Your Opinion: Promoting the general welfare
Saturday, October 29, 2011
In complaining about the “millions” who do not understand our Constitution a letter on Oct. 20 said, “Our constitution clearly states ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”
The Constitution does not use that phrase, it was used in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution, however, on two occasions (the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments) provides that no person shall be deprived of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”
Interestingly, the Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments which were adopted in 1791) was held to limit the federal government only, not the state governments. The First Amendment begins “Congress shall make no law ...,” and “Congress” was deemed to refer only to the federal government.
In 1868 the Fourteenth Amendment was added and it expressly barred the state governments from depriving us of life, liberty or property without due process of law.
Even though the constitution makes no reference to the pursuit of happiness, it does set out among its goals, “[P]rovide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty ...” (Preamble)
That second goal, promote the general welfare, is sometimes overlooked.
The goal is not to promote only the welfare of lobbyists and the wealthy companies and people they represent, but to promote the general welfare, the welfare of all of us.
A cutthroat, bare knuckles free market economy that is not limited by government may promote the welfare of the few, but it may well bring disaster to the many as the recent financial crisis and Great Recession have shown. The investment bankers have gotten their bonuses and the millionaires and billionaires have gotten favorable tax treatment but 14 million people are out of work.
The constitutional goal is to promote the general welfare, not the welfare of the few.