Stopping NDAA

In 1850, when President Millard Fillmore signed the second Fugitive Slave Act, due process was under serious attack by the Federal government.

The law compelled people of all States to “assist” Federal marshals and their deputies with the apprehension of suspected runaway slaves. It brought all trials involving alleged fugitive slaves under Federal jurisdiction. It included large fines for anyone who aided a slave in his escape, even by simply giving him food or shelter.

On top of it, bounties were paid to commissioners in fugitive slave cases: $10 if a person was sent back to slavery and $5 if the person was allowed freedom. The Federal government was paying people to capture other people and send them to slavery.

The act also suspended habeas corpus and the right to a trial by jury for alleged “slaves,” and made their testimony inadmissible in court. On the other hand, the written testimony of the supposed slave master, which could be presented to the court by slave hunters, was given preferential treatment.

State Resistance

In response to the original Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, Northern States began to pass what were known as “personal-liberty laws.” After the second Fugitive Slave Act was enacted by Fillmore, these efforts intensified.

Vermont passed a Habeas Corpus Law, requiring State judicial and law enforcement officials to actually help capture fugitive slaves there. Massachusetts took a really strong stand and passed a law that allowed kidnapping charges for anyone trying to use these “indefinite detention” provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act.

No Federal agent was charged with kidnapping in Massachusetts, though. But that was only because no escapee was ever captured for return after the law was passed. The State response was working.

In fact, Northern States were so successful overall that when South Carolina seceded 10 years later, the people there named the attempts to bypass the Fugitive Slave Acts as one of their primary reasons for leaving the Union. Their publicly released “Declaration of Causes” states:

The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Fugitive Slave Acts or render useless any attempt to execute them…

NDAA: The Road Backward

In 1942, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order that authorized the creation of military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded.”

This led to the roundup of about 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese citizens living here in California and along the West Coast. Without due process, they were relocated and sent to internment camps. Many more were classified as “enemy aliens” and subjected to increased restrictions.

Like the Fugitive Slave Acts and Japanese mass internment, the Federal government has again taken new powers never intended under the Constitution. Under sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act, the Feds again claim the power to classify people in such a way that they no longer have rights.

President Barack Obama and Congress have dropped the terms “fugitive slave” and “enemy alien.” Instead, they use “suspected terrorist” as a way to eliminate due process these days.

Resistance Today

Today, in the spirit of the 19th century Personal-Liberty Laws, States and communities around the country are taking action against NDAA detention powers. Virginia recently became the first State in the country to pass a law refusing compliance with or assistance to Federal agents carrying out detentions without due process against citizens of that State. A number of other States are working on the same.

But, it’s not just States. More than 10 communities are on board too. For example, in Fairfax, Calif., officials passed legislation that states the town will:

Instruct all our Town of Fairfax agencies to decline requests by federal agencies acting under detention powers granted by the NDAA that could infringe upon residents’ freedom of speech, religion, assembly, privacy, or rights to counsel.

Just The Beginning

When Northern States protected habeas corpus against Federal encroachments in the 19th century, they were doing their duty to protect liberty and the Constitution. Today, States and communities are doing the same.

They can and should serve as a powerful check on Federal power. In fact, the framers counted on it. It’s all about local actions. As Democrats and Republicans continue to work together in Washington to take away our rights, our communities must and will rise up to save them.

–Michael Boldin

The Tenthers Are Coming!

When the Tenth Amendment Center co-hosted three events at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., this month, the No. 1 question we heard from people when talking among the crowds was: “The 10th Amendment. Hmmmm. Which one is that?”

Seriously? Yes. Over and over again, we heard the same question. At first, I thought they were joking. Consider all the Tenther hype from people like Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and other mainstream conservatives. And at a recent Fox News/YouTube debate, the most requested question from conservatives around the country was about the 10th Amendment. Maybe they were testing us to see if we knew what we were talking about.

But, no, I was wrong. A large number of the people we interacted with at the biggest and most mainstream conservative event in the country had no clue what the 10th Amendment even is.

And they wonder how this country could end up with someone like Barack Obama? Yeah, well, that’s another column altogether.

After being asked that same question about the 10th a dozen or so times, I decided to give a much simpler reply. It went something like this: “The 10th Amendment is the one that says that Feds are allowed to do only certain stuff. That stuff is in the Constitution. Everything else is left to each of the States as we the people decide.”

That got some really positive responses. Good, because it’s true.

Practical Examples

After I got home to Los Angeles, I started to think about that question more and more. And, yes, while the basic principle I shared with people in Washington is true, I recognize that people want and need to see practical examples of how something like this is actually playing out.

Talking about how things “should be” is one thing. But sharing examples of how people are taking action on Constitutional issues right now is far more powerful.

When it comes to the Constitutional “rule of construction” known as the 10th Amendment and actions being taken around the country to reject Federal laws, regulations and mandates enacted outside the scope of their Constitutional limits, there are loads of examples to share.

In a quick one-on-one conversation, I’ll still continue to give my short-version answer about the 10th. But in a forum like this, there’s a great opportunity to share a bit more. Like this:

The 10th amendment is the one that says the Feds can do only the few things allowed to them in the Constitution. And that means people like you are empowered to do something about it when Federal politicians violate those rules. In fact, people around the country are doing something about issues all across the political spectrum right now. They’re standing up and saying something that you and I should be saying to Washington every single day: No.

That’s right. A law passed outside the limits of the Constitution is no law at all. It’s an act of usurpation. And when the Federal government passes “laws,” regulations and mandates that aren’t authorized by the Constitution, you are not bound to obey them.

