Is It Socialism Or Part of the ‘General Welfare’ of the Nation?

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.Graph With Text

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.

And what about public education? In my opinion as it stands today, it is a socialistic endeavor (one of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto). Why?

Because it is given preferential tax treatment by state governments, and those making sacrifices to send their children to private schools are heavily penalized, shouldering 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., lives in Macon.

This commentary was published in The Macon Telegraph on December 4, 2011.
Copyright ©2011 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)
Comments on this post

Saul Alinsky: Rules for wreaking havoc!

Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) Rules for Radicals (1971)

According to Alinsky, the political activist and community organizer of the 1960s to empower a mass-based people's organization, you need to display your prowess before the enemy. If the organization is small, conceal the number and membership, keep the enemy in the dark but "raise a din and clamor" that will make audience believe that your organization numbers are much larger than they are. Lastly, if your organization is too small, even for noise, "stink up the place." The rules are:

1. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have."
2. “Never go outside the expertise of your people.”
3. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.”
4. “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
5. “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
6. “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.”
7. “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.”
8. “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.”
9. “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.”
10. "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition."
11. “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
12. “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.”
13. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

Public Education and Fairness, not socialism, readers reply!

Among several Macon Telegraph responders, two of them had objections. One had a quibble: "Good points, but I must respectfully disagree with the public education angle.  A functional democracy requires educated voters."

I replied: "I agree that a functioning Republic (we are still a Republic not a Democracy) requires educated voters, but when education is supported way disproportionally by a segment of the population,  and not everyone---It is socialistic. (Public education is included in the Tenth Plank of the Communist Manifesto, but not the US Constitution!)" 

The second reader had more specific and arguable points: "Interesting... Disease prevention and treatment in poor populations should not be paid for? I wonder if your friends and neighbors would find it impermissible when infectious diseases finds its way from the poor to their neighborhood. Does your idea of impermissible socialism include massive amounts of welfare now paid to farmers? Does impermissible socialism include the massive amounts of grants, subsidies and loans to medical students? Does impermissible socialism include Subsidies to favored industries to build plants, develop technology, and produce goods at reduced prices?  Does it include the FDA who attempts to keep our food supply safe?  What, Good Doctor, is permissible?  Or are you one of the folks who want to gore my Ox and asks me to keep yours safe?"

To this reader, I responded: "The way I see it, public health--- controlling infectious diseases, sanitation, potable water, waste disposal, etc--- is not socialism; it is obviously tending to the general welfare, used by all equally. That is why we have the CDC and numerous state agencies providing for these functions.

Subsidies to farmers and favored industries, collusion with business entities is corporatism (a form of socialism). A good case could be made for the FDA, as well, on the same account of tending to the general welfare. As far as reduced prices, it does not happen; high prices is the rule with monopolistic tendencies. And when prices are artificially reduced, you can bet someone else is paying the balance. At worst, like in the case of the Solyndra corporation debacle, the taxpayers get stuck with the bill. So I agree with some of your premises, but I certainly and respectfully disagree with your conclusion on that one.

As far as financial loans, industries, safety issues, by in large, I trust the free market more than government regulators, and when capitalists become crooked, negligent, or fraudulent (as you implied), we still do have a criminal justice system and a lot of "hungry" lawyers that with the media "watchdogs," love nothing better than to make of a fallen tree kindling!

It is interesting we have plenty of public schools and education standards keep getting lower; we have hordes of government regulators, and conflicts of interest and problems of corruption in public-private partnerships keep multiplying! In all fairness, I did not use the word "permissible" in the article, and I am not protecting any oxen from being gored! In fact if you check my writings, you will find no harsher critic of the AMA than myself!

Thank you for the comments. They were very stimulating!" MAF