Sunday, August 28, 2011

Myth #16: The Role of Government is to Ensure Equality Through Social Justice

This is the Sixteenth Myth in the series: 25 Myths of the U.S. Constitution.

Note: These articles later were updated and combined into my first book: 25 Myths of the United States Constitution.

"The utopian schemes of leveling (re-distribution of the wealth) and a community of goods (socialism scheme of central ownership of production and distribution), are as visionary and impractical as those which vest all property in the crown. These ideas are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government unconstitutional. Now what property can the colonists be conceived to have, if their money may be granted away by others, without their consent?" -- Samuel Adams, Boston Gazette, April 4, 1768.

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” -- Thomas Jefferson

By Douglas V. Gibbs

In today's society we are told that the government must be the guarantor of social justice. Those that argue in favor of social justice claim that government is the primary, if not sole, party responsible for ensuring that social justice is maintained.

Social Justice is a catch phrase for communism.

Social Justice is a concept that claims to seek equality and fairness. A part of social justice is the myriad of entitlement programs we are told were designed to ensure those that are underprivileged are taken care of by government.

President Obama, with his argument supporting government health care, said that it is our responsibility to “look out for one another” because, in his words, “I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper.”

His words, paraphrased from Old Testament Biblical passages, basically said that God’s children have a religious or spiritual responsibility to help fellow Americans by pushing for government sponsored healthcare. A gross misunderstanding of the biblical passage he was butchering.

The term "My Brother's Keeper" does not mean what Obama said it meant. Though Christianity teaches we should be loving, kind, giving, and charitable, there is no passage that indicates it must be mandated through government, or that we should be our "brother's keeper." In fact, there is no place in the Bible where we are doctrinally commanded to be our "brother's keeper."

"My Brother's Keeper" comes from the story of Cain and Able, two of Adam and Eve's sons. Cain, out of jealousy of his brother, murdered Able. When confronted, he denied the action by saying he didn't know the whereabouts of his brother, and then asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" In other words, "am I supposed to be so responsible for my brother that I am supposed to always know his whereabouts?" The passage is in no way a command that we should be our brother's keeper.

In turn, Jesus never taught we must be our brother's keeper. It is our brother's responsibility to take care of himself. Like salvation, if a Christian desires to be giving, the choice must be voluntary, and the result of a decision made with both the mind, and from the heart.

Social Justice is argued as being the responsibility of the government for reasons of morality. To not support social justice is to be immoral because that must mean you want the potential recipients of entitlement programs to suffer in their poverty.

The first question we must ask ourselves when faced with an onslaught of governmental policies that uses "social justice" as their excuse is, does the Constitution give the federal government the authority to create and fund programs designed to redistribute the wealth from the taxpayers to those seeking participation in entitlement programs?

The immediate response I often receive is that, "Yes, the Constitution authorizes the federal government to fund entitlement programs because of the General Welfare Clause."

James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, does not agree: "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, subject to particular exceptions." -- James Madison

The General Welfare Clause was not even meant to be a clause, or an authority to the federal government, but was meant to be a description of the Republic should the laws of the land be made in accordance with the authorities granted by the Constitution.

In other words, of the laws of the United States are limited to the authorities granted by the Constitution, there will be a sense of general welfare throughout the country. After all, the Preamble even tells us that one of the aims of the Constitution was "domestic tranquility."

The States were much like siblings, fighting over just about everything. They argued over commerce, borders, legal jurisdictions, currency, weights and measures, communication, religion, and a number of other issues. As a result, one of the many reasons for the need of a new government through the U.S. Constitution was so that a central government may have the authority to act as a mediator between the quarreling States.

Acting as a referee in matters that caused disputes between the States would help the federal government provide for the General Welfare of the republic.

In other words, if the federal government does what it was supposed to do, as a mediator between the States, and as a protector of the States by providing for the common defense, the States would enjoy a general welfare of the republic. The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that squabbles, internal conflict, or foreign intrusion did not place the welfare of the union in jeopardy.

General Welfare is a description, not a Constitutional authority.

The General Welfare of the republic was the goal, which would be achieved if the federal government abides by the limiting principles of the U.S. Constitution.

From a non-governmental standpoint, the concept of "social justice" can be a good thing. The Salvation Army grew out of social justice thinking. As individuals it is important to be compassionate; feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, help the sick, and visit prisoners. There is absolutely nothing wrong with voluntarily giving to those who are in positions less fortunate than ourselves.

When it comes to the concept of social justice, the argument is not whether or not help should be given to those that are less fortunate, but rather whether or not government should be the caregiver of those folks through entitlement programs, and policies that use taxpayer dollars.

If a neighbor is in need, some may find it to be their personal responsibility to help that neighbor, and that is commendable. We live in a culture that confuses "needs" with "desires," and both of those concepts with "rights." Entitlements have come to be defined as a right, and with that definition in place, it is no wonder that people consider government to be obligated to provide citizens with certain "necessities" of life. Government, however, does not provide entitlement programs out of the kindness of its heart, nor out of some moral obligation of responsibility.

