Individualism and the Nanny State

“It profits me but little, after all, that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquility of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life.”

Alexis de Tocqueville

While talking to an old friend on the phone recently, he mentioned that now that he was retired he was planing to do volunteer work and “Give something back to society.” Later that night I got to thinking about what he said about “Giving something back to society” and just what that means today. The man has worked for 40 years, paid taxes, served in the military, an active member of his church, was never arrested, supported a family and raised five children. He has been the perfect citizen and family man and in my view has no reason to believe he needs to give anything back. I realized the phrase “To give something back to society” is never used in regard to the unproductive in society or the entitlement entrenched. It therefore is a Liberal/Progressive guilt ridden phrase suggesting you obtained something more than you deserve at the expense of the poor. It is used to coerce through guilt the productive members of society to further support the nanny state through established programs and other means. By having unpaid volunteers sustain and expand these programs it relieves politicians from taking responsibility (and blame) for passing legislation and additional taxes in order to expand them. A perfect example of this is passing laws to have high school students do “Manatory Volunteering” in order to graduate. While being a worthwhile endeavor, it is hardly having them do it of their own free will and in fact trends toward indentured servitude. Nothing is learned and little accomplished either morally or literally by making them appear for volunteer work they don’t wish to perform.

Politicians today tend to forget that our government was founded as a limited government with outlined duties and checks and balances. The Progressives try to enlarge government by humanizing it and making it care and feel concern over our well being. In reality the general will takes preference over the individual needs and the political power wielded to determine what the general will needs takes preference over everything. The Liberal/Progressive nanny state has taken over responsibilities that were done in America for the first one hundred and fifty years by family members, the church and local charities. By government doing so not only moral respect for these areas of society suffered but their finances suffered when government ran it’s own protection racket replacing them. When it serves their purpose the same Liberals who are secular and in favor of separation of church and state will try framing the arguement in religious terms by citing “Isn’t the religious right in favor of aid to the needy?,” thus putting us on the defensive. There is nothing religious nor charitable when your ulterior motive is to create a bureaucratic nanny state which wields power and yields funds at the discretion of a few through legalized coercion of the productive. But then some leaders of the current administration think “It’s patriotic to pay taxes” in order that this slavery of an entire class can continue and therefore justifying their existence in office.

The source generally given to justify this massive intervention of government is the interpretation of the “General Welfare” clause of the Constitution. An article by John C. Eastman of the Heritage Foundation entitled “Enough is Enough: Why General Welfare Limits Spending” describes the three different views of this clause during the founding of our nation. Alexander Hamilton supported an expansive spending power during the Constitutional Convention but it was opposed by the Convention as well as many of the founders. Hamilton reasoned that the only limits on the tax and spend power were the requirements that duties be uniform, that direct taxes be apportioned by population, and that no tax be laid on articles exported from any state. The power to raise money was otherwise “plenary and indefinite.” he argued, “and the objects to which it may be appropiated are no less comprehensive.” James Madison argued that the power to tax and spend did not confer upon Congress the right to do whatever it thought to be in the best interest of the nation but only to further the ends specifically mentioned elsewhere in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8 a view supported by Thomas Jefferson. The differing views of the scope of federal power was a principal ground on which the 1800 presidential election between Jefferson and John Adams was fought. After Jefferson won the election, except for a brief period during the presidency of John Quincy Adams, the more restrictive interpretation of spending powers were used by every president until the Civil War. The third interpretation was supported by President James Monroe who contended that the Congressional limitation be “to purposes of common defence, and of general national welfare and not for any specific local, state or regional benefit. As with many issues in today’s society the modern day interpretation on the spending clause begins with the depression and FD.R.’s New Deal. In the 1936 case of the United States vs Butler, both sides relied on the Hamilton view, however, the Hamilton view adopted by the court was not the expansive view that Congress could do whatever it deemed to be in the publics interest but the much more limited view advocated by James Monroe. Since that time the courts have treated it as a political question and Congress has had free rein.

The Constitution wasn’t set up to micro-manage every aspect of government but to provide a framework for establishing a government. Government is a necessary evil because man is flawed but without the checks and balances provided in the Constitution, government can usurp liberty. The duties of Congress are clearly defined in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. It should do no more lest liberty be endangered. It should do no less else anarchy ensue.