Paths to Nullification: In Law vs in Practice

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Pundits, members of the media, and legal experts generally focus exclusively on nullification in a purely legal sense, specifically on a particular process created and proposed by South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun during the so-called tariff crisis in the late 1820s and early 1830s. By doing this, they completely ignore nullification happening in a more practical sense.

Calhoun held that since each state is a party to a legal compact – the Constitution – each state had the constitutional authority to determine whether or not it had been exceeded or violated. In his conception of the process, a single state could then take a steps to legally nullify any act it deemed unconstitutional.

However, Calhoun’s scheme isn’t the only path we can follow to render a federal act null and void, or simply unenforceable in practice. Looking at nullification from a results-oriented, practical understanding, there are various avenues to ...