Friday, November 13, 2009

The General Welfare

An idea that I've picked up from others and run with is the concept of a Tenth Amendment Commission - a government body with a single purpose:  to limit the size and scope of itself by applying a strict constitutionality to the ever-expanding Imperial nanny government.  This, very simply means that if it is a power not explicitly stated in the Constitution or the Amendments, it is reserved for the States, or the people, and that federal agency must ultimately be transferred or shut down.  And while some reforms that have come down the pike approach that concept, they fall short in that they don't cite the Tenth Amendment.

But as with all great documents written centuries ago, there's a little bit of leeway in the language that has only grown as the meaning of our language has changed and phrasing that was common in 1787 is so two centuries ago today.

One of these phrases is from the Preamble, which I will reiterate (said phrase is highlighted):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"Promote the general Welfare" is an interesting phrase, as it has been used, on the occasion we can get an answer from a politician (rather than the arrogant exclamatory cackle "Are you Serious?"), as a justification for every single governmnet transfer program ever created.  However, I don't think welfare was what the Founding Fathers meant.

So let's clarify what is the general welfare.  First, pertinent definitions (because definitions do matter):

General - not limited to one class, field, product, service, etc.; miscellaneous: the general public; general science
Welfare the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization; well-being: to look after a child's welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society. 

In this case, the concept of the "general Welfare" are those things that benefit the society as a whole, not just specific groups, people, or organizations.  Which brings me to some examples:


Infrastructure such as the Interstate highway system was created as a defense measure, but also benefits the public at large, thus the general welfare, whereas payouts for state projects would be for some people and not others, therefore NOT the general welfare.


Adjusting business taxes down or eliminating overreaching regulations to allow business to grow (without the use of loopholes) is for the general welfare.  Subsidizing a specific industry or regulating an industry because of a moral, ethical, philosophical or political objection, is NOT for the general welfare.


Maintaining national parks, which preserves parts of our country that are unique and allows anyone to come and explore the majesty of our country, is, arguably, part of the general welfare.  Building shit for a specific city is NOT for the general welfare.


Fighting a pandemic (H1N1 this year) in order to keep it form spreading across the country and killing a whole bunch of people, which requires national coordination and response, is a part of the general welfare.  Providing insurance for part of the population by taking it from the other part of the population is NOT for the general welfare.

Now this is not an absolute yes/no process, but the point is simple.  Spending and programs and laws that address the citizens at large, without discrimination on the basis of class, income or geographic location are generally part of what can be called the general welfare.  Those programs however, that serve to benefit one group at the expense of another, often out of a misplaced sense of fairness, cannot be justified by the concept of the general welfare.  And if they cannot otherwise be justified by the Constitution, then it is time to consider another way to provide those things:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

24 comments:

TRUTH 101 said...

This argument on whether it's in everyone's welfare or not would be far too convoluted Patrick. And to do it one item at a time would take eternity.

Tom said...

We have delegated those issues to the United States through majority vote, thus we gave the government the power to decide those issues on our behalf.

dmarks said...

When did this vote take place?

Name: Soapboxgod said...

The "clarity" Patrick does not come from any definition of General and/or Welfare in the utterance itself.

The clarity comes in that which follows the Preamble. Why it is the very foundation which outlines what, at the time, this new Federal Government was authorized to do in laying a foundation to where the aforementioned would flourish.

If the General Welfare clause was truly meant for as loose of an interpretation as has been promoted, there would be absolutely no need to put forth anything beyond the Preamble. Because, the new Federal Government would have no limits to its power, jurisdiction, scope, et al. as everything they would eventually do could be exploited as promoting the welfare of the people.

TRUTH 101 said...

Perhaps they thought it important that there be a clause promoting general welfare so government could step in and correct injustices or help make lives better.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

"...correct injustices or help make lives better."

Government cannot and does not do this without creating an injustice somewhere else or stifling the betterment of someone else's life.

Government has not resources to correct an injustice or make another's life better without first denying the same from the very individual from whom said resources are confiscated from.

Got it? Get it? Good.

TAO said...

Soapboxgod just pretty much wiped our whole judicial system down the tubes with her last post...

The civil right act was a waste of time as was the fighting of the civil war...

Unless Soapboxgod wants to claim that neither of these involved 'injustices'

Name: Soapboxgod said...

The question you really ought to ask yourself TAO is whether or not the effort to resolve racial injustice actually did what it was intended to do. The Civil War ended in what 1865? And yet it wasn't until practically 100 years later that African Americans began to see the fruits of that effort.

What's more, I wouldn't be so quick to tout the virtues of Government and its role in resolving injustices in this country. They are want to absolve themselves of the very guilt of the injustices that they first create.

Do recall that the same nation who fought so galantly to free blacks only then went on to segregate them during wartime less than 100 years later.

