Columnist Walter Williams has written on the difference between rights and wishes. He asserts: "A right confers no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of non-interference. . Contrast those rights to the supposed right to decent housing or medical care. Those supposed rights do confer obligations upon others. There is no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. .Your right to decent housing and medical care requires that some other American have less of something else, namely diminished rights to his earnings." Helping our neighbor is a personal moral imperative most Americans feel, but what some Americans call a "moral imperative" for the government to provide healthcare for all is certainly not a right based on any "Constitutional imperative."
When the Founding Fathers delineated the role of the federal government in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, charity was not mentioned. James Madison, a Founding Father and the principal author of the Constitution, warned, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution, which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
Likewise, the Constitution's general welfare clause provides no cover for government entitlement programs. Madison continued, "With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the details of powers (enumerated in the Constitution) connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."
Thomas Jefferson added his own warning: "What is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned."
Going back to our Constitutional underpinnings would not be a retreat into the past, but a liberating adventure that would rekindle the American Dream. A return to individual responsibility and caring communities would foster economic growth, jobs, personal charity and revitalized community involvement. As columnist Larry Elder notes: "Every dollar extracted from taxpayers, sent to Washington, and then routed to the beneficiary 'loses' about 70 cents in transfer costs-salaries, rent and other expenses. The Salvation Army, by contrast, spends two cents in operating costs, with the remainder going to fund-raising and the beneficiary."
It's time to stop depending on an inefficient, expensive, and failing big government and start exercising our own moral imperative to take responsibility for our own lives and to do our part to help others in our own communities.
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