Walter E. Williams

During earlier times, such spending was deemed unconstitutional and immoral. James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, said, "Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 to assist some French refugees, Madison stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, "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." Today's Americans would crucify a politician expressing similar statements.

There may be nitwits out there who'd assert, "That James Madison guy forgot about the Constitution's general welfare clause." Madison had that covered, explaining in a letter, "If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the general welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one." Thomas Jefferson agreed, writing: Members of Congress "are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare. ... It would reduce the (Constitution) to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please."

The bottom line is that spending is not our basic problem. We've become an immoral people demanding that Congress forcibly use one American to serve the purposes of another. Deficits and runaway national debt are merely symptoms of that larger problem.


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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