What does the phrase "General Welfare" in the Constitution mean relative to the Individual American?
This is one of the sharpest dividing lines between Republicans, Independendts, and Democrats on the one side and Conservatives, Tea Partyers, and Libertarians on the other. For the former, their believe that it applies to the individual American, to a greater or lesser degree, is the foundation for the social legislation they support. For the latter, on the other hand, including Bourban Democrats like President Grover Cleveland of old, their is no linkage; it appears they only believe General Welfare applies at the National level. What do you think?
While the phrase does not necessarily mean welfare programs, I doubt the Founders meant the limited definition proffered by conservatives, libertarians and Tea Partyers. If all they meant for the government was to ensure domestic tranquility and provide for the common defense, then why would they include a phrase that means the same thing. With all of the care that went into writing the Constitution, I seriously doubt they would have left such a redundancy right in the preamble. Furthermore, it is not as thought the Founding Fathers agreed on everything or were consistent throughout their careers (Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase.) Hamilton and Jefferson had very different ideas about the role of the federal government. Overall, I would say that it is a phrase that was intentionally left open to interpretation.
I think "General Welfare" meant per the 18th century when the U.S. Constitution was written that government needs to provide for the general welfare (well being) of society, not of individuals, but such General Welfare could indirectly benefit individual citizens. This would include things such as ensuring that transporation infrastructure was built and maintained, proper security was provided, postal services were provided, etc. There was no such thing as a welfare state back in those days, so it is highly unlikely they meant the General Welfare of individuals.
Let me modity my question slightly, based on @Rock_nj's response. By Individual, I should broaden that a bit by including such programs as the reflief Congress wanted to give drought-riddent farmers in a large swath of Texas at the height of the 1893 depression, a group of individuals, to be sure, but nevertheless not national in scope, which President Cleveland successfully vetoed saying this was not the roll of the federal government as envisioned by the U.S. Constitution.
I suggest you should further broaden the scope of your question, by making it human/world specific ... than an America Specific question.
Constitutions, are essentially man made documents ... American, Pakistani, or others ... these are political in nature, what ignore the Realpolitik ...
So do not "calculate" Poverty, along the Social Welfare of 55 million Americans living "on" the poverty line ...
Think, how one hamburger, can save the lives of starving Africans, Latin Americans, Europeans and Asians ... living below the Poverty line ... Think of how the Fundamental Right to Live, is possible for the 7 billion
Then ... if you have the heart ... ask your Law Givers to modify their approach, one that promotes mad Corporate Culture in the name of Freedom and Democracy.
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