warming furor itself."

There are plenty of other examples. In fact, there are examples every day. Shutting the Internet off with a "switch" is no more feasible than destroying printing businesses during the heyday of the Gutenberg press. In fact, as we have pointed out on numerous occasions, the Gutenberg press sparked a series of changes in Europe that ultimately led to the Renaissance, the Reformation and the colonization of the New World. Some of these events were perhaps manipulated by a Venetian banking elite, but that does not mean that the press or the changes it sparked were either expected or comfortable. Elites throughout history have turned what they could to their advantage. But that does not mean that technology itself or its resulting impact were preordained.

It is very strange, by the way, that the Bell's brand of historical analysis is not more widespread. Certainly we are not especially perceptive. We see facts and present them. Nonetheless, universities and think tanks around the world seem to give technological concepts short-shrift when it comes to history. Even though we, and many others too, would argue that technology is destiny. Any credible anthropologist will focus immediately on a tribe's "toolkit" when discussing that tribe's culture and sociopolitical positioning.

Yet, we are to believe that works in terms of analysis 30,000 years ago does not work today? We are supposed to believe in the "great man theory of history?" No. What drives human society are its tools. And when the toolkit grows more sophisticated it can change society radically. We received a great feedback yesterday (in response to the Harry Schultz interview) that elaborated on this point. Here's an excerpt:

There are sea changes underway brought by computers and the internet beyond those mentioned. … Besides the crumbling of the information gateway of the mainstream press, there is the crumbling of brick-and-mortar colleges, with their economic gate keeping and elitist control over thought and information as well. The cost of information is coming ever closer to zero, something never before seen in human history. …

As the truth leaks like a sieve around the multi-billion dollar artifices erected to contain it, the emperor's new outfit increasingly becomes the subject of ridicule. The Internet does help point out how ridiculous these schemes are. Enough people learn the truth and talk about it … By the time Leviathan reacts by attempting to discredit us, it is already proving our point. This is a sea change that avoiders of the Internet won't perceive, even while they are affected by it.

Whether it is providing a platform for Thomas Woods to propose forms of nullification (that may well catch on, especially as regards the immigration debate), or to others leaking information to Google Groups about potentially authoritarian plans, the Internet is making a difference. The elite did not expect this turn of events, we are sure of it, and have still not figured out how to cope. Nor shall they, in our opinion, not in the near future anyway. Yes, it is only a tool, but so was the wheel, or the lever. Government pushback, of course, is quite powerful and will continue to be (at the behest of the elite in our opinion). But when it comes to the Internet, we would tend to maintain that the more the power elite struggles, the more it generates results that are contrary to its expectations.

The Anglo-American power elite provides the Western world with dominant social themes. In the past, certainly in the 20th century, these themes worked wonderfully well. But today, many of these memes are under attack. When the elite muscles them forward nonetheless, the attacks that have been made begin to look even more credible. Eventually, this will give rise (and inevitably as our feedbacker, above, may have implied) to a wave of free-market counter-memes propagated by the Internet.

After Thoughts

This is what happened during the era of the Gutenberg press. The same mechanisms are at work today. We have certainly never predicted the demise of the power elite. But we have often written that they may have to take a step back – to regroup as it were. And regrouping can take a lot of time – enough time, say, for a little bit of renaissance to occur. It's happened before. We think it has already begun to happen again.

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