The Constitution and Socialism: Some History and a Question

The United States Constitution contains two references to "the General Welfare", one occurring in the Preamble and the other in the Taxing and Spending Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court has held the mention of the clause in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution "has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government of the United States or on any of its Departments."[3][4]

The Supreme Court held the understanding of the General Welfare Clause contained in the Taxing and Spending Clause adheres to the construction given it by Associate JusticeJoseph Story in his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States.[5][6] Justice Story concluded that the General Welfare Clause is not a grant of general legislative power,[5][7] but a qualification on the taxing power[5][8][9] which includes within it a federal power to spend federal revenues on matters of general interest to the federal government.[5][10][11] The Court described Justice Story's view as the "Hamiltonian position",[5] as Alexander Hamilton had elaborated his view of the taxing and spending powers in his 1791 Report on Manufactures. Story, however, attributes the position's initial appearance to Thomas Jefferson, in his Opinion on the Bank of the United States.[12]

A general welfare clause is a section that appeared in many constitutions, as well as in some charters and statutes, which provides that the governing body empowered by the document may enact laws to promote the general welfare of the people, sometimes worded as the public welfare. In some countries, this has been used as a basis for legislation promoting the health, safety, morals, and well-being of the people governed thereunder...

Alexander Hamilton, only after the Constitution had been ratified,[19] argued for a broad interpretation which viewed spending as an enumerated power Congress could exercise independently to benefit the general welfare, such as to assist national needs in agriculture or education, provided that the spending is general in nature and does not favor any specific section of the country over any other.[20

The Supreme Court has held the power to tax and spend is an independent power and that the General Welfare Clause gives Congress power it might not derive anywhere else...

To date, the Hamiltonian view of the General Welfare Clause predominates in case law...

---Compiled and paraphrased from materials found in Wikipedia

Here's the question:

Did Alexander Hamilton, who took the oath of office as the first Secretary of the Treasury on September 11, 1789, plant the seeds of American socialism in his interpretation of the 'General Welfare Clause' of the Constitution?

Views: 52

Comment by koshersalaami on March 21, 2019 at 4:43am


Of course, back then there were two things missing: income tax and Karl Marx

Comment by Ron Powell on March 21, 2019 at 5:57am

Kosh, what this historical thumbnail sketch illustrates is that everything that has been done to legislatively create , sustain, and maintain what we characterize as the "social safety net" is more than merely  constitutionally permissible but may be construed as constitutionally mandated.


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