Hamiltonian Welfare

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

photo by Marion Doss

How do you justify entitlement spending under the Constitution? Two words: Alexander Hamilton.

Apparently, he’s the only politically correct Founding Father. Don’t expect any Broadway shows to open any time soon with titles such as “Adams!,” “Madison!,” “Jefferson!” or “Washington!”

“A Hamiltonian reading of the Constitution is where we’re at right now,” Greg Weiner of Assumption College said at the annual meeting of the Philadelphia Society in Dallas on April 1, 2017. The Philadelphia Society is a group of conservative intellectuals formed in the wake of the Goldwater defeat in 1964.

Indeed, here’s what Hamilton (!) himself had to say about the General Welfare clause of the Constitution in his Report on Manufactures in 1791:

“It is therefore of necessity left to the discretion of the National Legislature, to pronounce, upon the objects, which concern the general Welfare, and for which under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper. And there seems to be no room for a doubt that whatever concerns the general Interests of learning of Agriculture of Manufactures and of Commerce are within the sphere of the national Councils as far as regards an application of Money.

“The only qualification of the generallity of the Phrase in question, which seems to be admissible, is this–That the object to which an appropriation of money is to be made be General and not local; its operation extending in fact, or by possibility, throughout the Union, and not being confined to a particular spot.

“No objection ought to arise to this construction from a supposition that it would imply a power to do whatever else should appear to Congress conducive to the General Welfare. A power to appropriate money with this latitude which is granted too in express terms would not carry a power to do any other thing, not authorised in the constitution, either expressly or by fair implication.”