Charity and General Welfare

Charity and General Welfare

Gary Hunt
Outpost of Freedom

[Note: in all definitions, italics, underscoring, and bolding are mine, for emphasis]

Often, we think that we know what a word means.  Its meaning can be construed according to the rules by which the communication game is played.  If we all agree to the meaning, then we understand what the other means, when he uses that word in a discussion.

What happens, then, when there is a disagreement over the definition of a word?

Let’s suppose that I define, for the sake of explanation, the word “water” to mean only potable (drinkable) water.  By that singular act, I have excluded most of the water in the world.  Seawater, wastewater, ground water, bathing water, heck, even tears are excluded, along with a large percentage of your body.  I have tipped the conversation to a point where you must struggle in any effort to describe any H2O, unless it can be ingested.

Let’s look at another word that, if defined outside of the common usage, creates a different sort of dilemma.  To understand this phenomenon, we must look back to get a solid understanding of what the word means.  Note that I use a dictionary that defines words, as the Founding Fathers would have perceived them, at the time of the birth of this great nation.  The word is:

Charity [from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary] 1.  In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good.

2.  In a more particular sense, love, kindness, affection, tenderness, springing from natural relations; as the charities of father, son and brother.

3.  Liberality to the poor, consisting in alms giving or benefactions, or in gratuitous services, to relieve them in distress.

4.  Alms; whatever is bestowed gratuitously on the poor for their relief.

5.  Liberality in gifts and services to promote public objects of utility, as to found and support bible societies, societies, and others.

6.  Candor; liberality in judging of men and their actions; a disposition which inclines men to think and judge favorably, and to put the best construction on words and actions which the case will admit.

7.  Any act of kindness, or benevolence; and as the charities of life.

8.  A charitable institution.

Now, we can see that benevolence is synonymous with Charity.  We can also see that, with the exception of the sixth definition, all acts of charity are acts of individuals (italicized words), or, perhaps, groups of individuals.

So, let’s look at:

Benevolence [from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary]

1.  The disposition to do good; good will; kindness; charitableness; the love of mankind, accompanied with a desire to promote their happiness.

2.  An act of kindness; good done; charity given.

3.  A species of contribution or tax illegally exacted by arbitrary kings of England.

So, benevolence provides a bit more insight into what Charity might really mean.  We can look at “disposition to do good” and “act of kindness” to clearly be acts that cannot be done by government.  Government cannot have disposition, nor can it commit an act of kindness, for kindness is a feeling of emotion.

Government can, however, require a contribution (not alms, which are freely given) or tax.  As is indicated by the definition, the government referred to one form of benevolence as such.  But, then, that was arbitrary, and without free will.

Now, let’s look at what the Courts have determined Charity to consist of:

Charity [from Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition]

A gift for, or institution engaged in, public benevolent purposes.  A gift for benefit of indefinite numbers of persons under influence of religion or education, relief from disease, assisting people to establish themselves in life, or erecting or maintaining public works [Johnson v. South Blue Hill Cemetery Association].

A charity, in absence of legislative definition, is an attempt in good faith, spiritually, physically, intellectually, socially and economically to advance and benefit mankind in general, or those in need of advancement and benefit in particular, without regard to their ability to supply that need from other sources and without hope or expectation, if not with positive abnegation, of gain or profit by donor or by instrumentality of charity [Planned Parenthood Association v. Tax Commissioner].

Once again, we see that government cannot act in the capacity of giving charity, unless it sets a legal definition.  But, to do so would be to say that Charity (water) is what we want it to be, and must exclude whatever we do not want to be included.

Now, I realize that this last sentence might be difficult for some to swallow.  After all, the government, through the IRS, determines what acceptable charities are.  Well, yes, that is true.  At the same time, by not acknowledging something that you or I might deem charitable, if the government does not, they have made an uneven playing field.  They have allowed tax deductions for what they consider to be charitable, and, denied those deductions from those that they choose to exclude.

This, then, means that if you want a tax deduction for a contribution, you can only receive it if you contribute (not give alms) to the charities on the official government list.  In addition, by the way, the government has set rigid rules for those charities to abide by, or they will lose their status as charities.

