To Promote the General Welfare

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By Scott Simonds and Megan Simonds

SSimonds_1In my previous article, “The Freedom Society: Headwing Thought or Tea Party Politics?”, I said I would next take up the issue of government spending on human services.

megan-simondsThe political right advocates for smaller government, addressing domestic issues of poverty and healthcare through private enterprise.

The left advocates for government agencies and programs to provide healthcare, a safety net for people temporarily in need and ongoing support for citizens who cannot “enjoy the blessings of liberty” independently as social responsibilities.

The right claims that government power should be limited to the common defense, brick and mortar infrastructure, law-making and law enforcement. For them, government’s basic purpose is to protect individual rights and freedoms and should keep its hands off the free market system.

Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this worldview, it is not complete. The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution includes the phrase:

…[To] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty…

The right argues that protecting the free market system is promoting the general welfare. But is there such a thing as equal opportunity in a purely capitalist society? Do the values derived from capitalist principles, such as independence, self-reliance and faith, apply in every circumstance?

In fact, values such as “justice” and “compassion” (for those who cannot survive independently in civilized society) often conflict. Success and failure, right and wrong, are not as clear cut as some would have us believe.

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