Happening Right Now

Being early in the year, this is the time when State legislatures are working with people to find ways to say “no” to Washington. Here are some of what I consider to be the biggest and best examples happening around the country today.

1. Banning Health Insurance Mandates

Last fall, 66 percent of Ohio voters and a majority of every single political demographic, approved Issue 3: the Ohio Health Care Freedom Amendment. This State Constitutional Amendment says that “no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.”

Ohio is the 10th state to pass something along these lines, and six other States are considering similar measures already this year.

Keep track of all the activity on this front here.

2. Rejecting Indefinite Detention

Ten years ago, if you had called the Patriot Act “moderate,” I probably would have puked. But compared to what Obama signed into “law” on Dec. 31 (primarily sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act), that George W. Bush-era tragedy for American liberty is mild.

When due process is eliminated, these so-called “indefinite detentions” are little more than government-sanctioned kidnapping. I believe there should be serious ramifications for kidnapping, whether the kidnappers work for the government or not.

Tennessee is currently considering a bill that would do just that: sanction Federal agents with kidnapping charges in that State. Other States are taking the position that they will provide absolutely no material support in any way with the Federal government on this issue. The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill which would make law that no agent of the Commonwealth could participate in supporting the Feds in arrest without due process. The vote on that bill was a whopping 96-4.

So far, six States are considering similar bills — what we call the Liberty Preservation Act in our model legislation at the Tenth Amendment Center.

Harder to tame than a willful statehouse might be a cluster of counties, towns and cities, each one individually working to nullify these new kidnapping powers through local law. In just days, a number of localities began to consider similar legislation, and already seven have passed — most recently in Northampton, Mass.

Expect many more to join them soon. Follow the activity here.

3. Advancing Constitutional Money

With the economy coming apart at the seams, a growing number of people would like to see Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution followed. It states that “No State shall… make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.”

It seems pretty straightforward, but it hasn’t been followed in ages.

Following Utah’s lead from last year, five other States are working on legislation to allow sound money to actually be used without sanction. And while this is really just scratching the surface, it’s moving faster than waiting for Washington to somehow give up its power to inflate and bail out their friends.

Stay informed of progress on Constitutional Tender Acts here.

There’s Plenty More

Rejecting mandates, restoring due process and supporting sound money are just three important issues that define what’s happening in the Tenther Movement today. But there’s so much more. States around the country are considering similar actions on issues like 4th Amendment violations by the Transportation Security Administration to 2nd Amendment violations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

From mandates to milk, from weed to wars without declaration and everything in between, very little of what the Federal government does today is authorized by the Constitution.

But even though the establishment politicians and establishment media will never tell you this, we don’t have to sit around and take it. When 25 States refused compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005, that law remained on the books in Congress, was never challenged in Court, but was rendered virtually null, void and unenforceable in most of the country.

Saying “no” works.

When enough people stand up and say “no” to Washington and enough States follow their lead and pass laws backing them up, the Feds are going to have a hell of a time trying to force their unConstitutional “laws,” regulations and mandates down our throats.

Michael Boldin

Centralization Of Power Is Always Bad

Today is an important day in American history. On Dec. 15, 1791, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution (known as the Bill of Rights) came into effect through the process of ratification by the States.

Most people have their own view of what the purpose and effect of the Bill of Rights was supposed to be. Some think it authorizes Washington to enforce a nationwide free speech zone. Others think it requires the Feds to protect the right to keep and bear arms in every nook and cranny in the country.  And others think that there must be a nationwide separation of church and state in every State, county, city and town.

To those of you who believe that Federally run education in this country has destroyed public knowledge of the Founders’ Constitution, my next comment is no shocker: All of these people are wrong. According to the Founders, that is.

The Basics

First, we have to understand why we even have a Constitution and, thus, a Bill of Rights.

The entire founding generation toiled under the tyranny of the king of England, a king who had virtually no limits on his power. He could make rules as he went, change them on a whim and change them back. He could seize your property, your labor or your life — and you could do almost nothing about it.

Because of this, the Constitution was written to spell out the limited powers delegated to the Federal government. And it was clearly understood that this government had only the powers that were delegated to it in the Constitution.

The original Constitution contained no Bill of Rights. Many of the Framers felt it wasn’t necessary, since the Constitution clearly enumerated the few powers delegated to the Federal government. They thought any further restrictions would be redundant.

However, some of them thought there could be misunderstandings. So a Bill of Rights was proposed, and some States ratified the Constitution only on condition that those amendments would be added, which happened a few years later.

A Preamble?

Adding a preamble to a legal document was common practice at the time. It could identify the parties, list important facts and explain the purpose of the document.

Many people are unaware that, like the main body of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights had a preamble explaining its purpose.

What was the purpose? There’s no better way to answer that question than in the words of the Founders themselves in the preamble to the Bill of Rights:

The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added…

Rob Natelson, in his book The Original Constitution explains what this means:

Thus, some of the proposed amendments were “declaratory…clauses” (that is, rules of construction) designed to “prevent misconstruction” of the Constitution by explaining how the instrument should be interpreted. The rest were “restrictive clauses” to prevent “abuse” of federal powers by creating external limitations curtailing those powers. [emphasis added]

The important message here is that the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply to you, me or any other person. It applies to the Federal government.

Not The States? No Way!

Maybe it’s because most people weren’t taught that a Preamble to the Bill of Rights existed — or maybe because they confuse the word “Constitutional” with the word “good” — but it’s quite rare to find someone who doesn’t disagree with the preamble to the Bill of Rights.

