General Welfare does not mean “Anything You Want”
Articles,  Blog

General Welfare does not mean “Anything You Want”


One of the most-maligned parts of the Constitution
is the so-called “general welfare” clause. Rather than admitting they’re in favor of
violating the constitution, supporters of various federal programs will often just twist
the original meaning of constitutional clauses to fit what they want the government to do. The General Welfare Clause is in Article I,
Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution. It reads: 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; While some people like to claim that this
means the federal government can tax and spend money on whatever it deems to fall under the
“general Welfare,” James Madison completely disagreed. In a 1792 letter to Edmund Pendleton, Madison
explained the original, legal meaning of the clause. He wrote: If Congress can do whatever in their discretion
can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the Government is no longer
a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one subject to particular
exceptions. It is to be remarked that the phrase out of
which this doctrine is elaborated, is copied from the old articles of Confederation, where
it was always understood as nothing more than a general caption to the specified powers,
and it is a fact that it was preferred in the new instrument for that very reason as
less liable than any other to misconstruction. In other words, the federal government may
provide for the general welfare, but it must do so within the scope of the powers delegated
to it in the Constitution.

8 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *