Walter E. Williams

Positive reader response to "Socialism Is Evil" was quite surprising.
That column argued that it was an immoral, not to mention unconstitutional, act for Congress, through the tax code, to confiscate the earnings of one American to give to another American in the forms of prescription drugs, Social Security, food stamps, farm subsidies or airline bailouts. It's immoral because it forcibly uses one person to serve the purposes of another. Indeed, that's one way to define slavery and other forms of servitude.

 Several letters of disagreement interpreted my argument as being against taxation. They used the sleight-of-hand approach saying that we need taxation for national defense, the courts and other constitutionally authorized purposes as if that observation meant that taxation for any other purpose was just as legitimate. Let me be explicit. Taxes to finance certain federal activities are indeed legitimate as well as constitutional.

 Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates just what federal functions Congress has taxing and spending authority. Among them are national defense, post offices and post roads, courts and a few other activities. Or, as James Madison, the Father of our Constitution, explained in Federalist Paper No. 45, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.

 ?Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected."

 Nowhere in our Constitution is there even a hint of authority for most of what Congress taxes and spends for today. Don't be tricked by those who'd argue that Congress has such authority under the Constitution's "general welfare" clause. James Madison explained, "With respect to the two words ?general welfare', I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them ?" Thomas Jefferson said, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated." The "detail of powers" or those "specifically enumerated" refer to what's actually laid out in the Constitution. The Framers had the foresight to see that these powers might need modification. That's why they gave us Article V as a means to amend the Constitution.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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