Many opponents claim things like:

  • “The 1st Amendment is the only one that mentions just Congress, so the rest apply to everyone and not just Congress.”
  • “The States agreed to the Bill of Rights and, combined with the Supremacy clause, that means the States can’t violate those parts of the Constitution.”

While there are others, these are some of the most prominent reasons people give for essentially disagreeing with the Founders themselves on the Bill of Rights.

Each could use a full discussion on their own, but the important points are:

  1. The 1st Amendment was the only Amendment which specifically prohibited the making of a law. When the Founders wrote the word “law” in the 1st Amendment, they meant it. And Congress was the only branch of government that was supposed to make law. Today, we have an executive branch that makes law through executive order and a judicial branch that legislates from the bench. At the time of the founding, it would have been absurd to include either of those branches in an Amendment preventing the making of law. That’s a big part of why the 1st Amendment starts with “Congress shall make no law.”
  2. Claiming that because the States ratified the Bill of Rights, each clause applies to the States, too, is just bad logic. Think of it like this. You and 12 business partners own an apartment complex. You hire a person to manage the property and give him some rules about how you want your property run. He follows your rules pretty closely, but eventually he starts showing up at the homes of all 13 of you. He starts demanding that each of you follow the rules for the apartment building that you gave him — in your own homes!

Absurd? Absolutely. Rules created by employers for their employee don’t necessarily apply to the employers, too. In the case of the Bill of Rights, in the Preamble the employers (the States) told the employee (the Federal government) that it would have new rules that applied just to it.

And if that twisted logic weren’t enough, James Madison hammered it home in his famous speech introducing the Bill of Rights. In it, Madison proposed that the Bill of Rights have three distinct restrictions on the States.

He said: “No state shall violate the equal rights of conscience, or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases.”

What happened? Congress considered Madison’s proposal to have some of these new restrictions apply to the States, but rejected it.

Federal Restrictions

What was the end result? The body of the Constitution primarily tells the Federal government what it is allowed to do. The Bill of Rights tells the Federal government what it is not allowed to do, such as the following non-exhaustive examples:

  1. Make no law abridging freedom of speech, press, religion or assembly.
  2. Do not infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.
  3. Do not “quarter” soldiers in peacetime.
  4. Do not conduct unreasonable searches and seizures, and don’t issue warrants without probable cause.
  5. Do not force people to testify against themselves.
  6. Do not deny a speedy trial to a person accused of a crime.
  7. Do not deny trial by jury to an accused person.
  8. Do not impose excessive bail.
  9. Don’t assume that this is an exhaustive list of rights. Just because some are listed doesn’t mean the people don’t have others.
  10. Don’t exercise any power not delegated in this Constitution.

The Lesson

What’s the big message behind all this?

Centralization of power is always bad, even when it appears to have a good short-term result. Every time you approve of the Federal government taking on new power for things you approve of, you authorize your opponents to do the same for things you oppose.

That’s why every person who advocates using the Federal government to make abortion illegal nationwide also authorizes the other side to make abortion legal nationwide when it is in power. Get that, Rick Santorum?

And every person who advocates forcing every State to legalize marijuana also authorizes the opposition to ban it in the entire country when it is in power.

The same principle can be applied to just about every issue.


The system we have today puts almost all decisions about the fate of your liberty into the hands of nine unelected, unaccountable, politically connected lawyers. That’s not a good place for any society to be.

How do we fix this mess? The first step is to stop going to the Federal government to fix problems that are actually caused by the Federal government itself (most are!). Doing so is not just an absurd idea, it has led us to the place we are in today.

Moving forward to the principle behind the Bill of Rights (decentralization of power) will bring you a huge step closer to liberty. It’s an idea whose time has come.

Small Steps Toward Liberty

Concordia res parvae crescunt.

It’s a Latin phrase made popular during the Revolutionary Period that means “small things grow great by concord.” And in a time when politicians claim the power to control nearly every aspect of your life, it’s a phrase that not only packs wisdom, but gives insight on a possible road map to liberty.

A Quick History Lesson

In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Quartering Act, which required the colonies to provide housing and provisions for British soldiers. Like unfunded mandates of today, the colonies had to pay for it all, too. But, when 1,500 British troops arrived at New York City in 1766, the New York Assembly refused to comply, effectively nullifying the act.

The Quartering Act was circumvented in all the colonies other than Pennsylvania. In royal circles, this was yet another sign that the colonies were getting a bit out of control.

In 1767, the British Parliament passed a series of five laws known as the Townshend Acts. Their primary purpose was to raise tax revenue and enforce compliance in the colonies. They included the Revenue Act of 1767, the Indemnity Act of 1767, the Commissioners of Customs Act of 1767, the Vice Admiralty Court Act of 1768 and the New York Restraining Act (a punishment for the very public rejection of the Quartering Act a year earlier).

The “punishment” given to New York? The Assembly had its legislative powers suspended, effectively leaving all decision-making outside the colony. In other words, they had to self-govern as they were told to, or not self-govern at all.

Sound familiar?

The colonies responded. And, although the Townshend Acts didn’t have the same, immediate uproar as the Stamp Act had just two years prior, they were hated and resistance soon became widespread. The most influential response to the acts came from John Dickinson, commonly known as the “Penman of the Revolution.” Opposing the new Acts, he wrote a series of twelve essays known as Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania.

Advice, Wisdom

Dickinson’s warning? Don’t concede to new powers just because they appear to be small — or in the case of the Townshend Acts, because the taxes were low — since such concessions always set a dangerous precedent for new and greater powers in the future.

