And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the LORD will not hear you in that day. – I Samuel 8:18.
Trinity Reviews have a way of being eye-openers, and the article Not Yours to Give published by the Trinity Foundation in 1981 certainly was that for me many years ago. For one, I had never given much consideration to Davy Crockett beyond the image I had of him as a frontiersman, but this essay disabused me of that caricature. Col. Crockett was a man of many accomplishments and great integrity, not the cartoon-like character that I had supposed him to be . But a second and more important lesson I took from the essay was the immorality of unconstititional federal government spending.
The article centers around a story Crockett related about a vote he once cast in Congress. Crockett had voted to appropriate taxpayer money for the relief of fire victims in Georgetown and was rebuked by a constituent for his vote. The unhappy constituent explained to Crockett that he would not vote for him again and told him the reason why,
The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to a man…If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you ae at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism on the one hand, and for robbing people on the other.
One of the curses of big government is its habit of taking wealth from those who are politically out of favor giving it to those who are in favor. I Samuel 8 gives us a picture of this. In relating the behavior of the king so adamantly demanded by the Israelites, Samuel said,
And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to this servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. (ISam.8:14, 15.)
None of these things – the fields, vineyards, olive groves, grain and vintage – were the king’s to give, but he would plunder the people in order that he might reward those who had or could help him. This same situation obtains today, for what has been dubbed the welfare-warfare state – our massive social welfare bureaucracy on one hand combined with a powerful military-industrial complex on the other – is simply an example of politicians rewarding those who reward them, regardless of the morality or constitutionality of the act. Add to this the bailout culture now in place since the 2008 financial crisis and it should come as no surprise that we now have a $14 trillion national debt.
One of the most effective academic and popular critics of big government in recent years is Walter Williams. Dr. Williams, an economist at George Mason University, has mentored numerous people in free-market economics, the rule of law and constitutional government over the years through his books and columns. His most recent column is an excellent example of his work in this area.
Citing several examples of past presidents’ opinions on the Constitution and federal government spending, Williams shows us that the lesson in Not Yours to Give was taken to heart, not just by Davy Crockett, but by Americans generally up through the end of the 19th century. Here are a few quotes from William’s article,
Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government. (James Madison)
I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not beleive that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. (Grover Cleveland)
Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated. (Thomas Jefferson)
If this nation is going to have any hope for a future without severe poverty and oppressive tyranny, Americans had better relearn the simple lessons of limited, Biblical, constitutional government understood so well by earlier generations. Read the rest of Williams article here.
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