Dan Popp
Safety nets and other snares, Part 4
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By Dan Popp
July 30, 2012

This series is a response to those conservatives who believe that government should provide a "safety net" for the unfortunate. For Christians, the strongest of my three arguments has already been made in Parts 1, 2 and 3: God pictures government as an avenger who brings wrath (Romans 13:4), not as a bureaucrat who brings breakfast.

But in the US, a federal safety net is not only unbiblical; it's unconstitutional.

You may review the Constitution for yourself to see that almsgiving, fairness, income equality, "access" to goods and services, minimum standards of living, retirement plans, healthcare insurance and good ol' spreadin' the wealth around are not among the enumerated powers granted to the United States Congress in Article 1, Section 8. Therefore it's illegal for the national government to engage in these activities.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. — Amendment 10

The man who penned the Constitution said:

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.... — James Madison

The government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government. — James Madison

Someone will object that the "general welfare clause" gives the federal government the power to do whatever it thinks best, for the good of the people. That's absurd on its face. If the Founders had meant to invest the national government with unlimited power, they wouldn't have enumerated specific powers; and they wouldn't have withheld from it all powers except the ones they enumerated.

With respect to the two 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 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

They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please...Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect. — Thomas Jefferson

The Founders saw government benevolence in particular as a dangerous folly.

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. — Benjamin Franklin

Repeal that [Poor] law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. St. Monday and St. Tuesday, will soon cease to be holidays. "Six days shalt thou labor," though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them. — Benjamin Franklin

When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. — Benjamin Franklin

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. — Thomas Jefferson

Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition. — Thomas Jefferson

If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy. — Thomas Jefferson

For almost 200 years, from the 1780s into the 1960s, elected representatives of all parties recognized that a federal dole would be an unlawful disaster.

We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. — Congressman Davy Crockett

The application of public money by an officer of Government to private uses should be made a felony and visited with severe and ignominious punishment. — Martin Van Buren

I cannot find any authority in the Constitution for public charity. [To approve the measure] would be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution and subversive to the whole theory upon which the Union of these States is founded. — Franklin Pierce

In the estimation of the [American] democracy a government is not a benefit, but a necessary evil. — Alexis de Tocqueville

You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves. — Abraham Lincoln

The lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government, Government should not support the people. — Grover Cleveland

The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight. — Theodore Roosevelt

The worst lesson that can be taught to a man is to rely upon others and to whine over his sufferings. — Theodore Roosevelt

If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom. — Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every time that we try to lift a problem from our own shoulders, and shift that problem to the hands of the government, to the same extent we are sacrificing the liberties of our people. — John F. Kennedy

I've saved the best for last:

The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fibre. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

This is the same old dole under another name. It is almost dishonest to build up an accumulated deficit for the Congress of the Unites States to meet in 1980. We can't do that. We can't see the Unites States short in 1980 any more than in 1935. — Franklin D. Roosevelt's initial reaction to the idea that became "Social Security"

So national government has no authority to engage in charitable works. Attempts at government aid are destructive to the recipients. And loading future generations with debt is immoral. But these aren't even the worst of it. The worst is that, in order for some to be "helped" by government, others must be harmed. The issue is not whether "the rich can afford it"; the issue is that "it" doesn't belong to you. In order for our primary justice institution to be twisted into a mercy institution, it must commit injustice. It must trample on the property rights it was created to protect.

No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. — Amendment 5

The great and chief end, therefore, of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property. — John Locke

For no government can have a right to obedience from a people ...till they are allowed their due property, which is so to be proprietors of what they have, that no body can take away any part of it without their own consent, without which, men under any government are not in the state of freemen, but are direct slaves under the force of war. — John Locke

There is therefore, secondly, another way whereby governments are dissolved, and that is, when the legislative, or the prince, either of them, act contrary to their trust. The legislative acts against the trust reposed in them, when they endeavour to invade the property of the subject, and to make themselves, or any part of the community, masters, or arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties, or fortunes of the people. — John Locke (emphasis mine)

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own. — James Madison

The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society. — Thomas Jefferson

To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it. — Thomas Jefferson

No power on earth has a right to take our property from us without our consent. — John Jay

Killing one tyrant only makes way for worse, unless the people have sense, spirit and honesty enough to establish and support a constitution guarded at all points against the tyranny of the one, the few, and the many. — John Adams (emphasis mine)

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If 'Thou shalt not covet' and 'Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free. — John Adams

"Helping" Tom by robbing Tina with the government gun is contra-biblical, unconstitutional, dangerous and unjust. What happens when such forced relief schemes are implemented? I'll try to answer that in my Conclusion.

© Dan Popp

 

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