In the first of his essays, Dickinson addressed the New York Restraining Act. He wrote:

If the parliament may lawfully deprive New York of any of her rights, it may deprive any, or all the other colonies of their rights; and nothing can possibly so much encourage such attempts, as a mutual inattention to the interests of each other. To divide, and thus to destroy, is the first political maxim in attacking those, who are powerful by their union.

He continued on to say that, in essence, the rightful response at that moment would have been for other colonial assemblies to have at least passed nonbinding resolutions informing Parliament that the Act was a violation of rights and it should be repealed.

Why? His answer came through clearly at the end of this first essay, where he signed off with the Latin phrase “Concordia res parvae crescunt.”

Small things grow great by concord.

Assuming Total Power

In many ways, today’s Federal government has suspended the legislative power of State assemblies by assuming control over powers never delegated to it in the Constitution. For example, when the Administration of President Barack Obama threatened to close businesses in California because politicians and bureaucrats in Washington think that a particular plant should be illegal, it made its intentions clear. And when the Administration of President George W. Bush told the people of Montana — and elsewhere — that they wouldn’t be able to fly without a new national ID card, it also asserted the power to legislate for the people of that State.

The Federal government assumes unConstitutional new powers like this almost daily.

When Congressional declarations of war are deemed an “anachronism,” Congress simply abdicates its duty on the question of war and unConstitutionally transfers its power to the executive branch. And when such unConstitutional transfers of power seem unlikely, the executive branch simply redefines war into “kinetic something something” — and then initiates war on its own say-so anyway.

When homegrown wheat that’s never bought or sold and is consumed on one’s own property is outside the sphere of Federal control, the judicial branch simply redefines what the Founders considered “interstate commerce” and dictates that the Federal government controls virtually all commerce, and then even noneconomic activity.

Politicians in Congress and the executive branch — and the lobbyists who benefit financially from their unConstitutional acts — are all too happy to use this wealth of power.

For far too long, people have stood idly by, “voting the bums out” and hoping that a new crop of Federal politicians would ride in and save the day.

But, while new bums have come and gone (and come and gone), the day has yet to be saved.

Step By Step

Pushing off the yoke of an empire is not something that’s done in one fell swoop. This is something that the Penman of the Revolution recognized early on.

When I talk with people about resisting — and slowly but eventually nullifying — unConstitutional Federal acts, I rarely find opposition to the idea. Instead, I often hear things like “Yeah, but they have the guns!” Or, “I’m totally in favor of this, but it’ll never work, the Feds are too strong.” Or, “This will just crumble when DC takes away funding or jails opponents.”

Fear is something that obviously keeps traction through the ages, for Dickinson dealt with these same thoughts. He wrote in his third essay:

“Great Britain,” they say, “is too powerful to contend with; she is determined to oppress us; it is in vain to speak of right on one side, when there is power on the other; when we are strong enough to resist we shall attempt it; but now we are not strong enough, and therefore we had better be quiet; it signifies nothing to convince us that our rights are invaded when we cannot defend them; and if we should get into riots and tumults about the late act, it will only draw down heavier displeasure upon us.”

In the Revolutionary Period, like today, people were afraid of upsetting the status quo; and they urged others to sit idly by.

Dickinson’s response?

Are these men ignorant that usurpations, which might have been successfully opposed at first, acquire strength by continuance, and thus become irresistible?

The message? If we stand by and do nothing, we know what’s coming. Each small step toward liberty is an important one.

Today, dozens of States have considered — and many have passed — nonbinding resolutions reaffirming the Founders’ vision for the Federal government: that it should be one of limited, delegated powers. Fifteen States are actively defying both congress and the Supreme Court by allowing the use of marijuana. More than two dozen States have refused to comply with the Real ID act. Other States are taking steps to consider legislation that would nullify specific Federal acts like Obamacare, warrantless searches by the Transportation Security Administration, legal tender laws, the Food Safety and Modernization Act, and more.

While many of these acts might feel like small steps in the grand scheme of things — risking reprisals from the dangerous beast we call the Federal government — each thorn in the side of the empire is yet another essential step toward liberty.

For as a wise person once said, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

NOTE: The preceding is based on Michael Boldin’s monologue at the close of Tenther Radio Episode 20.  Listen to the audio version here.

When Winning Is Really Losing

NOTE: The following is Michael Boldin’s “Tenther Rant” from episode 15 of Tenther Radio. Listen to the audio version at this link.

Recently, a long-time commenter on the website had this to say:

“Being a purist is generally another way of saying being a loser in a large Federation.”

This was in regards to the Presidential candidacy and foreign policy views of Ron Paul. The idea being that since Paul’s foreign policy ideas were, according to our commenter, far out of the current mainstream of Republican voters, that Paul needed to shift his positions to ensure the potential for being a winner.

When I respond here, I’m certainly not limiting my viewpoints to the candidacy of Ron Paul, to viewpoints on foreign policy, or anything else for that matter. Instead, I think this applies to everything politically.

Haven’t We Had Enough “Winners” In This Country?

For more than a century, we’ve had winners on the left, and winners on the right. And not a single one of them — not one — has followed the Constitution as they were supposed to, and as we at the Tenth Amendment Center demand — every issue, every time, no exceptions and no excuses.

The 10th Amendment was the exclamation point on the Constitution — reinforcing the fact that “We the People” of the several States created the Federal government. Not the other way around. And, we created that government to be our agent for certain, enumerated purposes… and nothing more.

