Archive | February, 2013

Nullification and Gun Control

27 Feb

Cover page of Tom Wood's book on Nullification

Cover page of Tom Wood’s book on Nullification

Sheriffs in the Utah state of the United States have refused to implement any federal policy restricting gun ownership. In a letter to Barrack Obama, the Utah Sheriffs’ Association, consisting of 28 out of 29 Utah sheriffs, have declared that,

We respect the Office of the President of the United States of America. But, make no mistake, as the duly-elected sheriffs of our respective counties, we will enforce the rights guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution. No federal official will be permitted to descend upon our constituents and take from them what the Bill of Rights—in particular Amendment II—has given them. (emphasis mine)

A similar situation in India might look like an association of Police officers refusing to implement a Government directive (either state or central) because they think it is against the spirit of the Indian constitution. To take a specific example, maybe the Police officers in Tamil Nadu refusing to enforce the State ban on Vishwaroopam because they believe it violates freedom of speech. I am not an expert on the Indian constitution, but my guess would be that such a move would clearly be unconstitutional. Police officers in India s are law enforcers and cannot choose whether to implement a law passed by the Indian parliament.

In a similar vein, the letter written by the Utah sheriffs may seem completely outrageous. But in the case of the United States, refusal to enforce a federal law may have constitutional backing through the right of nullification. Tom Woods defines nullification as,

 State nullification is the idea that the states can and must refuse to enforce unconstitutional federal laws.

Woods traces the power of the state governments to nullify unconstitutional federal laws to Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, drafted by James Madison (a key Founding Father of the US, the fourth American President and “Father of Constitution”) and Thomas Jefferson (another key Founding Father and principal author of the American Declaration of Independence) in 1798.

The Utah sheriffs have come together to protect the rights guaranteed to US citizens under the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which says,

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The debate on nullification and the second amendment  in the blogoshpere is ideologically charged. The libertarians invoke the concept of nullification to question Obama’s move to restrict gun ownership in the US, while the liberals question the validity of nullification and resort to the Supremacy Clause, which the federal government has previously used to strike down conflicting state laws.

Any which way, it will be interesting to see how things unfold.


Raise that unemployment now

19 Feb

Sipping my morning cup of tea, I came across a horrifying article by Paul Krugman titled “Raise that wage now.” In the article, Krugman seconds Obama’s proposal in his State of the Union address to raise the minimum wage by 24% in the US. I knew immediately that this would have opened a can of worms with the blogosphere debating this in full swing. Here’s a short clip on what Milton Friedman had to say about minimum wages,


Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek has a good compilation of some libertarian links against raising the minimum wages. You can read them here.

Since so much has been written on this, and I think the title of this post is clear on where I stand on this debate, I thought of posting two cartoon strips on this topic.