Now, with this simple conversion of charity to what the government wants it to be, and, since they are essentially tied to those charities (by their arbitrary influence over them), it is a simple step to allow the government to “take out the middle man” and become a “Charity” (see Charity, #8, and Benevolence, #3) in themselves.  When they perceive a deficiency in availability of resources, they will, well, fill in the gap.

However, that gap is filled through forms such as welfare, unemployment compensation, and numerous (actually, hundreds of) other “entitlement” programs.

So, how did charity work, in the past?

Charity, which is what was recognized at the time as the means by which individuals might receive assistance, was carried out by Churches, towns, cities, counties and the state, as appropriate.  And, the decisions of what to provide were solely in the hands of the people who voted within that level of government.  County and state only provided for hospitals, mental hospitals, and orphanages.  Counties also provided for “poor farms”, but those partaking of this offering were expected to work by growing food and producing products.  Churches, towns, and cities would provide assistance, as well as encouragement, to provide for those in need.

We can go a bit further and, perhaps, begin to understand that the results, or, consequences, of Charity can have very different outcomes.  We all know the pleasure of gift giving, — The smile on a young child’s face, or the gratitude from one that you were able to help during a time of crisis.  It seems apparent that, when Charity was administered locally, you could see the benefits realized, and with that, also realize the sense of goodness that you had demonstrated.

If you were the recipient of that local Charity, you would forever feel indebted, and very appreciative of those who had helped you in your time of need.

Fast forward to the “charity” of our current time.  As the “contributor” to the charity, you don’t even have a sense of who your gift went to, where they live, or what form that charity took.  Quite frankly, you don’t even know if your “contribution” went to charity, or not.  There  are, after all, so many needs that exist outside of helping people: Interest; armament and grants to other countries; research grants to scientists, so that they could ‘prove’ that global warming is a reality; etc.  So, your sense of giving is lost, and never realized as a good thing, something to be proud of.  Nor can you ever realize that sense of pleasure — seeing the effect of the good that you have done.

Similarly, the recipient of that “charity” really has nobody to thank for what good they have received.  They know that the dole is generated by a table based upon their needs, and, often, they will manipulate their apparent need to receive a greater benefit.  There is nobody to thank, or to be grateful to, because the ‘benefactor’ is a cold government agency, with equally cold employees, administering the ‘investigation’ of your needs.  You see it as their obligation to you.  And, further, having nobody to direct your gratitude to, you begin to lose all sense of appreciation for what you have received.  Eventually, you begin to be scornful of that very agency that puts food in your mouth, and the only thing that stirs any sense of self-respect is that you know that if you scorn those who have given to you, then you just might intimidate them into giving you more.

If you have any doubts about the above, just ask yourself if those, who gave in the past, would have given if the person who appeared to have a need also had a color television and a cell phone, and managed to keep the monthly charges current, rather than risking having the cable or cell service cut off.  Would you really want to help them, after seeing that they simply did not have a grasp on what is most important in life?

So, this will lead us to the next step of our journey.  In the Preamble (purpose) to the Constitution, we find the phrase, “promote the general Welfare.”  Well, we simply look around us and see that we have moved, consistently, toward a “welfare state”, but, was that what was intended by the phrase?

Let’s return to 1828, and see what the Founding Fathers might have meant by that phrase:

Welfare [from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary]

Exemption from any unusual evil or calamity; the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, or the normal blessings of society and civil government; as applies to states

General [from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary]

The whole; the total; that which comprehends all or the chief part; opposed to particular.

So, we can see that the intention of the phrase, as can be surmised by the definitions of those times, was very general — to endeavor to create an environment that was conducive, to all of the citizens, of peace and prosperity.  Nothing in this description would even begin to suggest that the general welfare was selective, and that it could be applied only to some.  It was not a tangible application; rather, it was intangible, and was presumed to create a harmonious and equitable political foundation for all.

