It has come to my attention some letter writers in The Telegraph and posters at Macon.com, have taken umbrage with the use of the word “socialism” in describing the worsening state of affairs in our nation today — from exorbitant, crippling regulations and taxation to abuse of the “general welfare” clause of the Constitution.
In the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, our Founders cited the transcendental functions of government in describing the natural and inalienable rights of men — e.g., the protection of life, liberty, property and the freedom to pursue our health, occupation, religion and happiness to our hearts desire.
Legal contracts in commerce were sacrosanct and a binding obligation to be fulfilled with the force of law as to secure liberty and prosperity business and commerce. But what about the much cited clause in the Preamble to the Constitution, i.e., “promote the general welfare”? The clause brings us back to the specified powers of government granted in the Constitution for the “well-being” of the nation as a whole, not for a politically favored group because of a particular background or socioeconomic status.
What are examples of general welfare? Consider necessary infrastructure — construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, seaports and airports. These are legitimate government functions necessary for travel and commerce, from which we all benefit as a nation. Thus, it is a necessary duty of government, preferably state and local governments. It is “general welfare” not socialism.
“Specific welfare,” on the other hand, is aimed at certain groups of citizens and not the population as a whole, promotes wealth redistribution, the taking of the fruits of the labors of some to give to others. It promotes envy and class warfare. It is not “general welfare,” it is socialism.
What are examples of specific welfare? Government housing, food stamps, “universal” health care, extended benefits for an idle portion of the population at the expense of the hard-working portion of the segment — this is socialism.
What is socialism? My own definition is that Socialism is the assumption and maintenance of governmental power preferably by evolution rather than revolution; the seduction of the population by promising something for nothing, using class strife, the politics of envy, and the incitement of the dark side of human nature to justify legal plunder, taking by force from the industrious to give to the idle and dependent (i.e., wealth redistribution). Those receiving then are beholden to (and support) those in power bestowing the largesse. This redistribution of wealth and management of power is carried out by elites, who are above the rest of the people, insisting because they "know better" in protecting the populace even from themselves. Thus eliminating as much as possible the people's freedom to choose. This subservience, leveling, and unnatural "equality" is maintained by the State's monopoly of force, owning or largely controlling via regulation or taxation, the means of production (e.g., factories, mines, commercial enterprises, even small businesses, etc), distribution (transportation, communication, interstate commerce, etc.), or consumption of goods and services (e.g., food, health care, housing, education indoctrination, etc.). But despite the effort socialism always ends in failure as it goes against the nature of man and fails to create the elusive more submissive Socialist New Man requiring no material incentives to work, bereft of creativity, and obeying his masters without a will of his own.
But what about Medicare and Social Security? On the one hand, they are compulsory, Ponzi schemes that we are forced to contribute to, yet, these programs have become ingrained in our thinking that they promote our security and well-being in old age. They are socialistic policies that should be made voluntary, as in the unalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of our own health and happiness. Frankly, since it affects all, an argument could be made that they are not socialistic but tending to the general welfare.
What about compassion enforced by government for a more equitable society?Government wealth redistribution is not charity. It is based on obligatory taking (taxation) and not freely given. It is compulsion, and thus deprived of genuine compassion, good faith, and voluntarism. Moreover, taking does not result in giving what belongs to the givers but what belongs to others, so it is not altruism.
Rather than engendering a sense of true philanthropy and humanitarianism, as is the case with volunteering for good works carried out disinterestedly by churches and other benevolent social institutions, it is based on politics, people control and compulsion enforced by the State.
What do the ancients say about this subject of government generosity? Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) addressed this issue extensively in both Nichomachean Ethics and Politics. For Aristotle happiness in generosity arouse from giving to others voluntarily what is your own, not socialism by government coercion:
"Injustice in the sense of distributive justice is a violation of proportions. Distribution should be made in accordance with merit or with the ratio of the contributions which have been made to the fund.—Aristotle (c. 350 B.C.) in Nicomachean Ethics, Book V.
"The Demagogue can not be allowed to distribute the surplus even in a just and fair society, the poor receive more and more help but such help is like water poured into a leaky casket.”—Aristotle in Politics, Book VI.
"This, however, is not the way in which people would speak who had their wives and children in common; they would say 'all' but not 'each.' In like manner their property would be described as belonging to them, not severally but collectively. There is an obvious fallacy in the term 'all': like some other words, 'both,' 'odd,' 'even,' it is ambiguous, and even in abstract argument becomes a source of logical puzzles. That all persons call the same thing mine in the sense in which each does so may be a fine thing, but it is impracticable; or if the words are taken in the other sense, such a unity in no way conduces to harmony. And there is another objection to the proposal. For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual. For besides other considerations, everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill... Each citizen will have a thousand sons who will not be his sons individually but anybody will be equally the son of anybody, and will therefore be neglected by all alike."— Aristotle in Politics, Book II, part iii
"Again, how immeasurably greater is the pleasure, when a man feels a thing to be his own; for surely the love of self is a feeling implanted by nature and not given in vain, although selfishness is rightly censured... No one, when men have all things in common, will any longer set an example of liberality or do any liberal action; for liberality consists in imparting to others what is our own.” Aristotle in Politics, Book II, part v.
"But that the unequal should be given to equals, and the unlike to those who are like, is contrary to nature, and nothing which is contrary to nature is good." Aristotle, Politics, Book VII, part iii.
And what about public education? Admittedly both Plato and Aristotle believed in public education as a worthwhile goal of society so that citizens could execute their expected civic duties and public service of citizenship. Unfortunately as it stands today in the U.S., it tends to be a socialistic endeavor (one of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto). Why?
Not only because of its indoctrination in political correctness as well as the general failure to educate, but because it is given unequal tax treatment by state governments, and those making sacrifices to send their children to private schools are heavily penalized, shouldering the burden for their own children’s education as well as that of others.
It is supported largely by property taxes, so once again, one group of people (who have placed their life investment in the real estate value of their home) carries the burden disproportionately.
Do I think it could be made a “general welfare” benefit? Yes, and it should be because we all benefit from better-educated children and a skilled, well-trained labor force.
But the points above should be corrected, at least by making funding of public education more equitable by providing tax credits for those sending children to private schools and easing the burden on retirees by funding it via a flat income tax rate or excise taxes. Otherwise, as currently implemented, public education has a nagging socialistic streak.
Miguel A. Faria, M.D., is a citizen of Macon.
A shorter version of this commentary was published in The Macon Telegraph on December 4, 2011.
This article may be cited as: Faria MA. Is it socialism or part of the "general welfare" of the nation? HaciendaPublishing.com, December 4, 2011. Available from: http://haciendapub.com/randomnotes/it-socialism-or-part-%E2%80%98general-welfare%E2%80%99-nation
Copyright ©2011 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.