Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Government Mandated Charity

So I promised a deeper study of charity. Since it's been a while, I suppose I kind of owe you. We're going to look at charity in the form of welfare. Well, let's stop for a second. That's a funny word, welfare, because of where it comes from. The word "welfare" originally had nothing to do with charity. In fact, the definition is essentially the equivalent of that of well-being. A parent would provide for his/her family's welfare. Providing for their well-being, not their charity. The term welfare is used for the government charity in the US because of its association with a clause in the Constitution.

Article I, Section 8.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States

In fact, by using this term in this manner, many people have come to think it reversed. They believe the term as it is written in the Constitution is a direct advocation of government charity, as opposed to the term being used afterward to refer to charity. If you read the clause without the charity mind-set surrounding it, it takes on a different tone. Try it, trade well-being for welfare in the sentence.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general well-being of the United States

In fact, the whole of Section 8 is rather extensive. This is not it's entirity. It is only the opening clause. There are 17 other clauses, or sub-clauses, following it, not including the second half of the clause that I have omitted for our purposes.

Now that we have clarified the proper reading of this particular clause, we see no specific mention of charity anywhere in the Constitution. Now, whether there is an implied mention of it somewhere is a debate we'll set aside for a time. It is, largely irrelavent. No specific mention of charity exists in the Constitution, so the government's choice to give out charity, if not downright unconstitutional, is not mandated.

So, let's analyze the logic behind government charity. First, this is your money. It is not the government's money. This is something that needs to be perfectly clear to begin with, because it is so often forgotten. Government cannot give money it doesn't have. Instead, it takes tax dollars and gives them out as charity. So, this is your money, your neighbor's money, my money, and everyone else in the country. Unlike money you donate to the Red Cross, these are not voluntary contributions. If you don't pay your taxes, you will be arrested and jailed...after all of your things are confiscated to "pay back taxes".

So, let's examine how the government decides to give out this money. Well, this could take months (on this blog at least) to fully examine. You can get all the details at government websites though. The basics are "need-based". The government gives money to those who don't have it, or at least, those who the government thinks don't have it.

"between 1 July 2004 and 30 June 2005[...] There were 3446 convictions for welfare fraud involving $41.2 million in debts."

So, now we know that the government also does a bad job at it. The government is "trying" though. Isn't that the point? Wait, the government doesn't have to try! We've been over this. There is no mandate for charity in the Constitution. Therefore, the government could stop taking my money and giving it to the wrong people and not be doing anything wrong! On that note, I think we'll leave this topic for now. This can continue to expand, so I will come back to it. Anywho, next tiime we'll try and close up something else and get us moving in a new direction.


There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as "caring" and "sensitive" because he wants to expand the government's charitable programs is merely saying that he's willing to try to do good with other people's money. Well, who isn't? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he'll do good with his own money – if a gun is held to his head. – P.J. O'Rourke

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation. – Thomas B. Reed (1886)

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