Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

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.

By: Redactor


  1. voxoreason says:

    >>“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?

    Yeah, basically, just like the tragic misreading of the Commerce clause which is also used as a weapon aimed at US citizens.

    God helps those who help themselves. (Ben!) The general welfare clause helps those who refuse to help themselves… approx half of the population here in the good ol’ US of A.

    HALF… pay no taxes, but think that capitalists who create and provide jobs should pay more.

    How about a tax break for corporations which provide jobs? When we tax corporations (say, every day of the year), corporations simply price this into their goods and services, for which consumers pay.

    Aren’t we ever so clever?

    Oh, we’re back to double taxation of the DEAD (35%) in 2011. Paid when earned and then again when they die.

    Brave new world, huh?

    “Declare the pennies on your eyes…” – Geo Harrison, rest his soul

  2. doojie says:

    Hamilton ties the “commion defence and general welfare” clause to the same clause in the Articles of Confederation. In that, Hamilton points out, it referred to common defense, which would result in a general welfare for the nation.

    In “The Federalist”, Hamilton points out that being related to the power to tax, is only related in the sense that a strong defence promotes a general welfare, and applied such general taxation to the upkeep of military outposts in western territories.

  3. Bill B says:

    I believe there is a kew word missing from the above quote in the article: Doesn’t The Constitution say “promote” the general welfare. The verb “to promote” is not the same as “to provide.”

    Also, in the beginning it says “We the people….” While Congress may represent, they don’t alwasy reflect or adhere to the “will” of the people. The last Congress clearly illustrated this fact!

    Promote does not mean provide…and neither of those words means ‘shoving laws down the throat’ of the people.

  4. Christopher J. Pilot says:

    In your article above, what is more acurately known as the PREAMBLE to our Constitution is inacurately refered to as a “general welfare clause” and is also inacurately quoted as “…provide for the common Defence and general Welfare…


    The actual words are “…provide for the common defense, PROMOTE the general welfare…”

    Forgive me if my understanding of the English language suffers but I believe there is a big difference between the meanings of the words “PROMOTE” and “provide.”

    Good luck getting the liberal/progressive/communists to understand this.

  5. Jam says:

    “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.” –James Madison

  6. Drik says:

    During the drafting of the Constitution in the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin proposed a tax to build canals, being useful for local businesses. The then governor of New York, Governor Morris, said that it wasn’t right to tax the whole country for something that would mainly benfit those who lived on the canals. This started a discussion about the powers of the federal government to tax.

    They finally came up with the General Welfare clause which the Founders meant that unless the whole people of the United States would benefit from the tax, you should not have it. Only the general, or the whole, welfare of the people of the whole country should benefit from the tax.

    Somewhere between then and now, someone had apparantly decided that these words do not mean the same thing now that they did then.
    Must have missed that sudden shifting in the definitions of words.

  7. Paul Jacob says:

    To clarify, I am NOT quoting from the Preamble, which states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    I’m quoting from Article I, Section 8, which is the “general welfare” clause. 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…” This section goes on to enumerate 18 powers given to Congress.

  8. LTF says:

    When I was required to study the US Constitution in highschool, I’m 61 now, it was not life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness, it was life, liberty, & the pursuit of property. Nowadays, it seems too few know, or proclaim, what is really said in our historical documents. And, we were also AHhh, forget it. Those before me have already said what I wished to say but with a better frame of prose. -LTF

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