Give Me Your Money: An (Un)Constitutional Stick-Up!

If a criminal were to tell us that he has a constitutional right to our money, we would laugh in his face (unless he has a really big gun), but when government tells us that other people have a right to it, most people hardly bat an eye. This double standard is well, just that, but we have become so accustomed to the welfare state that those who argue against it are seen as crazy.

There are plenty of cogent arguments to be made against the welfare state. Corporate welfare shifts money from productive firms to unproductive ones with political connections. Medicare and Medicaid provide sub-standard care, are ridden with waste, fraud and abuse, and cause cost-shifting that raises prices for private healthcare recipients. Cash grant programs like TANF provide disincentives for acquiring a job and have failed to significantly reduce poverty. However, the welfare state’s most fundamental flaw is its blatant unconstitutionality.

The Constitution is a document of enumerated powers, meant to maximize individual liberty while constraining government control. Article I, Section 8, delegates to Congress the power to perform twenty duties, not one of which involves the redistribution of property. James Madison re-affirmed this principal in 1794 when he asserted that he could not “undertake to lay his finger on that article of the Federal Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” It was still accepted that government lacked redistributive power in 1887 when Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill to buy seeds for drought-stricken Texas farmers.

If welfare wasn’t a constitutional right in Madison or Cleveland’s era, why is it considered one today? That, to me, is what’s truly crazy.

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