Promoting the general welfare

Discussion in 'Politics' started by mrsx, May 20, 2005.

  1. mrsx
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    ******* [Background information – skip it if you know U.S. history} ********
    “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”

    The general welfare has an important place in the American system from the very first. The Constitution returns to the idea in Section VIII: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”

    The idea of the general welfare first brought into conflict “strict” versus “loose” interpretations of the Constitution itself when Hamilton asked Congress to charter a national financial institution, the Bank of the United States. Thomas Jefferson founded the strict school of interpretation when he argued to President Washington that “the incorporation of a Bank was not delegated to the United States by the Constitution.”

    Hamilton argued for a “loose” interpretation, noting that Article I, Section VIII, empowered Congress to make “all Laws which shall be necessary and proper” to carry out the Constitution. According to Hamilton, “if the end be clearly comprehended within any of the specified powers, and if the measure is not forbidden by any particular provision of the Constitution, it may safely be deemed to come within the compass of national authority. Washington agreed with Hamilton and signed the legislation creating the bank.
    ********** [End of background information} ***************
    What does “the general welfare” mean and what laws appropriate for its promotion?
     
  2. 5stringJeff
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    5stringJeff Senior Member

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    I think general welfare would mean maintaining law and order. In other words, Congress has every right to pass laws against theft, murder, etc. for the general welfare of the nation. I don't believe that the "general welfare" clause should be used to allow "welfare" programs.
     
  3. rtwngAvngr
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    It does NOT mean "government controlling all aspects our lifes". A healthy society is one with a balance between government and the individual. Personal financial success is a responsibility of the individual, the individual being the one MOST in control of himself and his choices, and his aptitudes, and desires. To presume otherwise and set policy based on compulsory socialistic nonsense, is equivalent to each person being born a criminal in the eyes of government, a being wholly unsuited to individual thought.

    This is bad.
     
  4. mrsx
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    I'd be inclined to agree that "Welfare" didn't mean anything like public assistance. That idea was still novel at the time of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland of the 1840's. Hard to imagine that the Founders would have thought of aid to the poor as a federal responsibility in any event.
    On the other hand, law and order functions would seem to come more under "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility." As a whole, the Constitution seems to leave law and order to the states, except for piracy, insurrection, or civil disorders beyond the ability of local authorities to control.

    I haven't had a chance to check the OED for contemporary usage of the term "Welfare" and I'm not a Constitutional scholar. I suspect that it refers to the kinds of things that motivated Franklin's Junto: scientific research, technological and economic development etc. The Royal Society, for example, was much admired in the colonies. If so, then things like the CDC, county agricultural agents and land-grant colleges probably come under the general welfare clause. Washington (a great man but not a great thinker) evidently thought the Bank of the United States came under the welfare mission statement.

    The reason this is important to me (and I thank you for sharing your views) has to do with the minimalist approach of Libertarians and some conservative Republicans. It may be that the Founders had a rather broader conception of the role of the federal government than these folks suppose.
     
  5. mrsx
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    No argument here. I don't think people began to think of the federal government as touching individual lives until the Civil War. There was still a lot of the old Articles of Confederation (between sovereign states) attitude until the rise of a national economy in the 1830's. Different times call for different attitudes and different emphasis, but the structure of the Constitution defines the boundaries of the playing field, wouldn't you agree?
     
  6. rtwngAvngr
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    We're exactly on track, my friend this is what we are:
    http://poorcity.richcity.org/entequi1.htm#07


    We're exactly where we need to be, having the argument out and adjusting as necessary, the avoidance of extremes through exreme partisanship. We don't know we're alive without conflict, my friend, and when you don't care you're alive, you cease to think. I't s a pleasure doing business with ya!
     
  7. freeandfun1
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    General welfare means safety and security AND an environment where the people have the OPPORTUNITY to succeed. It also means creating an environment where the people, not the government, takes care of those TRULY in need.
     
  8. archangel
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    Guess I was asleep during class on this one...I thought the founders quote was..."A government of the people...by the people... and for the people"
    Learn something new in here everyday...I did get a "A" in civics and government though...wonder why...now I am confused....NOT! ;)
     
  9. mrsx
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    I just glanced over this site and it is very interesting. I think I may learn something here (that would be a refreshing change). I'm going to go back and read it over carefully, then I will post again. I just didn't want you to think I had been kidnapped by NAMGLA and forced into unnatural axe with a sheep.
     
  10. mrsx
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    The author uses the second law of thermodynamics to evaluate the social utility of socialism vs. capitalism, reaching the conclusion that:

    In these days, socialism lost lots of its clout. Thus, capitalism lost a major antagonist. A dynamic balance, however, between socialist collectivism (in this text dubbed in short: "socialism") and libertarian capitalism (in this text simply called "capitalism") minimizes the increase of entropy. One quite successful attempt to achieve that balance has been called "social market economy".

    This is a fresh approach to an important topic whose edges have become worn by subjective polemic. We Americans have to wrestle with this issue inspired and confined by the distinctly 18th century terminology of the Founders in phrases like “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and “ the general Welfare.” With their passion for what they called “natural Philosophy,” Men like Franklin and Rush would have been fascinated by the laws of thermodynamics. I can see scenes rather like the old “Star Trek” in which the “poorcity.richcity.org” gents beam down to explain it to them.

    After copious quantities of flip and the knock-down-a-horse wine punch favored by Washington and his circle, I believe the two groups would find themselves in profound agreement on two points: As government regulation of the economy increases, so does the propensity towards tyranny. (All though modern socialism was unknown in the 18th century, mercantilism – another form of command economy through government regulation - certainly was. The restrictions imposed by mercantilist policies were one of the primary causes of the American rebellion and in 1776, Adam Smith had already proved the inefficiency of state control in his “Wealth of Nations.”)

    At the other end of the bar, unrestrained individualism or pure Libertarianism was universally regarded as a theory so “cucu” as to have never have been tried since the ancient days of the State of Nature in which “a war of all against all” made life “nasty, brutish and short (Hobbes).

    I suspect the Founders would have re-cast the conclusions of the author at poorcity.richcity.org as the search for the proper balance between Liberty and the general Welfare. The term "social market economy" would perhaps have struck them as foreign, but the principle would have seemed right on the money.

    Of course, articulating the principal only initiates the difficult and never-ending task of locating the proper balance, whether between libertarian capitalism and socialist collectivism or between Liberty and the general Welfare in the many spheres of human life. So far, we have identified two spheres where regulation is legitimate: the interstate highway system and public schools. I mentioned public health as a possible third sphere. Identifying the areas where government regulation is legitimate is the easy part; what the balance should be right now is a lot trickier. That’s were I’m glad to have the collaboration of you learned gentlemen. Thanks for the link.
     

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