Constitutionalists, flush with the attention being paid this very day in the House of Representatives to the land’s highest law, finally get to hold their conversations outside of seminars and institutes.
Some pundits argue that Tea Party folks will be surprised by how much power the Constitution gives the federal government. (Sure, I miss the Articles of Confederation.)
But however much power Madison & Co. bestowed upon the Feds, there is a limit. This comes as a shock to career politicians who envision government as all things to all people, from world cop to tooth fairy.
They like to point to the “general welfare clause,” which reads: “The Congress shall have the Power To . . . provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” Could this mean Congress can do anything it wants, if designed to help people generally?
Yesterday, several Wall Street Journal readers cleared up any misunderstandings.
Michael Hanselman of Maryland cited Thomas Jefferson’s 1814 conviction that “Congress had not unlimited powers . . . to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated.”
Arnold Nelson of Chicago quoted from Federalist 41, where James Madison, the Constitution’s chief architect, decried an expansive view of “general Welfare” as “a very fierce attack against the Constitution.” Mr. Nelson and Mr. Madison point to the 18 enumerated powers in Section 8, which are the only powers Congress has to affect the general welfare.
The intent? Clear. Today’s reality? Much different.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.