Saturday, May 31, 2014

5: Promote the General Welfare

            Old-timer ideas reflect the moral competition in this, perhaps the most controversial of the preamble’s goals, in many ways. Confronting egocentricity: On my path in my decade, everyone else is in their decade and on a different path: Another person’s actual no-harm motives are her/his business—not mine. On proselytizing: Merely questioning a person’s motivation and inspiration is violent arrogance against his/her person; I may feel I know my god, yet I know I do not know whatever is in control of the unfolding of the universe, if anything. Empathy on thinking someone is worse off:  There, but for fate, I’d be—I guess. Feeling sorry for my person:  Worse things happened to better people. "Donations": “Will my help empower the helped to establish personal autonomy rather than exacerbate the helped's misery? On my afterdeath: My beforelife happened without my influence; I expect a return to the same insignificance and, therefore, focus on accomplishments while I am alive. On governance: “Maximize civic behavior and minimize each local taxation and federal taxation, respectively. Such duality has always made “promote the General Welfare,” one of the most controversial goals of the preamble. But let's look at US history.
            The authors of the Articles of Confederation, 1777, lived in states that relied on English common law, yet had declared themselves in "a state of nature," with respect to governance. They had experience personal liberty none could have imagined in their home countries. They claimed

            The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their
            common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding
            themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any
            of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

They railed against both government and religion. It is not surprising that the language would be revived, even though George Washington spoke on June 8, 1783 about what was essential for the USA to thrive or even survive:

            The prevalence of that pacific and friendly Disposition, among the People of the United States, 
            which will induce them to forget their local prejudices and policies, to make those mutual 
            concessions which are requisite to the general prosperity, and in some instances, to sacrifice 
            their individual advantages to the interest of the Community.

I do not condone communitarianism, but Washington's hope for national prosperity still seems noble. He was a religious person, but religion was not included in the above civic contract for the willing.

            James Madison, in Federalist No. 41, responded to Anti-Federalists’ objections to the 1787 draft constitution’s authorization of Congressional power at the expense of States’ powers over “the General Welfare.” Madison strategically mixed discussion of “common defense,” and focused on its justifications. With isolation on the general welfare, I quote No. 41’s initial rebuke of Anti-Federalists’ claims:

It has been urged and echoed, that the power "to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts, and provide for the . . . general welfare of the United States," amounts to an unlimited commission to exercise every power which may be alleged to be necessary for the common defense or general welfare. No stronger proof could be given of the distress under which these writers labor for objections, than their stooping to such a misconstruction.

Considering today’s divisions over federal entitlements, imposed on the citizens by the combination of Congress, administrations, the Supreme Court, and the nation’s elite, the Anti-Federalists appear prescient. Madison spent the greater part of his words in No. 41 to address the common defense; it’s a form of bait-and-switch or piggy-backing. About welfare, Madison whines, “But the idea of an enumeration of particulars which neither explain nor qualify the general meaning, and can have no other effect than to confound and mislead, is an absurdity.” I must study the Anti-Federalist papers to understand Madison’s groans, but Madison’s last words in No. 41 seem ironic: “How difficult it is for error to escape its own condemnation!” America's dysfunction is evidence of Madison's error.
            Madison (in No. 41) references the 1787 draft constitution, Article I, Sections 9 and 8, which does list particulars. Quoting Section 8, again un-mixing common defense:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; To borrow Money on the credit of the United States; To regulate Commerce  , , , among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes; To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States; To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof . . . and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures; To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States; To establish Post Offices and post Roads; To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries; To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court; To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; [reserve] to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress; To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress . . . to exercise . . . Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;--And To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof. (Emphasis mine.)
These authorizations, which effect limitations against both states and self-discipline by the people—might as well call it responsible freedom--have not kept the three branches of the federal government from creating many more departments, as they see fit. Here’s a 2009 review[1][1]:

           2009 Outlays

Department Name
Initial Year
$, billions
















Total outlays:
There are many agencies, not included in the departments listed above. Also, each President assigns czars to manage policies[2]. The Congress has greatly expanded its authority, at the expense of personal governance, justice, freedom, and State governments and in other areas has assigned congressional, constitutional duties to the administration. The literal preamble's hope, that the people would manage, self-discipline themselves, their states, and the Union has given way to dominance by the government of the Union—the federal government.
There are many online debates about the general welfare, and I will share one[3] to help any future discussion. In quoting, I have omitted phrases I did not understand.
[E]very step taken to fulfill some of the enormous deficits that exist in providing basic necessities for the common welfare is met with philosophies which seek to excuse, but not relieve, the conditions in which abject deprivation persist and the common welfare is threatened. It is as though the haves of the country had written the terms of fulfillment essential consisting of, 'I've got mine jack so, by definition . . . you can get yours.' That hired labor will provide . . .  without interruption (since, by definition, [haves] won't survive without them) is a myth that has been promoted by a very few individuals as the mechanism of fulfillment, despite ample historical evidence to the contrary. It is certainly not one that many of the have-nots would have signed up for had they known in advance the parts that power and fortune or misfortune play in the vast separation from wealth that they endure.
In the discussions I would like to see, viewpoints like this would be appreciated, and the civic people would collaborate to relieve the stated concerns, regardless of whether or not they immediately succeed. The eventual consequence could be a civic people’s novel improvement in capitalism.
            However, what seems to prevail is social anomalies like multi-million dollar CEO salaries and windfall benefits from America’s entertainment market and protection of such portions of the nation’s GNP through legal placement of the proceeds in tax-deferred deposits and investments. The intent is expressed in Federalist 10, again by that despot (that's my opinion rather than the-objective-truth). James Madison:
The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.
The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society.
These ideas are not labeled “promote the general welfare,” perhaps because they are about protection of the “haves,” borrowing the term from “redslider,” above. One of the ironies in Madison’s attitude is that Europeans came to this country, which was inhabited by natives who felt the land belonged to a red-skinned god. Europeans applied their rule: Ownership is valid if you claim possession for a Christian god, regardless of the laws held by the occupants. Madison's class distinction favored the "haves."
            To fulfill this goal of the preamble, promote the General Welfare, it seems to me each citizen should strive for personal industriousness, perseverance, and self-fulfillment, while collaborating to accommodate neighbors’ opportunities to do the same. Thus, each citizen should strive for civic integrity. If so, the haves would be coaching the have-nots to convert personal labor into assets; at all stages of personal growth, live on 85% of wages and use the 15% to accumulate assets. Thus, the already great system of economics called "free-enterprise" must be tweaked so that each newborn person is incorporated not only as consumer but coached and aided to become part owner. Whoever, by circumstance, is unable to apply these character traits--earn your living and grow assets--should be assisted until they are able. But people who are simply unwilling to do the work should be allowed to suffer their indolence: their choice should be neither honored nor appreciated, yet accepted, with constant vigilance for that day when they might reform by taking responsibility for their opportunity to grow psychological maturity.
 Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included, revised June 30, 2018.

[1] Online at: . I found some information at and other at . Of course, I do not feel I have good information.
[3] Online at: , coment by “redslider” April 17, 2004.