The Nanny State and General Welfare

An important point that is seldom made in modern political discourse is the uncreative nature of government. By this I mean that government, as an entity, does not and cannot create—it can only regulate. The governing documents of this country—the Constitution and the Bill of Rights—limit “government more than governments had ever been limited in any nation” prior. And for the first half of its 224-year existence, Leonard Read notes that:

No citizen turned to government for help and for two reasons: (1) it had nothing on hand to give, and (2) it had not the power to take from some and give to others. For more than ten decades a self-responsible, self-reliant citizenry!

Even today, when Read’s “no citizen” statement is obviously not applicable, it must be pointed out that the “helping” funds possessed by the monstrosity of modern American federal government are only made possible due to the initiative, drive, and work ethic of its citizens. It is by no means due to government’s creative ability to attain wealth or innovate. Government is strictly a non-creative entity.

However, our modern predicament of a “nanny state” taking care of our every need did not just happen overnight. It happened when a previously “self-reliant citizenry” gave up on the idea of private charity—choosing faceless government bureaucracy over the simple commandment to “love thy neighbor.”

There are two ways to aid those who are in distress, suffering from the lack of food and clothing and other life-sustaining items. The first is the practice of Judeo-Christian charity—voluntary assistance. When governments pre-empt the practice of philanthropy—food stamps, social security and other “welfare” measures—the practice of private charity is dramatically abandoned. If a neighbor is starving, most citizens say, “That's the government's job.”

But why will most citizens say this? Because they have never known it any other way. They truly believe it to be the government’s job because they have never asked themselves who else would do it. After all, they reason, isn’t this why we pay taxes?

Well, no, it’s not. The Constitution itself outlines taxation as a necessary function of the federal government (via Congress), but it is very specific about what these taxes may be used for: “to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States” (Article 1, Section 8). While the rampant and wasteful spending of our current federal government in the name of “general welfare” would no doubt shock him, Alexander Hamilton supported a much broader interpretation of the “general welfare” clause than other Founders—most notably Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Madison argued that “general welfare” was constrained to what was enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution—nothing more was allowed, nothing less was forbidden; Jefferson supported this view as well. Monroe argued that “general” meant “national,” i.e. only what was directly beneficial to the welfare of the Union, and not to States or individuals. Either way, it should be clear that “general welfare” according to the Constitution is not synonymous with the modern welfare system in America. Giving individual citizens a guaranteed income was not what the founders had in mind.

Leonard Read makes the observation that “charity, when properly practiced, has two disciplines: (1) never let the recipient be aware of the source and (2) let the giver take no personal credit for the gift-that is, avoid self-conceit.” Note well that both of these disciplines are exactly the opposite of what happens with government “charity”: The recipient is most certainly aware of the source and the giver is most certainly taking credit for it. In fact, the government takes so much credit for it that those who receive government money are usually under the delusion that it is actually the government’s money. They are never informed that this money is being forcibly seized from their industrious neighbors. Leonard Read continues:

The second way to alleviate distress is as much a mystery to most citizens as the appropriate practice of charity. What is the real road to success so rarely believed? It is the free and unfettered market with government limited strictly to keeping the peace and invoking a common justice—no exception, none whatsoever, dictocrats in the past tense!

In other words, the best way to ensure that private, not government, charity blooms in a society, is to limit government to the dual role of promoting peace and punishing evil: the very two things outlined and defined by the Constitution. The U.S. Constitution is a limiting document: it defines not only what the federal government must do, but also what it must not do. Giving money to one group of citizens that it has taken from another is most certainly not a legitimate (i.e. legal) function of the federal government.



28 thoughts on “The Nanny State and General Welfare

  1. I do not want the government getting involved in charity because (1) the government is grossly inefficient and spends more in admin costs than it pays in recipient benefits, (2) the government perpetuates the need to sustain its existence, thus adding to human misery, (3) true charity is within the purview of the Church, (4) the government uses its faux-charity to buy votes and make jobs for worthless parasites. If our democrat-controlled government truly cared about those in need, it would turn charity over to the churches and give people a 1:1 tax credit (not just a deduction) for contributing to Christian charities. But, the democrats do not want that because they live off of the money generated by programs that supposedly serve the needy.

    • Victor Magilke says:

      You got that right. Bob. I saw the Hannity special on DC the ," Boom Town.." They produce more millionaires annually than any other city except for Hollywood. Most of them are former staffers of Congressmen. We have become so corrupt on both sides of the aisle. Its all about money. No more honor in politics.

    • Public_Citizen says:

      The fallacy of public assumption is that government is capable of engaging in charity. It isn't, because the source of most government money is taxes that are extorted under threat of fines and incarceration. What government does is ~relief~, not charity.
      You have correctly identified government relief as faux-charity, lets actually call it what it is instead of trying to co-opt a term so that the liberals will feel good about their theft-for-transfer-of-wealth schemes.
      It isn't just churches that engage in charity but any group that has come together for the purpose of giving of their time and treasure to give a hand up to those less fortunately situated, acting without expectation of financial compensation or other reward.
      The churches are a leader in this worthwhile social endeavour but please give a nod to your local service clubs and other organizations that engage in charitable work.
      Without ~all~ of their efforts, religious based or secular based, this would be a poorer world both financially and spiritually.