And again, as the courts perceive it (though take note that while case cites are provided when there is precedent in law to provide a definition, as in the definitions above, the following definitions are absent any citations):

Welfare [from Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Edition]

Well-doing or well-being in any respect; the enjoyment of health and common blessings of life; exemption from any evil or calamity; prosperity; happiness.  See also General welfare; Public welfare

General welfare [from Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Edition]

The general term used to describe the government’s concern for health, peace, morals, and safety of its citizens.

Public welfare [from Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Edition]

The prosperity, well being, or convenience of the public at large, or of a whole community, as distinguished from the advantage of an individual or limited class.  It embraces the primary social interests of safety, order, morals, economic interests, and non-material and political interests.  In the development of our civic life, the definition of “public welfare” has also developed until it has been held to bring within its purview regulations for the promotion of economic welfare and public convenience.

Though the definitions hold similar meaning with Webster’s, in the last sentence we see that the foundation is beginning to be laid for the expansion of what was clearly the limitation on government from the Preamble to the allowance of regulations that would extend the authority to a realm in which the Founding Fathers did not anticipate.

There might be one more step that would assist us in understanding just what Charity is, or, at least, what it was intended by the Founding Fathers to be:

Hospital [from Webster’s 1828 Dictionary]

The building appropriated for the reception of sick, infirm and helpless paupers, who are supported and nursed by charity; also, a house for the reception of insane persons, whether paupers or not, or for seaman, soldiers, foundlings, &c. who are supported by the public, or by private charity, or for infected persons, &c.

Now, we can see that hospitals were charitable institutions.  Most people of means, at the time, would have the doctor call upon them for treatment.

As recently as sixty years ago, doctors made house calls.  However, the increases in population, the expansion of hospitals to meet the needs of the increased numbers, and, the increased demand on doctors, all conspired to pave the way for office visits, with visits to the hospital for surgical procedures, long term care, and contagious sequestration.

Now, what have the Courts said?  Although, once again, case cites are not provided here, you will nonetheless see that the definition reflects those changes just described:

Hospital [from Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th Edition]

An institution for the treatment and care of sick, wounded, infirm, or aged persons; generally incorporated, and then of the class of corporations called “eleemosynary” [relating to, given as, or depending on charitable gifts] or “charitable.”  Also the building used for such purpose.  Hospitals may be either public or private, and may be limited in their functions or services, e.g., children’s hospital.

So, even though incorporated, the hospitals were charitable in nature.  They had not yet become the “profit centers” (medical, or health, centers) that we now see proliferating the landscape.

Charity, as I believe has been adequately demonstrated, is a voluntary contribution, by an individual or an organization, with the intent of providing a means of service or betterment for individuals who are otherwise unable to provide such benefit or service for themselves.

Over the last two centuries, there has been an “evolution” of the meaning of words as well as the intention of the Founding Fathers.  Though they made provision for Amendment of the Constitution, they made no provision for the redefinition of the words that they so meticulously selected to compose that document.

Let us look at the consequences of the changes, without lawful authority, to those definitions and intentions.  Government has removed the free choice of charitable contributions by selectively determining what constitutes a charity, and providing rewards (deductions) for contributing to those so chosen.  They have presumed an authority to act in the character of an individual or organization by becoming one of the most “benevolent” charities of all, via social security, welfare, and a multitude of other “programs” by which they have garnered the allegiance of the beneficiaries of those programs.  If I grant a gift, freely, that goes from me to you, it is charity.  If, however, you encourage, allow, or refuse to resist a burglar, or anyone else (government) from taking from me and giving to you, that is nothing less than theft (pillage), and you are an accessory to that theft by being the recipient of the benefit or service.  You cannot color it in any other way.

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One Response to “Charity and General Welfare”

  1. This Article proves just how brainwashed Americans have become, Welfare is the government establishment of the ACTS of Christian Charity. this is exactly what the colonist left Europe for. remember “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion?” of course it is not charity anymore now it is government established forced Acts of Charity. Care for the poor is care for the poor, healthcare is healthcare, education is education, they are one in the same government established the Christian ACT of charity in the social security ACT. See–

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