On the surface, social justice through government intervention seems like the moral thing to do. In the long run, however, the government providing "social justice" is socially debilitating, and economically unsustainable. The founders did not give the federal government constitutional authority to provide programs designed to redistribute the wealth from one economic class to the other because such programs widen the gap between the different financial classes, makes it more difficult for those in poverty to reach a level of economic success, and because eventually the creation of such programs undermines the nation's economy, ultimately leading to collapse.

The Founding Fathers created our system through the Constitution with the intention that the Republic would stand the test of time.

Government must not be even partially responsible for taking care of the so-called down-trodden. The responsibility for taking care of our neighbors, should that need arise, belongs to each of us as individuals in a societal system where our relationships and overlapping communities demand that for the success of our communities, each part must be healthy and functional. However, when that care goes beyond individual assistance on a voluntary basis, it teaches the recipient to expect more, and set aside their own individual responsibilities. Rather than a united community, the system becomes one of producers, and takers. As the number of takers increases, the producers must work harder to ensure that everyone is taken care of. Eventually, even the producers come to the conclusion that they've been swindled. They are doing all of the work, and the takers are doing none, so they might as well become takers as well. Eventually, the takers outnumber the producers, and the society is unable to continue on.

Social Justice is unsustainable.

When government takes on the role of taking from the producers, and giving to those on the government dole, the element of political power enters the scheme, as well. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution desired to limit the powers of the federal government, not give the government the ability to manipulate the system through gifts from the treasury. The statesmen have become professional politicians battling over who can give more entitlements to more people in a hope that it will garner more votes for their next reelection. In this way, through entitlements, the politicians are literally buying votes.

Eventually, the hope of these statists is that more than fifty percent of the population will wind up on government entitlement programs, theoretically putting the political ideology whose platform is to promote entitlement programs in power in perpetuity. The number of people on entitlement programs continues to increase, and eventually the tax burden needed to provide the entitlements will become too large for the producers to manage. In fact, some may argue we have already reached that point, which is why the government has resorted to borrowing at such an incredible level, and issuing fiat currency that will ultimately destabilize our entire economic system.

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." -- Margaret Thatcher

Ultimately, a governmental system that pursues social justice is unsustainable. Eventually the takers outnumber the producers, the expenses of government become larger than the system is capable of managing, and the politicians are left with no choice but to cut the spending drastically through austerity measures, or allow the entire system to collapse.

The nature of humanity, when faced with the opportunity to take advantage of "free" government programs, means that these entitlements actually serve as a disincentive for the individual. Why assume responsibility for your own actions when government will bail you out at every turn?

Self-reliance, personal responsibility, and hard work becomes something the other guy can do. The attitude devolves into, "The rich people make more than enough, therefore, should share their wealth with me," or "pay their fair share." The sense of mutual responsibility for each other through government dominates over the sense of personal responsibility for oneself. In turn, these governmental programs even take away from the effectiveness of private charities, for people begin to conclude that with government providing all of the help for others, the ball is in somebody else's court, so a personal individual decision to help is no longer necessary.

Interestingly enough, however, an extreme view of individuality may have played a part in the rise of governmental programs of social justice. In our society of individualism and self-reliance, we sometimes view ourselves more in terms of being an isolated autonomy, rather than members of a community. As individual as we may be, our independence as a sovereign does not exclude us from the fact that we are also members of a community, and therefore are responsible for our participation in that community. The individualistic refusal to participate in the community helps the statists in their argument that the government must fill a void where the needy must be taken care of.

We are individuals, and should not consign ourselves to some governmental experiment in collectivism. Our relationships with others demand that we, as individuals, share in our local communities, and as a result we do have a basic moral obligation towards other human beings. That responsibility is to help, not make the others dependent upon us or the government. When a person is taught not to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, they become slaves to the system. Sometimes the bootstraps are not so easy to tug on, which is where we, as individuals, ought to offer a helping hand.

Give a man a fish, and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will be fed for a lifetime.

Mutual responsibility to each other on a voluntary, individual basis is essential to the maintenance of a healthy society. The more we feel we can rely upon each other, the less some of us may be tempted to turn to government for help and quick remedies. The key to return to a society where the community takes care of its own, without governmental interference and political games, begins not only with reforming entitlement programs, but working locally to restore a sense of teamwork in the community.

To accomplish what the Founding Fathers intended includes the difficult task of reforming current governmental "social justice" policies, while also discouraging people from running to government as their primary bailout.

The U.S. Constitution does not authorize the federal government to provide "social justice," and that authority was not given to the federal government for a reason. The Founding Fathers understood that if the federal government became the provider of things the individuals and communities can provide for themselves, in the long run, the entire American System would collapse, and from the ashes would rise a tyrannical system.

"If the government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away everything you have." -- President Gerald Ford.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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