  2. As an American living under Nanny UK, I can tell you it is no joke. Once you are in the system they own you. If you change your job, house, kids education, get a raise-even a small one, get a few more hours at work, absolutely anything, you have to report it right away. Fair enough, but then they stop any money you were recieving while they figure out what they will now pay( I have experienced up to 3 months in the past), so you have NO money coming in, which of course, your landlord does not want to hear about. If your hours fall below what they have set as a minimum, you have to report to a supervisor and prove that you are trying to find work, again, fair enough, but you also have to attend a job club where you must look for jobs for 4 hours apply for at least 3 jobs, even if there is nothing available that week that you could do if you got it. If you get an unsuitable job, you have to take it, If you don't, or if you quit, you lose any assistance you were getting , so if you want out you have to get fired, which makes the next job harder to get and so it goes round and round.
    The cost of living here is really high because mostly of taxes on everything. Even VAT,the equivalent of sales tax, is 20% and that's on nearly everything. Minimum wage or slightly above jobs, which the majority are, do not pay for the basics of family life-food, fuel, clothes,and shelter big enough (which is again decided by the government) plus transportation by car of bus, to get to work and school.
    It is a downward spiral
    Oh here's the fun part

    • Oh here's the fun part: The assistance is in itself taxable!

      • Public_Citizen says:

        By making the assistance taxable that means you have skin in the game and your own self interest forces you to be more aware of public policy and changes in that policy that could result in higher taxes. It's called ~responsibility~.

        One of the biggest problems in the USA is the welfare dependent who think that it is all free and they have ~no responsibility~ to engage in making the system work better as long as they get "my check" and the EBT card still works.

        • Seriously? You really think that taxing tax dollars is responsible? I call it what it really is--a scam. If you honestly believe that welfare dependents are shocked into reality by seeing tax removed from their "assistance,' you are completely deluded.

        • Public_Citizen says:

          So suggest some other cost effective method of raising the awareness of those receiving government relief payment.
          I've heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the faux-well intentioned crowd for decades now. The only solution offered is "if you just give us more of what we've been doing it will work out fine" which meets Einstein's definition for insanity.
          We've been doing this for 50+years without diminishing the underlying problem. We are now into 3rd and 4th generation that are completely dependent on somebody else providing for their every need and want and it is breaking the economic system of this country as well as the other "advanced" economies of the entire world.

        • "So suggest some other cost effective method of raising the awareness of those receiving government relief payment."

          Stop sending the payments. Awareness would quickly follow.

        • Public_Citizen says:

          Works for me. 8^)

    • What the heck happened to disqus?

  3. forgetaboutit says:

    Government contracts/money throug DARPA created the very vehicle for this view point.... ironic isn't it? ... its called the Internet if you have forgotten....

    • I assume that your point is that the "internet" would not now exist if the government had not funneled public dollars into it? Really? Care to prove that assertion?

  4. Eric Rauch: "The governing documents of this country—the Constitution and the Bill of
    Rights—limit 'government more than governments had ever been limited in
    any nation' prior."

    Except, of course, for ancient Israel when abiding by Yahweh's perfect law and altogether righteous judgments (Psalm 19:7-11, etc.) and 17th-century Christian Colonial America. I'm sure you would agree.

    "...Constitutionalists, Libertarians, and even Republicans are often heard discussing the idea that limited government was an objective of the framers. It is true that government was much more limited in the late 1700s than it is today. But do not believe for a minute that the Constitution provided us with limited government, even in the late 1700s. A government consisting of a president, vice president, House of Representatives, Senate, and judiciary can hardly be described as limited. When the framers threw away America’s Christian theocracy in exchange for the United States’ secular theocracy, they also cast aside limited government.

    "With some rare exceptions, Yahweh’s government consists of only one King and Legislator – Yahweh – and a judiciary to litigate His commandments and statutes and enforce His judgments. That is limited government. Yahweh’s government has no need for a president and his cabinet, no need for the House of Representatives or the Senate and their glutted bureaucracy, no need for a prison complex, no need for a parasitical welfare system, no need for the Federal Reserve, no need for the Internal Revenue Service, and no need for a tax-subsidized standing army. Constitutionalists want to
    abolish nearly everything enumerated here, but they would have us 'return' to the very document that permitted these excesses and robbed us of a truly limited government...."

    For more, see online Chapter 4 "Article 1: Legislative Usurpation" of "Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective." Click on my name, then our website. Go to our Online Book Page, click on the top entry, and scroll down to Chapter 4.

    • Actually, Yahweh's original plan for Israel's government did not even include a king.

