If Thomas E.
Woods had dropped dead at the beginning of 2010, his place among
his generation of libertarian scholars would have already been secure.
As a C-Span favorite, senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute,
and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to American
History" and last year’s best-selling Meltdown,
the Harvard- and Columbia-trained historian has risen to the top
of his field.
How to resist federal tyranny in the 21st century, to be
released next week, is a worthy addition to his body of work –
well researched, clearly organized and comprehensively presented.
It is as readable and entertaining as it is informative.
Woods explains, is the process whereby state legislatures protect
their people from unconstitutional legislation out of Washington.
As we’ve discussed in this space several times this year, some states
are resolving to shield their people from certain mandatory health
insurance laws. Others are attempting to block unconstitutional
firearms restrictions. Still others are blocking federal bans on
fair hearing to the "broad constructionist" point of view,
so popular among Democrats and Republicans, that the "general
welfare," "interstate commerce" and "necessary
and proper" clauses of the Constitution carry such weight as
to negate the rest of the document. The federal government is empowered
to do whatever it wants without limit. The only recourse, if the
people dislike federal actions, is to the Supreme Court.
that baby to bed thoroughly. You want to put the fate of liberty,
justice and the Constitution in the hands of a small clique of wealthy,
politically well-connected lawyers? And federal employees at that?
Deferring to some of the best minds of the Constitution era, Woods
quotes Virginia’s Judge Spencer Roane: "The States never could
have committed such egregious folly as to agree that their umpire
would be altogether appointed and paid by the other party,"
never a friend of liberty or limited government, wrote in Federalist
78 that "every act of a delegated authority contrary to the
tenor of the commission under which it is exercised is void."
Unconstitutional acts cannot be passed by the federal government,
Hamilton said, because such acts would by definition not be law.
Such acts are null and void.
to the failure of the Supreme Court to intervene during the Alien
and Sedition Act era, when the Federalist-controlled government
attempted to silence criticism through fines and imprisonment. America’s
champions in that dark hour were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison,
who authored the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions nullifying the
spirit of limited government and states that protect their citizens
from federal aggression has faded entirely. To demonstrate the slavish
obedience taught to American students today, Woods quotes Britney
Spears, saying "We should trust our president in every decision
he makes and should support, you know, and be faithful."
Jefferson took the opposite view," Woods asserts, the humor
in contrasting the political ideas of Spearsianism and Jeffersonianism
being typical of his highly readable style.
his manner and choice of words that elevate Woods over his peers.
The precision and authority of a history scholar never lets up,
yet his delivery is casual, conversational and often terribly funny.
He has mastered the tone of the egalitarian demagogue without sacrificing
the sober and reasonable approach of the serious scholar. His passion
for America comes through on every page.
Yet, he laments,
America has lost not only the idea of states as defenders and guarantors
of liberty, but the very idea of limited government. "We have
been taught to believe the best way to organize society is for an
infallible and irresistible central authority to issue commands
to lesser, subordinate bodies. … These subordinate bodies exist
at the pleasure of the central authority (with) no independent existence
of their own."
of history has been so complete and pervasive that today a teacher
can, without laughter or ridicule or loss of professional credibility,
maintain that the federal government "created" the states.
The fact that the states, and only the states, ratified the federal
As well written
as his book is, Woods manages to bring even the most oblivious reader
up to speed in a few pages. Indeed, the bulk of the book is a guided
tour through the writings and speeches of the great leaders of America’s
founding and early, pre-Lincoln era, including James Madison, Jonathan
Trumbull, and that lion of liberty and states’ rights, John Calhoun.
These appendixes take up fully half the book but make excellent
reading in that they are well-selected and so rarely cited as to
be unfamiliar to even the more interested amateur historian.
belongs on your shelf right next to Charles Adams, Tom DiLorenzo,
John Graham and James and Walter Kennedy. There it will gather dust,
utterly ignored by lawyers, journalists and politicians who have
no answer for its arguments. In an era when patriotism and libertarianism
are so archaic as to be practically unheard of, a book like this
one will serve to remind defenders of liberty that they are not
alone. Truth, as the great Jerry Clower once said, is clear as a
bell, but is not often "tolled."
with permission from The McDowell
and columnist Britt Combs writes for The
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