Madison and Hamilton on “general Welfare” under the Constitution
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Madison and Hamilton on “general Welfare” under the Constitution


The “general welfare” clause does not give the federal government the power to do anything it wants. Where do the feds get the power to run things like healthcare, or education, or a retirement system? A lot of people will say, “Why the general welfare clause gives it to them, of course.” But if the general welfare clause empowers the federal government to do anything and everything, why did the framers of the Constitution follow that clause with a list of specific, enumerated powers? Wouldn’t the general welfare clause cover it all? Why make a list in the first place? As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist #83, the list of particulars in Article 1 Sec. 8 “would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended.” He continued by saying the grant of specific powers following the general welfare clause “evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority.” As Madison put it in Federalist #45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.” If the general welfare clause gave the feds power to do anything under the guise of general welfare, it would turn the federal government into one of virtually unlimited power. It’s clear that the specific powers enumerated after the clause limit the federal government’s power to spend for the general welfare to specific objects. As James Madison put it, to read it as a sweeping grant of power “would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

5 Comments

  • 2VNews

    Freedom?
    Government controls most Americans' education and education loans.
    Government controls all Americans' paychecks and income, with the business tax and income and payroll tax.
    Government controls all Americans' spending and investment with the tax code.
    Government controls all Americans' retirement savings. (Social Security and tax code)
    Government controls all Americans' long term care savings. (Medicare)
    Quasi-governmental institution, Federal Reserve, controls the value of your money.
    Quasi-governmental institution, Federal Reserve, controls the interest rates of your loans.
    Government controls most Americans' mortgages through quasi-government Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
    What did I forget?

  • Shane Lackey

    Social Safety Net is not a Delegated Authority . Rule of Law does not authorise Government to feed people … Because if it did they would stop feeding themselves and the Law … Respect for the Law would break down generally … As we can see through the lens of our collective experience .
    World's largest prison population … Isn't a byproduct of Respect for Rule of Law .

  • TEXAS LIBERTY ADVOCATE NETWORK ACTION

    A Message From LaVoy Finicum – the Tree of Liberty – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoXRSTV48w4

  • Richard Robertson

    More precisely the objects of the Preamble set out a set of duties for the federal government; not powers. The "General Welfare" clause specifically states the government has an obligation to promote the general welfare and not to provide for it. Now, it could be argued that the "common defense" clause is an argument for a universal health system as the the obligation there is, in fact, to provide for such and diseases and other threats to public health are a form of enemy to be defended against. There are further arguments here, but this provides a start. The very first Supreme Court said the Preamble was controlling on the rest of the Constitution, and this finding was made by such men as John Jay and James Wilson.

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