      • Except for Yahweh Himself, you're correct. That's who I'm referring to, as well; much the same as it was in the 1600s Colonial America:

        "Their form of government was as strictly theocratical insomuch that it would be difficult to say where there was any civil authority among them distinct from
        ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Whenever a few of them settled a town, they immediately gathered themselves into a church; and their elders were magistrates, and their code of laws was the Pentateuch…. God was their King; and they regarded him as truly and literally so…." (William Holmes McGuffey, McGuffey’s Sixth Eclectic Reader (New York, NY: American Book Company, 1879) p. 225.)

  5. The so-called do-gooder arms of the government are pure and simple ORGANIZED CRIME RACKETEERING RIP OFF SCAMS by greedy, corrupt criminal bureaucrats and politicians. Why do the American people trust these vipers in charge of their money? Milton Friedman said that if the poor actually received all the money that is supposedly given to them, they would be rich.

    "Helping the poor" is just an excuse for crooked bureaucrats and politicians to stuff their own pockets and their cronies' pockets with lots and lots of taxpayer money. Put a stop to government STEALING! That is where the bulk of the money is going!

    SEE: for further enlightenment of how the American people are being scammed and hoodwinked financially.

    My aunt is getting a deluxe scooter wheelchair for $20,000 paid for by Medicare. That's about $2,000 for the wheelchair and about $18,000 for the racketeering medical suppliers and their bureaucrat cronies.

    These criminal racketeers are literally draining the American economy. While the rest of the nation is struggling to survive, Washington DC has become a BOOMTOWN.

    • Victor Magilke says:

      Excellent commentary jennie. We have become a nation controlled by corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. We are headed down the same path to destruction like Greece.

    • Here is some good news for a change. The "FEDS" raided the "Scooter Store" recently and the owner is off to jail for ripping off the government.

  6. Lots of warm fuzzy feelings and ideological assertions in the above article. Yes, spending defined under the General Welfare clause does constitute government debt and therefore government may tax to cover it. It's NOT the BEST way to fund it but I digress. Something conservative ideologues won't admit and refuse to talk about is how CAPITALISM HAS FAILED US IN RECENT TIMES, specifically in the last 40 - 50 years, ostensible capitalists have been quietly moving their money offshore to less free, even communist countries that use slave labor! This was a decision made by captains of industry, not poor people or the middle class! And they talk about it openly on investor blogs! "It's not about patriotism, it's about profits! " ...or "America has had her day in the sun!" Those CEO's who have no philosophical allegiance to, are the persons responsible for bankrupting this nation! People like Mitt Romney who earned hundreds of millions of dollars by helping US corps move offshore, costing Americans their jobs and livelihoods. And for no other reason than impure GREED. Working people (and previous working people) are got-dam tired of the aspersions and insults, calling US citizens "moochers," lazy & unproductive. It's no surprise this rhetoric starts with the elite and 1%'ers. If you take the tools of a tradesman away, he can no longer produce. If you move American factories overseas, American workers can no longer produce. Yes we have standards, we want a clean environment and companies who keep up with technical innovation, reasonably safe working conditions, retirement plans for our old age. With so many companies gone, people have less money, give less to churches, who have less to support the burgeoning poor, who are not responsible for the outsourcing. NONE OF THIS is rocket science, everyone can see it, is living through it in America, and still we have these conservative snipers sitting from their high positions taking pot-shots at the rest of US. Will you ever get over your fat, prevaricating, egotistical selves? Not very likely, I'm sure.

    • People often talk about capitalism and greed as if they are synonymous; they're not. Capitalism is an economic system; greed is a moral failure. Capitalism has failed precisely no one, but so-called capitalists have failed many and often. If you really believe that giving citizens tax dollars is somehow putting fingers in the dike, you are sorely mistaken. The resulting tidal wave will only be bigger and more destructive.

    • Most of the work is moved off-shore to avoid the union interference.

  7. Too late- it's like fighting off aligators while reminding oneself that your job was to drain the swamp. The swamp has already been filled, and is getting tougher to deal with every day. Obama will certainly take it to heights it has never seen before.

  8. We are out of other people's money and are now borrowing from the children of our children's children if you do the math.

    Come see us at The Two Minute Conservative, and when you speak ladies will swoon and liberal gentlemen will weep.

  9. 99% of the violent crime in this country has it's root in our welfare system. The system discourages senses of self reliance and personal responsibility, attributes necessary for citizenship in an orderly and safe society. The system promotes the "need", "victimization", lack of accountability, destruction of the nuclear family and dependence on gov't of a large portion of our society. This leads to senses of entitlement, lawlessness, anarchy, self hatred, abhorrence of work, disrespect for education, political myopia and disregard for the well being of other citizens by the half of our citizenry that feel they are owed whatever they want without earning it.

  10. Any document (contract / law) is only as valid as to the people who are in obedience to it, and even the bible is moot to a populace who have rejected their true authority i.e. Yah the living Jesus. Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient. and if there be NO righteous to defend that law, then mans relative moral status will reflect his submission/rejection.

    One truth which will come one day is: For it is written, As I live, saith Yahweh, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.