Quotation of the Day
. . . is from Isabel Paterson’s book The God of the Machine (1943):
Every politically controlled educational system will inculcate the doctrine of state supremacy sooner or later. . . . Once that doctrine has been accepted, it becomes an almost superhuman task to break the stranglehold of the political power over the life of the citizen. It has had his body, property and mind in its clutches from infancy. An octopus would sooner release its prey. A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.
MP: See my related 1995 article The Educational Octopus where I conclude that:
There is no surer way to guarantee that our children continue to receive an inferior education than to continue educating 90 percent of our children in the public school system. Education is far too important a responsibility to leave in the hands of a government bureaucracy whose monopoly status allows it to be insensitive and unaccountable to parents and students.
What is the Doctrine of State Supremacy? Glad you asked. It’s the doctrine that says that federal law is the law of the land, and whatsoever that law says, the states shall abide by it. However, states have the right of nullification, which conflicts directly with the supremacy clause of Article IV, Clause ii of the Constitution.
Regarding Nullification, Dr. Thomas Woods provides a concise outline . . .
What is it?
State nullification is the idea that the states can and must refuse to enforce unconstitutional federal laws.
What’s the Argument for It?
Here’s an extremely basic summary:
1) The states preceded the Union. The Declaration of Independence speaks of “free and independent states” that “have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.” The British acknowledged the independence not of a single blob, but of individual states, which they proceeded to list one by one. Article II of the Articles of Confederation says the states “retain their sovereignty, freedom, and independence”; they must have enjoyed that sovereignty in the past in order for them to “retain” it in 1781 when the Articles were officially adopted. The ratification of the Constitution was accomplished not by a single, national vote, but by the individual ratifications of the various states, each assembled in convention.
2) In the American system no government is sovereign. The peoples of the states are the sovereigns. It is they who apportion powers between themselves, their state governments, and the federal government. In doing so they are not impairing their sovereignty in any way. To the contrary, they are exercising it.
3) Since the peoples of the states are the sovereigns, then when the federal government exercises a power of dubious constitutionality on a matter of great importance, it is they themselves who are the proper disputants, as they review whether their agent was intended to hold such a power. No other arrangement makes sense. No one asks his agent whether the agent has or should have such-and-such power. In other words, the very nature of sovereignty, and of the American system itself, is such that the sovereigns must retain the power to restrain the agent they themselves created. James Madison explains this clearly in the famous Virginia Report of 1800.
Mark J. Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. He is best known as the creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem. At AEI, Perry writes about economic and financial issues for American.com and the AEIdeas blog.