Free & Fair Fair & Free


Free & Fair

When the Left and Right wings of political thought in the United States discuss their core difference it typically comes down to the Left arguing for making things more fair whereas the Right argue for making things more free. Indeed, the preamble to the U.S. Constitution says one goal of the new nation was to "promote the general Welfare" AND also to "secure the Blessings of Liberty". The key is how to achieve both without compromising either. How can a nation be free and fair and fair and free at the same time since typically making things fair requires an amount of regulation and being free requires the least amount of regulation.

Instead of compromise, which means giving up something we need to work toward reconciliation of these goals. When our Founders penned the Constitution, they didn't think these goals of general Welfare and Liberty were contradictions. We have to fully understand how to reach the realization of these goals without diminishing either.

Politicians, typically from the Left are constantly calling for compromise but again, compromise is where one or more of the participants give up a point so that the goal can be reached. While compromise is one way to reach consensus, it often leaves us with a less than ideal outcome. Since many people can't see anyway to move forward without compromise, they often push that method. But there are other ways to reconciliation. (Reconciliation and compromise are NOT synonyms -- they don't mean the same thing)

It is not merely a rhetorical point to establish that compromise and reconciliation are not the same thing. Reconciliation is the end result of compromise but it doesn't always take compromise to achieve reconciliation. Sometimes it takes a better understanding of the apparently opposing views. A better understanding sometimes reveals that the views aren't really contradictory but actually leaning toward the same outcome. So, when we talk about general Welfare and Liberty we should ask the question what is meant by those principles? Does general Welfare mean that we want people to be able to be lazy and live off the labor of others? Does Liberty mean that we want no laws or a form of anarchy?

Early on and during the formation of the Constitution there was discussion as to what was meant by providing for the general Welfare of American citizens. Did it mean the plethora of social programs we have today? The main debate about the General Welfare Clause was where the limit should be set. Can the Federal government collect unlimited amount of taxes for this purpose? Who gets to decide how much is enough?

Article 1, section 8 of Constitution, in part reads:

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;"

The 10th Amendment is often cited as the balance to the General Welfare Clause in that the 10th Amendment states:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

This implies that the Federal government does NOT have unlimited power to collect taxes even if the Federal government claims it is trying to provide for the general Welfare of the people; IF the States or the people can show that the Federal government's taxing and spending does NOT promote the general Welfare. That is the tricky part and often requires Supreme Court involvement.

On the other side, what and how is Liberty secured? We often think of the liberties as enumerated in the Bill of Rights, especially the right of free speech and the right of self defense. But perhaps most important to this discussion is the 9th amendment of the Bill of Rights, which reads:

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

What rights are retained by the people that keep the General Welfare Clause from allowing the government to collect taxes at 100%? What if the Federal government decided that the best way to provide for the general Welfare of the people was to tax one group of people at a higher rate than another group of people...which is obviously already being done with the tax bracket system. The Federal government claims it is fair to tax one group of people at a different rate than another group. This seems at odds with the idea of "uniform" taxation and with the 16th Amendment which only allows Congress to tax income without apportionment. Whereas Article 1 section 2 SPECIFICALLY states direct taxes are to be apportioned. Which is it?

We are told by politicians that is it fair to tax so-called "rich" people at higher rates because they can afford it and deserve it (or don't deserve all the money they have). This directly collides with the concepts of Free and Fair and Fair and Free since it in reality is neither. There are even some so-called rich people who say they are willing and don't mind being taxed at a different apportion (percentage). This doesn't change the fact that it is then applied to all people. If a person wants to donate to the Federal government, nothing is stopping them but when they imply it is okay for the Federal government to apply different rules to different groups of people, we have lost sight of Free and Fair.

Lastly, note that the General Welfare Clause specifically says the Congress has the power to levy these taxes to provide for the general Welfare. It is NOT within a president's power. If he or she acts by executive order to take upon these powers, the Constitution is circumvented. If we are to reconcile the concepts of free and fair and fair and free we need to consider the most limited imposition upon Liberty while still allowing for the most abundant provision for the general Welfare of the people. If we allow the Federal government to tax too much, to regulate too much, to intrude too much then Liberty is under attack. However, if we ignore too much those in need of help or defense then Liberty becomes cruelty. It is important to realize and understand that the general Welfare is "general" and common; that is only if it helps the most people for the most time. If the result is that most people will lose liberty so that other people may have welfare, then the balance is broken. If an able-bodied person will not attempt to provide first for their own "general Welfare" then other people should not be imposed upon to do so for them.

Americans have shown themselves to be the most generous and most charitable people yet we strive to be the most FREE people. We are only the most generous and most charitable BECAUSE we are the most FREE. Once the delicate reconciliation of FREE & FAIR and FAIR & FREE is broken, the very principles of Americanism are destroyed. We must CONSTANTLY strive to be the most FREE and most FAIR for the most people for the most time.