What’s that, you’ve never heard of the General Prosperity Clause? I’ll bet you have and by the end of this article you will recognize it even in its clever disguise.
To begin, I must admit I didn’t know the US Constitution had a ‘General Prosperity‘ clause until today after researching the origins and meaning of the ‘general Welfare‘ clause. There has been much debate over the meaning of the ‘general Welfare‘ clause, but let’s take a look at it from a purely technical view.
Before going into what the ‘general Welfare‘ clause means in context within the Preamble, we must first examine what it ‘can’ mean as there are several possibilities. To do this we must define its components; general and welfare.
- including or involving every part or member of a given or implied entity, whole etc.; as opposed to specific or particular.
- not limited to a specific class; miscellaneous, concerned with all branches of a given subject or area.
‘General’ has a few meanings, but there are two that can apply to ‘welfare’ that make any sense. It can mean ‘applied to everyone’, ‘applied to everything’, or a combination of ‘applied to everyone and everything’.
- health, happiness and prosperity; well-doing or well-being in any respect
- aid, provided by a government, etc. to people in need, especially financial aid
‘Welfare’ has two distinct meanings. One is a state of well-being or prosperity, while the other is assistance, especially Financial Aid, that is provided by a government without monetary cost to the beneficiary. I mention ‘monetary’ because there is a cost in terms of Liberty to the beneficiary, and let’s not forget the cost to the benefactor.
Note: Charity is the same except it is provided by an individual or private enterprise.
Now that we’ve defined the two terms separately, we can take a look at the combinations and make sense of it all.
- Applied to Everyone + Prosperity
- Applied to Everything + Prosperity
- Applied to Everyone + Financial Aid for the needy
- Applied to Everything + Financial Aid for the needy
- Applied to Everyone and Everything + Prosperity
- Applied to Everyone and Everything + Financial Aid for the needy
After a taking a moment to examine the possibilities, we can confidently reduce the field to two selections. No organization can provide Prosperity for everything (#2), the possibilities are infinite. #3 makes no sense because Everyone does not need Financial Aid. And finally, 5 & 6 are eliminated for the same reasons 2 and 3 are respectively.
So that leaves us with combinations 1 and 4 and only one meaning can stand as the two are at odds with each other.
Let’s examine combination 4 first; General Financial Aid. This is the definition that is in practice today. Those that are deemed needy are to be provided aid in both goods and services generally, especially financial aid. This definition is at odds with combination #1 because it is not and cannot be applied to everyone as it is aimed particularly at those defined as needy.
So that brings us to the only remaining definition for ‘general Welfare‘ and that is General Prosperity. It is well-being or prosperity applied to everyone equally. Now how can a government provide prosperity to everyone equally? It cannot, so we must take a closer look at what the Constitution states.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
So now it becomes clear, our government is mandated to promote ‘general Welfare’, not to provide it.
- to advocate or urge on behalf of something or someone; to attempt to popularize or sell by means of advertising or publicity.
So we are faced with two possibilities, were the Founders promoting general Financial Aid to the needy or general Prosperity for everyone?
For a historical perspective, read Federalist Paper #41.
Recall that history can and does repeat itself, because the End is Far . . .
Steve A Morris