James Madison — you might have heard his name associated with the moniker “Father of the Constitution” — put it this way:

“The powers delegated by the Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Few and defined?

Well, depending on how you count it, there are approximately 30 powers that have been delegated to the Federal government in the Constitution, most of which reside in Article I, Section 8.

Thirty powers. That’s all.

But, if you were somehow able to read through all of the U.S. Code and the Code of Federal Regulations, you would have to go through tens of thousands of pages of Federal laws and regulations. And it’s not like Presidents have been waging epic battles with Congress over the years, vetoing bill after bill and having those vetoes overridden. Instead, almost nothing gets vetoed. Even Ronald Reagan, the President that many Constitutionalists idolize as their champion, only vetoed 39 times in an eight-year period.

Five vetoes per year? Nah, no thanks. To me, that’s as good as zero.

At this point, what should a President do to stand up for the Constitution? If we want to err on the side of the Constitution, let’s keep it simple.

A Constitutional President should pretty much veto everything!

Take A Hike!

That’s what a Constitutional President would say to Congress on almost everything they pass.

And hopefully, this brings me back to my initial point — that it’s not OK to be a kinda-Constitutionalist. Or a mostly-Constitutionalist. Or what we almost always have, a partisan-Constitutionalist.

Whether they’re from the left or the right, conservative or liberal — or anywhere in between — all politicians claim to support and follow the Constitution. And every now and then, most of them say something right. But, it’s very little and there’s almost no consistency.

From both sides we’ve seen opposition to violations of your liberties on some issues, but not on others. We’ve seen opposition to some undeclared, unConstitutional wars, but not on others. We’ve seen support for limiting government actions in some areas, but not in others. And sadly, the support and opposition often changes based on which political party is holding power at a given time.

But that’s best left for another conversation.

The fact of the matter, though, is this — both sides have allowed, turned a blind eye to, and even actively promoted massive Constitutional violations for far too long.

Year in and year out, politicians tell us that there’s some kind of emergency, real or pretended, and they need to have new powers to prevent all kinds of horrors and death.

Corporate bailouts, Social Security, Environmental Regulations, the USA Patriot Act, the Department of Energy, Wars in Vietnam, Iraq and elsewhere, the Department of Education, massive military spending, the Department of Energy, foreign aid, the War on Drugs, FEMA, the FDA and too much more to list — have all been sold to us on fear. And all of them are unConstitutional.

When you allow politicians to bend the rules of the Constitution or break them outright — even if it’s for a good reason, or to hopefully stop some outcome YOU are afraid of — and you let them do it year in and year out for decades — sooner or later you’ll end up with politicians who feel that the rules, the Constitution that is, don’t apply at all.

And if we’re not already there today, we’re pretty damn close.

That’s why I vehemently reject our commenter’s opposition to being a purist. Oppose the ideas, maybe. Disagree with the principles, sure. But oppose a position because it might not be a winner? Never.

That’s why our motto here at the Tenth Amendment Center is so simple. The Constitution. Every issue, every time. No exceptions, no excuses.

I’m hoping that you, like me, are sick and tired of people who advocate winning above all else. “Winning” is what’s gotten us where we are today, and “winning” has really been losing for all of us.

Like my parents used to tell my brother and me when we fought as children — “you’re both wrong” — it’s time for people who love liberty to do the same to Democrats and Republicans alike.

Both sides have been wrong for far too long. And every day we tolerate it for the sake of winning, we add one more link to the chains of our own shackles.

–Michael Boldin

Dear Federal Government: Go To Hell

NOTE: The following was based on a speech given at a freedom rally hosted by State sovereignty advocate and Washington State Representative Matt Shea on Aug. 30.

Almost everyone I know has written a letter to the Federal government. Many of them have contacted their Representatives or Senators at some point. They have emailed, faxed or even called — asking, demanding or just plain begging these politicians to do something or not.

I never have.

Why? Because I believe it is an absurd idea to ask the Federal government to fix problems it created, and that doing so just doesn’t work.

For example, those on the antiwar left got a “peace President” who has bombed Libya and massively expanded the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many of those same progressives vehemently opposed the Patriot Act forced upon us by former President George W. Bush and the Republicans. With the Democrats in power, they got more of the same. Again.

For those on the right, the so-called conservative Bush and the Republicans in Congress gave us more Federal control over education with their No Child Left Behind Act. They also laid the groundwork for today’s national healthcare mandates with the largest expansion of Federal control over healthcare in decades: Medicare Part D.

And for everyone, we’ve got the Transportation Security Administration. Because no one, at least no one I know, likes the fact that this particular agency violates the 4th Amendment almost constantly.

So, because of things like these, I’ve always thought it was pointless to write the Feds telling them anything. Until now.

I recently wrote a draft letter to my so-called Representatives in Washington. Before sending it to them, I thought I’d share it with you here to see if you have suggestions or if it meets your approval as is.

Here’s what I came up with:

“Dear Federal government: Go to hell!”

Out Of The Mainstream? Not At All

Start talking 10th Amendment, state sovereignty or — heaven forbid — nullification, and you will immediately find yourself branded as an extremist, a nut job, a radical and out of the mainstream. There’s even a supposedly nasty term for those of us who would dare advance such nutty principles: “Tenther.”

Well, apparently, the American majority is just plain nutty.

A Rasmussen poll released last Friday tells us that “54 percent of Likely U.S. Voters believe that states should have the right to opt out of federal programs they don’t agree with.” In other words, more than half of Americans now embrace the Constitutional concept of State sovereignty.

