In their new book, Nullifying Tyranny: Creating Moral Communities in an Immoral Society, James and Walter Kennedy address the case for nullifying unconstitutional federal legislation to “fellow Christians who . . . understand that the government . . . has been slowly taken over. . . by an anti-Christian secular humanist element . . .” It is, in essence, an attempt to wake Christians up to the fact that the “god” of democracy results in a situation where immoral people can force everyone to comply with their edicts. “Government, even when sanctified by a majority vote, cannot turn an otherwise immoral act into a moral act.”
Government under democracy is nothing more than legalized theft on a massive scale, the Kennedy brothers say in their Rothbardian analysis of the state. Whether it is monarchy or democracy, government steals private property (through taxation, mostly) “in order to pay for the loyalty of . . . supporters those close to the source of power who have a natural interest in maintaining the status quo.” Moreover, “A loyal court, a loyal police and military, and a loyal religious establishment” all “lead parasitic lives. The cost is paid by the productive who must labor to earn enough for the king” (or the state in general, under democracy).
Many Christians misread Jesus’s command, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are Gods,” they write. What Jesus said was NOT to obey ALL of Caesar’s commands, but only to “render unto Caesar things that belong to the realm of government, obey [only] legitimate laws enacted by government . . .” For “the larger the government the greater harm it will eventually do to society’s morals . . . . the only way to maintain a moral community is to keep the corrosive power of government at a minimum.”
The Kennedys embrace the Rothbardian principle of self-ownership as “the first principle of human liberty.” Liberty “is based on the principle of self-ownership and personal accountability. Human liberty is indispensable for the promotion, development, and maintenance of a prosperous, peaceful and moral society.” The problem with democracy is that human liberty is anathema to it, for “politicians, the ruling elite who control government, do not want people to become self-reliant.” They want us all to be reliant on them. They want us to be their tax slaves, cannon fodder, and experimental laboratory rats. “[C]ommunities composed of strong and self-reliant families pose a significant barrier to the envy and greed of politicians and those closely connected to the political ruling elite. Politicians know that people who rely upon themselves and their local community have very little need for a powerful political leader, government bureaucrats, and legions of regulators . . .”
Nullifying Tyranny lays out the classic case for limited constitutional government: “The primary function of government indeed the only legitimate function for government is to protect citizens’ property rights.” The authors note that in the 1840s, John C. Calhoun identified the tipping point of where, in a democracy, the “tax consumers” come to outnumber the taxpayers. At that point, “government becomes the instrument for legalized looting of the dwindling, law-abiding, moral, productive element.” We become ACORN Nation, in other words. Moreover, government is inherently a criminal enterprise, for “government agents have the ability to do things to citizens that, were the agents not part of the government, they would be seized by the local law enforcement service and thrown into jail.”
Unlike almost all conservatives and libertarians who make the case for limited constitutional government, the Kennedy brothers are not so naïve as to believe that the document could ever be self-enforcing. “Time has demonstrated the folly of this argument,” they write. They are Jeffersonians, and believe as Jefferson did that the only way such a document could ever conceivably be enforced is through political communities organized at the state and local level. Like past generations of Jeffersonians, they understand the absurdity of believing that the federal government could ever be trusted, through its “supreme” court, to faithfully enforce the constitutional limitations on its own powers. Nullification and secession or the threat of secession are the only possible means of enforcing a written constitution.
Addressing the Lincoln Cult and other champions of centralized federal power, the authors write that “Slavery and racial segregation are no longer enforceable by law . . . . Anyone today who attempts to deride States’ Rights due to its historical association with slavery or racial segregation should be dismissed as one seeking Federal supremacy in order to force his will upon ‘we the people’ of the sovereign community . . .” (emphasis added).
The Kennedy brothers echo F.A. Hayek’s dictum from The Road to Serfdom that, under socialism, “the worst rise to the top.” This is also true in democracies in general, they say. In a democracy, “Successful leaders . . . tend to be those who are not hindered by strong moral principles.” That is because in a democracy, successful political candidates must do three immoral things: “promise to take money away from those who honestly earned it . . . and give it to those who have no legal right to it”; “make promises that most likely will not be kept”; and grant financial favors to individuals and groups who merely provide the financing for the winning campaign. “Only an unprincipled person can successfully piece together majority votes in a legislature made up of numerous conflicting special interest groups.”
The final chapter of Nullifying Tyranny makes a case for local citizen activism that can resurrect states’ rights as a means of implementing nullification. Most importantly, the chapter answers six major objections to their proposal to amend the Constitution to resurrect state sovereignty. (In nutshell form, these are: “We’ll never get three fourths of the states to agree”; “Can’t we just rely on good, honest people to get elected?”; “the special interests are too powerful”; “Christians should not mix politics and religion”; “Can’t we just elect ‘good conservatives’ to Congress?”; and “Your proposal would weaken the federal government; who then would protect us?”
The book ends with four addendums, including a commentary on “Boom-Bust Economics” that is based on Murray Rothbard’s What Has Government Done to Our Money? And Tom Woods’ Meltdown: A Free-Market Look at Why the Stock Market Collapsed, the Economy Tanked, and Government Bailouts Will Make Things Worse. Christians who believe that all that needs to be done is to elect good, Bible-believing Republicans are deluding themselves, say the Kennedy brothers, for “the Republican Party is just as wedded to the status quo as the Democratic Party” and “both parties can be counted on to do whatever it takes to maintain the ruling elite’s control and parasitic use of Federal power.”
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln; Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe and How Capitalism Saved America. His latest book is Hamilton’s Curse: How Jefferson’s Archenemy Betrayed the American Revolution – And What It Means for America Today.