Lacey Smith

Focus on Freedom: The Preamble (Pt. 7); General Welfare Clause (Pt 1 of 2)

In Uncategorized on July 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Somehow (operator error, eh hem) this didn’t get published this weekend… So here it is today.

This post on the Preamble covers one of the most abused clauses in the whole Constitution: “promote the General Welfare.”

It’s repeatedly thrown around when we talk about taxes, social security, regulation and, most recently, government-legislated health care.

Here’s the problem with that: While the Preamble provides us a powerful tool for understanding our liberties and the role of government, it does not actually grant any powers or mandate any actions.

The Preamble provides general purposes, which the main body of the Constitution then provides enumerated powers for.

This is one clause that must be looked at both separately and as a whole.

First, separately, it’s important to look at each word.

Promote means “to help bring…into being” and to ” to contribute to the growth or prosperity of”. Promote does not mean “mandate” or “guarantee”.

General means “involving, applicable to, or affecting the whole” and “involving, relating to, or applicable to every member of a class, kind, or group” (emphasis added).

Welfare means ” the state of doing well especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity”.

So “promote the general welfare” means to contribute to the growth of the state of doing well of the whole or every member of the group.

It does not guarantee that each member will do well individual or that even the whole group will do well, but that the government will encourage well doing.

We also need to look at this clause as a whole, both within the context of the Constitution and as with the understanding of what the Founding Fathers said.

First, we must remember that our rights come from God, not the government. Whatever our government does must be to protect and preserve our natural rights.

What can be better for the general welfare of humanity than freedom for all men?

Also, the Federal Government is Constitutionally restricted to the powers expressly given it:

“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” (10th Amendment)

This is an exceptionally violated clause and for years it was ignored. Now, with the emergence of the Tea Party and the growing popularity of the Constitution, this amendment has taken a more central role.

Read the following articles and what the federal government is supposed to do is rather clearly laid out.

In this context, it appears that the general welfare clause may have been overstretched just a little bit.

Next Focus of Freedom post will outline what some of the Founders said about the General Welfare clause and how that shows the limits of this goal.

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