More telling than this small majority in support of such crazy ideas is the much smaller minority of people opposed to them. Only 31 percent of those polled disagreed and said States should not enjoy the ability to opt out.

Think about that for a moment, because it is significant. Less than one-third of the country opposes our base principle that each State can and should have a unique approach to handling various political issues.

Federalism Rules!

The Founders told us that such a system was not only a good idea, but also in line with the Constitution. They knew that one-size-fits-all solutions would lead to pretty much what we have today: a crumbling economy, liberty eroded and continual violations of the rules given to government.

Today, people everywhere are beginning to recognize a simple truth: What’s right for California is likely not right for Washington State, and what’s right for Idaho is likely not right for Alabama, and so on.

In fact, such a decentralized system (the system the Founders gave us in the Constitution) is the only kind in which people in a huge country like ours — with widely varying political, economic and religious beliefs — can all live peacefully together under a large defense umbrella.

John Adams famously told us that the real American Revolution was not the war for independence. He said:

The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

Happening Right Now

Even more exciting than this poll is the fact that States around the country are putting this idea into practice.

In 1996, when my home state of California decided to opt out of Federal drug laws by allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes, it was going it alone. But, soon other States recognized not only their own ability, but the possible benefit of opting out of this particular Federal program. Today, 15 States have done so, and they are increasingly getting away with it.

A few years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union championed State-level opposition to the REAL ID Act of 2005, which required States to follow Federal guidelines in issuing driver’s licenses. Since then, more than half the States have enacted legislation against participation, and all applied for or received extensions by the 2008 deadline.

Here we are six years later and it’s still not fully implemented, because States just won’t do it.

States opting out of Federal programs (at the Tenth Amendment Center, we refer to it as “nullification“) can be a pretty effective strategy. It’s far more effective than “voting the bums out” or writing a letter to Federal politicians, in my opinion.

States’ Rights: Not Just For Liberals

Better yet, this growing States’ rights movement is not just exclusive to progressives and the left. Conservatives have gotten on board with the idea in recent years; and they are becoming more effective with it, too.

A recent Washington Times article said: “All told, 17 states have enacted laws rejecting parts of the Affordable Care Act, according to a report by the National Council of State Legislatures.” And, as tracked by the Tenth Amendment Center, more than 10 states have begun to consider the next step, rejecting (read: nullifying) the entire Affordable Care Act — every word of it.

Going Mainstream

Rasmussen reported: “Support for states’ rights jumps higher when the question involves federally mandated programs with no checks attached. Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters think states should have the right to opt out of such programs if the federal government doesn’t help pay for them. Twenty-one percent (21%) disagree and 16% are undecided.”

What does that mean? Only one in five people believe the States should have to blindly comply with Federal mandates, no matter what. This is certainly good news, and something to build upon. We Tenthers are winning the ideological battle amongst the people.

In the end, it seems to me that Thomas Jefferson’s ideas from the Principles of ’98 have gone mainstream, as they should. He was far more eloquent than I when he wrote, “…the several states composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government

But, the message remains the same.

“Dear Federal government: Go to hell!”

–Michael Boldin

NOTE: Michael Maharrey, communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center, contributed to this article.

They Don’t Want Us Doing This; We’re Doing It Anyway

In a recent interview with a reporter from the BBC, I was asked what I thought about proposed cuts to foreign aid spending. “More than 10 percent in cuts, that’s pretty steep, right?”

My answer: “Steep? [Chuckling.] It’s all perspective, I guess. My preference? I’d like to see that number changed. To 100 percent.”

The reporter was shocked to a point of near-disbelief. The responses given to me were the common ones. I must be OK with people starving in the streets, or people dying of AIDS, or any number of other horrors that would obviously happen if the Federal government were to follow the rules given to it: the Constitution.

In another interview with The Washington Times last week, I was asked: “With all the talk about the 10th Amendment from candidates, what are voters getting from this?”

My response: “They’re getting duped. For probably a century, it hasn’t mattered which political party has held power in Washington, Federal power always grows.” I heard a bit of a chuckle in response.

What’s the point of these two seemingly unrelated discussions?

Problems Don’t Fix Themselves

On the one hand, there’s a considerably large segment of the establishment that would reel in horror at the thought of individuals having, well, personal liberty and the Federal government being limited to those few powers that have been delegated to it in the Constitution. On the other hand, there’s a large part of our own population (you know, we average people who want the Constitution followed on every issue, every time, with no exceptions and no excuses) who focus all their time, money and energy on Federal elections as a solution to our problems.

In my opinion, both ends of that spectrum are problematic, at best.

In regard to the latter, going to the Federal government to fix problems created by the Federal government not only doesn’t work; but after a century or so of trying, it might be bordering on insanity.

As I wrote in a recent column on Personal Liberty Digest™, there is a solution to our problems, and it doesn’t rely on the Federal government magically fixing itself. Instead, it lies with us — through the Jeffersonian remedy called nullification.

Nullification: Educating The Masses

In September 2010, the Tenth Amendment Center, in tandem with local groups around the country, launched a series of events around the country to educate people on these principles. The Nullify Now! tour has already been to eight cities and is heading to Kansas City, Mo., on Aug. 20; Jacksonville, Fla., on Oct. 22 ; plus Philadelphia; North Carolina; and elsewhere.

Our goal? Forcing State nullification — Thomas Jefferson’s doctrine that States must refuse to allow the enforcement of unConstitutional Federal laws — into the political discussion by means of a series of high-profile events. So far, it has been working.

