VIEWSrnOne Nation Divisiblernby Donald W. LivingstonrnSomething extraordinary has happened over the last decadernor so—something neither the RepuWican nor Democraticrnleadership seems to understand. A large and growing numberrnof Americans are now openly saying that much of what the centralrngovernment does is not simply wasteful, corrupt, and destructivernbut illegitimate as well. This year the central governmentrnwill spend about $1.7 trillion, more than it spent (evenrnadjusting for inflation) from the Revolutionary period throughrn1940. And next year it will no doubt spend more than that. ButrnAmericans are concerned not just that the spending of nearlyrntwo trillion dollars in one year by 435 “representatives” and 100rnsenators for an empire of 265 million subjects would lead tornplunder and corruption; they are also concerned about how thernmoney is spent.rnThe unprecedented power concentrated in Washingtonrnsupports a universalist egalitarian ideology that is openly hostilernto the inherited moral, religious, and cultural traditions ofrnAmerican society. Largely through the enormous patronagernconcentrated at the center, this ideology has come to dominaternstate governments, universities, and the media, and has had arncorrupting influence on the mainline churches. Today Americansrnstand by impotently, but with smoldering resentment, asrnthey watch their tax money being used to suppress or extinguishrntheir own cultural inheritance. What is to be done?rnA furor was raised over the November 1996 issue oi FirstrnThings, in which a number of contributors argued that individualsrnshould consider open resistance against the central governmentrn(especially the Supreme Court) in those areas wherernDonald W. Livingston is a professor of philosophy at EmoryrnUniversity.rnit had offended Christian conscience and natural law. Now, resistancernin the name of conscience is not entirely to be despised,rnbut it often leads to terrorism. John Brown did somernthinking about natural law, and his conscience told him tornmurder innocent families in their sleep. He was greatly applaudedrnby New England transcendentalists and by Northernrnuniversalist Christians who had lost their trinitarian faith, andrnhe is still applauded by their progeny today. Things could getrnugly indeed if this sort of “Christian” began to place his consciencernin the scales against the rule of law.rnBut there is another form of resistance to federal tyranny notrnconsidered by the contributors to First Things—and one, moreover,rnthat is constitutional. I have in mind the remedy that Jefferson,rnin the Kentucky Resolutions, and Madison, in the VirginiarnReport, called state “interposition.” A state, as a sovereignrnpolitical society that has delegated to the central governmentrnonly enumerated powers, has the constitutional authority to interposernits authority to protect its citizens from tyrannical actionsrnof the cential government. Any genuine federal systemrnthat is serious about preserving the distinct moral cultures of itsrnpolitical units must allow some form of state interposition. Butrnstate interposition cannot be effective unless it can be enforced,rnand in a federal system this can only mean the ultimate right ofrna state to secede from the federation. The Canadian constitution,rnfor example, through its “notwithstanding” clause, allowsrna province to nullify actions of tlie central government in thernarea of civil rights; and it is generally understood that a Canadianrnprovince can secede. It was through state interposition thatrn15 republics of the former Soviet Union were able to secede.rnIf American states have the constitiitional right and, as Jeffersonrninsisted, the constitutional duty to interpose tlieir authorityrnFEBRUARY 1998/13rnrnrn