Promote the general welfare...

>> Friday, April 15, 2011

What does it mean?

Here's what various places on the web (with no effort to pick and choose on my part) have to say:


"Welfare" means health, happiness, prosperity or well-being.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that nothing in the preamble grants legislative power.

"Welfare" should not be read in isolation, but as a part of the whole preamble - the idea of the preamble is simply that the founders of our nation think that the proposed system of governance would naturally result in the items listed in the preamble. Be very cautious to not confuse result and causation.

"General welfare" is one of the ostensible results of our system of governance.

Turning the tables around and saying that "general welfare" is a legislative goal is entirely corrupt and against what the founders were saying.

The founders defined "welfare" as a result - a natural consequence. Those who would incorrectly have you believe that it is a legislative objective try to rewrite history by making a consequential result into an active cause.

The Preamble declares that: "We the People of the United States .... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." The meaning is clear that all authority originates from the People.

The meaning of the word Welfare in the Constitution is different from its current usage. The constitutional meaning of welfare is: 1. health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being. [ME wel faren, to fare well]

Welfare in today's context also means organized efforts on the part of public or private organizations to benefit the poor, or simply public assistance. This is not the meaning of the word as used in the Constitution.

When the Founding Fathers said that “WE THE PEOPLE” established the Constitution to “promote the general Welfare,” they did not mean the federal government would have the power to aid education, build roads, and subsidize business. Likewise, Article 1, Section 8 did not give Congress the right to use tax money for whatever social and economic programs Congress might think would be good for the “general welfare.”

James Madison stated that the “general welfare” clause was not intended to give Congress an open hand “to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare.” If by the “general welfare,” the Founding Fathers had meant any and all social, economic, or educational programs Congress wanted to create, there would have been no reason to list specific powers of Congress such as establishing courts and maintaining the armed forces. Those powers would simply have been included in one all-encompassing phrase, to “promote the general welfare.”

John Quincy Adams, sixth President of the United States, once observed: “Our Constitution professedly rests upon the good sense and attachment of the people. This basis, weak as it may appear, has not yet been found to fail.”

It is NOT the government’s business (constitutionally) to “help” individuals in financial difficulty. Once they undertake to provide those kinds of services, they must do so with limited resources, meaning that some discriminating guidelines must be imposed. (so many who need that kind of help- so little resources to provide it.)

The Founding Fathers said in the preamble that one reason for establishing the Constitution was to “promote the general welfare.” What they meant was that the Constitution and powers granted to the federal government were not to favor special interest groups or particular classes of people. There were to be no privileged individuals or groups in society. Neither minorities nor the majority was to be favored. Rather, the Constitution would promote the “general welfare” by ensuring a free society where free, self-responsible individuals - rich and poor, bankers and shopkeepers, employers and employees, farmers and blacksmiths - would enjoy “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

Quoting the Tenth Amendment, Jefferson wrote: “I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground: That ‘all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people.’ To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition.”

Writing about the “general welfare” clause in 1791, Thomas Jefferson saw the danger of misinterpreting the Constitution. The danger in the hands of Senators and Congressmen was “that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please.” Unlike public officials during Jefferson’s time, our modern-day legislators have a very loose interpretation of the Constitution. The result is that government has mushroomed into a monolithic bureaucracy.

Once the government opens its arms (and bank accounts), it divides the citizens into two groups: those who receive direct (personal, individual) benefit from the government, and those who do not.

There are, I know, other sites with far different takes. Seems to me, however, that this much is true: The Preamble gives an overview of what the Constitution, as an outline of rights, and sundry duties granted to the states and federal government, ultimately amounts to for the United States of America. As such, it further makes sense that the Preamble does not contain any legislative mandates to either the States or the Federal government. The 10th amendment therefore defines what is and is not allowed to the federal government. The commerce clause is a bit murkier, and has grown murkier since it's inclusion.

Another thing. It should be undeniable that the meaning of words change over time-- 'Queer' used to mean 'strange.' 'Gay' used to mean 'happy.' What did the words 'general welfare' mean in context of 17th century understanding? I can tell you what it didn't mean. What it didn't mean was near half the populace on the public dole, in some form or fashion. The meaning and expected performance of our Constitution has been bastardized over long decades of misinterpretation (intentional or ignorantly, makes no difference), however well-meaning by men and women on both sides of the aisle. We are in this mess because of discretionary and entitlement spending... areas in our budget this president is ignoring in his non-budget fix.


Jim April 15, 2011 at 12:55 PM  

"Preamble does not contain any legislative mandates to either the States or the Federal government."

A moot point. Why? Because Article I Section 8 Powers of Congress states:

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.

"What it didn't mean was near half the populace on the public dole, in some form or fashion."

Where does this "fact" come from?

"We are in this mess because of discretionary and entitlement spending... areas in our budget this president is ignoring in his non-budget fix."

Both are untrue. We are in this mess because of the recession, the Bush era tax cuts (and their extension), middle eastern wars, and Medicare Part D, all unfunded. And the president DOES address these "areas" in his budget.

ELAshley April 15, 2011 at 1:46 PM  

"Where does this 'fact' come from?

I'm sorry... you actually have to ask that question? Does the Constitution read, to you, like a socialist manifesto?

"the president DOES address these "areas" in his budget."

You've read the budget have you? You mean this one? the one dated by Barack Obama on Feb 14th? He signed his opening statement two months ago? Then waited until the other day to announce it?

Where do your "facts" come from? Sounds to me like you get your news from the Huffington Post, or the NYT, or perhaps even

Jim April 15, 2011 at 3:37 PM  

Try to focus. The "fact" I'm questioning is your assertion that near half the population is on the public dole.

"Where do your "facts" come from? Sounds to me like you get your news from the Huffington Post, or the NYT, or perhaps even"

No. From here based on numbers from the CBO.

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