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  • Promoting the General Welfare

       October 11, 2005

    I was reading a forum earlier today about how liberals aren't really liberal anymore. They don't promote freedom so much as they promote freedom to do things their way. An interesting discussion erupted about what the appropriate functions of government are. One poster, "baal" said:

    I think the functions that are appropriate to governments, generally, are those that relate to the general welfare of all the people that comprise that government. I've come up with a list, which I think is fairly comprehensive, and also fairly limited. The criteria by I've allowed something to be on the list, is, 'Without satisfying this need, does a person die?' Further, I've premised this list on the assumption, that human beings are both physical and spiritual animals, and that a good life for a person demands satisfaction of both physical and spiritual needs. Kind of metaphysical and perhaps overly broad, but here it goes anyway:


    social structure

    Now, this individual does claim that he's "not saying that the government is responsible for providing these things, any more than the brain is responsible for pumping blood through the arteries and veins. However, I do think the government is responsible, for seeing to it, that the needs of its citizens are being met, however those citizens decide to go about that task."

    I'm fine with most of the things on this list, although social structure and art/beauty/truth stop me. I don't really understand what the author means by social structure. Does he mean allowing for things like marriage? I also don't think government has any business being in the art/beauty/truth business. I think it's okay for government to sponsor the arts, if that's what the people want, but I view it as a "nice to have" not "need to have" thing.

    Surprisingly enough, I'd actually add something to the list: information. I think it's government's responsibility to guarantee a free press and government should, in most cases, govern in the open, not in smoky rooms behind closed doors. But, other than that, I've got nothing to add. Can anyone else think of things we need for our general welfare?

    Posted by at October 11, 2005 12:46 PM

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    #  October 11th, 2005 2:38 PM      BVBigBro
    Security from external threats. In a modern society probably currency as well.  
    #  October 11th, 2005 11:52 PM      TheUnabrewer
    "baal" has a problem with his premise. He says "general welfare of all the people" but the Constitution says "general Welfare of the United States" and not anything about the people.

    My general welfare would be improved if the govt left me alone.  
    #  October 12th, 2005 2:32 AM      Daddy
    I'd like the right to defend myself. If somebody attacks me, and they end up dead, that's their problem.

    Furthermore, if somebody breaks into my house, I don't want them suing me if they slip and fall while running away with MY stuff!  
    #  October 12th, 2005 7:46 AM      BrianH
    I'd remove several things from his list when using his stated criteria of "will you die without it"

    Art/beauty/truth - Really? That sounds like a lib, "I'd just die without seeing Picaso".

    transport - you'll die if you can't get the Buick to go?

    recreation - get real.

    social structure - ??? laws against violence and police to enforce them??? This one might need to stay, but I'd probably argue the form of the social structure.

    education - you won't die without it.

    energy - depends where you live. In northern states, you'd die without it. In southern Cal, probably not.

    I think he's using the wrong criteria for appropriate government functions. The preamble to the Constitution is a good place to start for those criteria.

    #  October 12th, 2005 10:48 AM      marcus
    I would add "great interior decorating" but I suppose that is under art/beauty.

    Boy, does Baal's list really vary from what we have?  
    #  October 12th, 2005 10:51 AM      kris
    No, I don't think the list varies that much. I don't think his list was meant as a criticism but rather as something to foster discussion, which is kind of what I was thinking by posting it here too.

    It's just an interesting question.  
    #  October 12th, 2005 11:18 AM      BrianH
    baal's list is not really a bad list of human needs (and a few wants). But the real question is who should provide those needs and wants? The liberals (in the current definition) think that the government should take care of the whole list. I think the government should stay out of the way as much as possible and let me take care of my own needs and wants (more of the classic liberal definition, now deemed conservative).

    #  October 13th, 2005 7:42 AM      marcus
    I guess the list is pretty good if all we are talking about what is the good life.

    Its that triangle thingy we all see in our Psych 101 class. We will always have needs in our life. Once one level of needs are satisfied we move up a level.

    What else is needed for general welfare? GOD  
    #  October 14th, 2005 4:54 PM      mbrlr
    Actually, both socially and economically, we would die without education.

    God is needed individually and the government has no place doing the PR for him to the populace. Separation of church and state is precisely what has protected our various and sundry religions, precisely why we're such a religious people, and it's what the Founders intended. Even if they hadn't intended it, keep in mind that they were 18th century types whose view of the Christian God differed tremendously from the modern era's fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist viewpoints and varieties. If the Founders' religious viewpoints ruled, there would be some very surprised people on the right; read Jefferson's "Bible", for example.  



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