For example, Texas State Representative David Simpson spoke at Nullify Now! in Fort Worth, Texas, while he was still a candidate for office last year. He went on to introduce legislation to nullify unConstitutional search and seizure by the Transportation Security Administration in Texas airports. While the bill didn’t go the distance, it got major national attention, bringing the idea that a State can and should step up to stop the unConstitutional TSA.

In other States, bills have been considered to nullify Washington’s unConstitutional acts on gold and silver, healthcare mandates, gun laws, Environmental Protection Agency regulations and more. Around the country, people are actually considering proposals to use their States to block the Federal government.

The Establishment Hates Nullification

In fact, it’s happening so much that some of those in the establishment who would reel in horror at the idea of personal liberty are out on the warpath. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC is just one example. She recently did a 14-minute segment on the subject of nullification. And her presentation, as you might guess, wasn’t a cheerleading session either.

The segment, titled “Confederates in the Attic,” was about how efforts today, primarily championed by the Tenth Amendment Center, to decentralize power and reject unConstitutional Federal “laws” are somehow directly related to slave owners in the pre-Civil War South.

No. That’s not a joke. She was quite serious.

She said: “A conservative group called the Tenth Amendment Center has been pushing a lot of the anti-health reform stuff… in the context of nullification. And they’re pushing for other kinds of nullification, too.”

The Center has been pushing anti-health reform stuff? Yep. We drafted the model bill, the Federal Health Care Nullification Act. Versions of our legislation — to either fully nullify or refuse compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) — have been introduced in 11 States so far, and it’s making headway in a few, too.

We’re pushing for other kinds of nullification, too? Ab-so-freakin-lutely!

Two for two. Good job, Rachel! But, no, it’s not related to slave owners; it’s about decentralization — for freedom. In fact, nullification was used in opposition to Federal slave laws prior to the Civil War, but that’s something we can cover in more detail in a future column.

Rachel is not the only one trying to frame this movement in a negative light. The establishment has spent considerable time attacking our efforts, and the efforts of those pushing nullification. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently issued a “warning” that the Nullify Now! tour might be headed to a city near you. Saying “no” to Washington requires a “warning?” For lovers of endless central power, it sure does.

If you’re not catching any flak, you’re not over the target. And the Tenth Amendment Center, along with other advocates of nullification, are certainly over the target.

Real Progress

But it’s not just ideas and bill proposals that are happening. This is all building off an already-growing movement around the country.

Since 2007, 25 States have passed resolutions or binding laws refusing to comply with the 2005 Real ID Act. The result? That law is still on the books in Congress. It has never been challenged in court. Yet, due to massive State-level resistance, that law sits null and void in much of the country.

Fifteen States are now defying both Congress and the Supreme Court on marijuana. Eight States have passed Firearms Freedom Acts, making State law that a gun made in State and sold in State is not part of “interstate commerce” and the Feds need to keep their dirty hands off. Seven States have passed Health Care Freedom Acts to block health care mandates from being enforced. And in Utah, a bill was passed this year allowing gold and silver to be used as legal tender. If enough States do that and enough people start using metal for currency, the entire Federal Reserve system should be quaking in its boots. Ending the Fed from the bottom up is the idea, and it’s going to work.

Not Just A Good Idea: Duty

James Madison informed us that nullification is not just something to talk about, or take action on after trying everything else. Instead, it’s your State’s duty to stand between the Federal government and you to protect your liberty. He called it “interposition.” In Virginia Resolution of 1798, he wrote:

That this Assembly doth explicitly and peremptorily declare, that it views the powers of the federal government, as resulting from the compact, to which the states are parties; as limited by the plain sense and intention of the instrument constituting the compact; as no further valid that they are authorized by the grants enumerated in that compact; and that in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.  [emphasis added]

Something significant is happening around the country. Plenty of informed people are beginning to make a stand in the name of a doctrine that the establishment despises. The idea is already reaching the general public. More and more people are understanding that elections don’t fix things. They never do. While our “leaders” would like us to believe that all roads lead to them, the fact of the matter is that it’s only through us — decentralized activism and nullification — that we’ll see a growth of liberty in this country.

Nullification isn’t just some historical oddity. It’s not just a good idea. It’s our duty to say no to violations of our liberty.

Sheriff Richard Mack put it best in a recent interview on Tenther Radio. His message to Washington? “Shove it up 1600 Pennsylvania, and leave us the hell alone!”

They don’t want us doing this. We are doing it anyway. Be a part of it, and Nullify Now!

–Michael Boldin

Whether The Government Wants Us To Or Not!

We don’t need no stinkin’ permission to exercise our rights. We need to exercise our rights whether the government wants us to or not.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my views with readers of the Personal Liberty Digest™, and am looking forward to doing so as often as possible. So I figured we should start out with a quick introduction.

I’m a proud Tenther.

Rachel Maddow and her ilk would have you believe that this is dangerous. But, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. To me, being a Tenther means I believe the Federal government is authorized to exercise only those powers that we the people delegated to it in the constitution — and nothing more.

Unfortunately, though, for a long time, things have been completely opposite. It’s gotten so bad in recent decades that I believe there’s very little the Federal government does that actually is authorized by the Constitution.

What Do We Do About It?

Do we march on D.C. and demand that the Federal politicians limit their own power?

Do we sue them in court in the hopes that the Federal judges will limit Federal power?

Do we “vote the bums out” and hope that the new bums will reject all that power left to them on a silver platter?

Power, And Some Warnings

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both warned us that if the Federal government ever became the sole and exclusive arbiter of the extent of its own powers, that power would grow endlessly, regardless of elections, separation of powers, courts or other vaunted parts of our system.

