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It Takes a Tyrant: "General Welfare" Myth Debunked

Regular exercise is good for your health, just like helmets and seat belts. But should Congress pass a law?

Walter E. Williams lays out an argument for such action:

What about Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which says Congress shall provide for the 'general welfare of the United States'? Surely, healthy Americans contribute to the nation's general welfare.

"That's precisely the response I'd expect from your average law professor, congressman or derelict U.S. Supreme Court justice," says Williams. "Let's look at what the men who wrote the Constitution had to say about its general welfare clause."

Williams quotes James Madison:

In a letter to Edmund Pendleton, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, said, "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. ..."

Madison also said, "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 [think: "living Constitution"] into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."

And this from Thomas Jefferson: "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."

On this line of analysis, what you have is not a constitutional rule of law but an unconstitutional rule by "legislative thugs who issue orders" from their power base in Washington, D.C.

Upshot: Regular exercise is good for your health. But there's something amiss, undignifed, and, yes, thuggish, in allowing a federal-centric regime to manipulate a document of liberty into a document of control so that forces in Washington can tell you and me and everyone how much time to spend on the treadmill. 

That's not health, it's tyranny. And tyranny is bad for the general welfare.


Comments

Hi Rick

This is a great post. Thank you. Like you, I am troubled about the growing concentration of power in Washington. Thank you for your call for the average citizen to reengage.

I discovered your site a few months ago and have visited it daily. Thanks for the insightful articles and comments that you post.

darrow l. miller

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