And, as I've stated many times before, simply because you can establish legal precedent doesn't imply that the basis of those laws is just.

aoindependence said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jerry Critter said...

Soapboxgod said "it wasn't until practically 100 years later that African Americans began to see the fruits of that effort"

I think that the Civil War ended slavery and the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, are pretty significant fruits.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Ended slavery in one context only to then enslave them in another vis a' vis the perpetuity of generational welfare.

As to the 15th, had the prevailing philosophy of the Declaration of Independence been fully adopted, the 15th wouldn't have been necessary.

TRUTH 101 said...

So what you are in favor is a society totally without regulation SBG? Anarchy?


No I'm not kidding either. While your screed might make a narrow minded fool smile, you're premise of less has been made sport of by TAO and Jerry Critter already.

To take it further, the passing of any law or regulation is a trampling of rights according to your statements. You give place the thief on equal footing with those he stole from SBG. In essence, the have nots have the right to take from the haves because government shouldn't be trampling on the rights of the have nots not to take from the haves.


Dig deeper into what you say SBG.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

I've advocated nothing of the sort. Nor have I ever said that passage of "any law or regulation is a trampling of rights" [emphasis on any].

What I have advocated for the better part of my adult life is the exact opposite of your statement regarding the haves and the have nots. Individuals have no right to compulse, coerce, or intimidate another individual in the pursuit of their own end. That is something reserved exclusively to the State. And whereas the proper role of the state is to protect the individual from theft by his countrymen, the stark reality proves quite the opposite.

Toad734 said...

Just like 18 year olds with AK-47 street sweepers isn't what they meant when they said "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

And if you are going to play Metallica, play the good Metallica pre ...And Justice for All

Patrick M said...

Toad: What they meant is that creating laws to take things like guns from people means only the government has guns, and therefore all the power.

As for the Metallica, the song worked (and thus needed quoted in another post), and they didn't start their slide until after the black album.

Toad734 said...

How many guns did Gandhi have? MLK? How many guns did they have?? Juxtapose that with Hammas or the PLA.

Anyway, a gun is useless against an Abrhams tank or Stealth Bomber with laser guided smart bombs. They have the power regardless.

Patrick M said...

Toad: What does that have to do with my point? If they had gone out to make changes fully armed, they would have simply been shot down and not made the change.

In their most coveted Constitutional role, the gun is a weapon of defense, not offense.

And all the blather you have to offer doesn't make the Second Amendment anything other than an individual right (albeit one with assloads of responsibility if you choose to exercise it (and I assume you are a responsible gun owner)).

Name: Soapboxgod said...

You got that right Patrick. After the Heller decision came down, I didn't waste a single minute in exercising mine.

Toad734 said...

YOu said by not having guns, you give the government more power. I am saying Gandhi and MLK practically brought down or at least revolutionized their governments by turning the other cheek not pointing guns. Thus the power went to the people without guns. Its the people who can stand up to the government without guns who make the real difference. What do you think would have happened to the guy at Tiananmen Square if he had a gun?

I am as about as a responsible gun owner as you can get, I don't think I have even held my guns in 5 years. Locked away in an attic.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

If someone accosts you on the street or if someone breaks into your home in the middle of the night I can guarantee you without a shadow of a doubt that those guns up in your attic aren't going to be worth the dust that has surely collected on them.

dmarks said...

"Sure. I exercise my right to keep and bear arms. I keep them in the basement of my cousin's house in Colorado, and someone lost the key to the gun safe. Come to think of it, I never bought ammo for the thing.

But by god, no one's ever going to mess with me and my family. I'm armed, and well protected."

Toad734 said...

Soapbox,

And neither will your gun when they break into your house when you aren't home and they clean you out. And then when they steal your gun and shoot someone with it, you will have a lot of explaining to do.

My 2 pitbulls on the other hand are always home and always suspicious of noises in the middle of the night and they wont flinch at the sight of an intruder who also has a gun...which he probably stole out of your house.

And guess what, I also don't have to worry about a 5 year old going under my pillow and finding a loaded gun that is "protecting my family".

dmarks said...

"And guess what, I also don't have to worry about a 5 year old going under my pillow and finding a loaded gun that is "protecting my family"."

Yeah, by that time there's no worry of that, because the pit bulls would have eaten his head off

Toad734 said...

Do you really want me to start pointing out all the links to kids who were killed by guns?

I can find 1000s, you may be able to find 6 cases of kids killed by pitbulls in the last 2 years. I can also point you to 100s of pitbulls killed by humans.

If you want to play that game, let me know.

Fact is I would trust my two pitbulls with kids before I would trust you with a loaded gun with 2 kids.

My dogs, especially the female loves kids, especially young kids.

And besides, you say irresponsible gun owner, I say irresponsible pitbull owner.