Comment: The Constitution Does Not Authorize the Welfare State

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The Constitution Does Not Authorize the Welfare State

"With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators" - James Madison

If you will look at the place in the Constitution where it authorizes Congress to "lay and collect taxes for the common defense and the general welfare" you will see below that there is a list of 17 things. They comprise "the detail of powers" connected with them. IOW, Congress could not lay and collect taxes for any purpose they thought was for "the general welfare", rather, they could lay and collect taxes for those 17 things if done for "the general welfare".

We don't need Madison's confirmation to see that. It is clear from the text itself. For example, if it already authorizes Congress to do anything it feels is for "the common defense" then why bother on the list below to say "provide for an army" and "provide for a navy". The power to lay and collect taxes is limited to the list.

We can still see a vestige of this in Medicaid. The states run Medicaid, so they argued that it was a state plan. That's also why the courts ruled that state's could say "no" to Obamacare. But states won't say "no" because DC is sucking money from them and the only way they can get it back is to jump through DC's hoops. But my point is that anything the feds collect taxes for outside of those 17 things on the list is something they are not authorized to do under the constitution. Over time the feds have slipped those limitations, but they did not bother to amend the Constitution to say so.

If individual states want to collect taxes and fund their own welfare programs, that is a different matter- unless their state constitutions have similar restrictions. Of course, the good thing about kicking welfare down to the state level is that I don't have to live there either. The "transaction costs" of escaping socialism and bad government in general are much lower under a true federalist system, which unfortunately we only have on paper now, not in fact.

So I say if they want to do it, make it legal. Either amend the constitution to permit it, or kick it down to the states and let them decide- without federal tax money being taken and used to push them into anything. I will move to a state where people are still grounded in reality. States don't have their own printing press like the feds, so they can't tax the next generation (who can't defend themselves) with debt like the feds can). That means that states who try to sustain a welfare state will even more quickly learn what Thatcher described as the real trouble with socialism- pretty soon you run out of other people's money.

Basically, the Federal government has been operating outside its own law since the New Deal.

Localism is for people who can still sleep at night even though somebody they don't know in a city they have never been is doing things differently. ("Localism, A Philosophy of Government" on Amazon for Kindle or Barnes and Noble ebook websites)