Surprise, surprise. They were right. For more than a century, we the people have been suing, marching, lobbying and voting bums out. Yet year in and year out, government continues to grow, and your liberty continues to diminish. And it doesn’t matter what political party is in power, the Federal beast keeps growing.

Power. The problem we face today is about power. And until we address the absolute fact that the Federal government has too much power, things will never change. Then, we’ll need to take the next step and acknowledge that going to the Federal government to fix problems created by the Federal government is not just absurd, but it never works.

John Adams also gave us a warning that “liberty once lost, is lost forever.” He wasn’t necessarily saying that there’s no hope whatsoever in a situation like ours. Instead, it was an important lesson on what we must face going forward. Whenever government tells us it needs more power to deal with an “emergency” — and it always seems to have them for both foreign and domestic issues — that same government will never voluntarily give that power back to the people. It will never just decide that the newfound power is something it doesn’t want. The result? Adams was trying to tell us that liberty is never regained without a long, difficult struggle by the people.

What Would Jefferson Do?

How do we fix this mess? Well, Thomas Jefferson was a pretty smart dude. In 1798, he gave a little advice on what to do when government won’t follow the limits given to it. In response to Federal violations of the 1st amendment that year he wrote that “whensoever” the Federal government exercises “undelegated powers… a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.”

Reading this, you’ll notice that Jefferson didn’t say that a nullification of the act is a pretty decent remedy. He didn’t say that nullification is just a rightful remedy, or even a good idea to try after voting bums out or going to court. He told us that any time (whensoever) the Federal government exercises powers it isn’t supposed to exercise (undelegated powers), a nullification is the rightful remedy (our proper course of action right now).

What does that mean? Well, we’re not supposed to wait for the Federal government to correct itself. We’re not supposed to wait two or four or six years for some new bums to fix things for us. We’re not supposed to wait years for the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court to give us permission to be free. We’re supposed to exercise our rights whether the government wants us to our not.


Around the country, there’s a lot of talk about nullification; but what is it, really? I can think of no better way to define it than how Tenth Amendment Center research analyst Derek Sheriff has done — by describing what it is not:

Nullification is not secession or insurrection, but neither is it unconditional or unlimited submission. Nullification is not something that requires any decision, statement or action from any branch of the federal government. Nullification is not the result of obtaining a favorable court ruling. Nullification is not the petitioning of the federal government to start doing or to stop doing anything. Nullification doesn’t depend on any federal law being repealed. Nullification does not require permission from any person or institution outside of one’s own state.

Nullification is something that’s already happening around the country – and Derek explains the process:

Nullification begins with a decision made in your state legislature to resist a federal law deemed to be unconstitutional. It usually involves a bill, which is passed by both houses and is signed by your governor. In some cases, it might be approved by the voters of your state directly, in a referendum. It may change your state’s statutory law or it might even amend your state constitution. It is a refusal on the part of your state government to cooperate with, or enforce any federal law it deems to be unconstitutional.

At its very core, nullification is any action or set of actions on a State level which results in some Federal law being rendered, in practice, null and void or unenforceable.


I recently went to an event in my hometown of Los Angeles called HempCon. This was a huge production at the massive convention center in downtown LA. There were loads of vendors and businesses from every angle you can think of in support of the marijuana industry.

There were home security companies to help protect your weed. Solar power companies offered to help you grow your weed. Doctors were giving out medical marijuana cards to virtually anyone with $80 and an hour of time. There were even delivery services. Seriously. You can get your marijuana delivered to you in Los Angeles 24 hours a day… in 30 minutes or less. The pizza companies have nothing on these guys! It was amazing if you think about it from an economic standpoint. This was the market — working its wonders.

What’s the point?

Virtually every single one of those businesses was either directly violating Federal law or aiding someone else in doing so, because marijuana is illegal, according to the Feds — but not the Constitution — in all situations. And guess what: No thugs from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement Administration shut the place down. Business functioned, and people did what they wanted to in freedom. That’s the way things are supposed to be.

But it’s not just Congress and some unConstitutional agencies that claim these people are breaking the law. The Supreme Court is on their side, too. In the 2005 Gonzales v. Raich case, the Court ruled that a California cancer patient who grew six plants in her back yard, consumed them at home and never bought or sold them was somehow under purview of the “interstate commerce” clause of the Constitution — and subject to Federal, not State, jurisdiction. Basically, the justices said: “We don’t care what your State law says; we’re in charge.”

At that time of that ruling, there were 10 states that had such medical marijuana laws. After the Supremes told us they were, in essence, illegal, how many were repealed? Zero! And today, there are even more States joining in. There are now 15 States defying Washington on marijuana, and they are getting away with it.

The Blueprint

What we have here, then, is a blueprint. When enough people say no to unConstitutional “laws,” regulations and mandates… and enough States pass laws to back up those people, there’s not much the Federal government can do, but slowly and consistently back off. There are no tanks rolling into Los Angeles to shut down the dispensaries. This is far from perfect, but it can work, and it is working right now.

Whether it’s the Transportation Security Administration, or gun rights or health freedom — or even rejecting the unConstitutional Department of Education — the solution to our problems does not lie with the Federal government. It lies in your States, and with you.

The Big Question

So here’s the final question — and my big challenge to you today. When it happens someday (and it will) that the Federal government tells you that you have to purchase a healthcare plan and you start thinking about penalties for violating that “law,” ask yourself this: Do you have as much courage as the pot smokers?

I sure hope you do. Because we the people need to exercise our rights whether the government gives us “permission” to or not!