The common good and the beginning of the end
The desire for the government to provide for "the common good" via a large array of schemes is as old as our government. Presidents Washington and Madison both desired a national university in Washington, D.C. The importance of education has often been at the root of a debate about just what the role of our central government is, but at one time, Congress successfully curtailed the plans of the president. Perhaps because at the time they were a little more loyal to their respective states. I had never really thought of it in this context before, but at the time, one tended to be a Virginian first and an American second. Loyalty now seems defined by how much money a representative can funnel into their district, but that is another story.

The government's interest in mental health is also not new. In 1854, a bill came before President Franklin Pierce entitled, "An act making a grant of public lands to the several States for the benefit of indigent insane persons." Back then, our government was a little more leery of spending tax dollars and this plan is no exception. Public lands were to be given to the several states and the money from the sale of such lands was to be used by the states to set up a fund for the insane. President Pierce vetoed it. This quote from his veto message is lengthy, but a worthy summary. And as you read it, consider our government's current role in mental health, education, public health, welfare, social security, and every other role it assumes in philanthropy.
It can not be questioned that if Congress has power to make provision for the indigent insane without the limits of this District it has the same power to provide for the indigent who are not insane, and thus to transfer to the Federal Government the charge of all the poor in all the States. It has the same power to provide hospitals and other local establishments for the care and cure of every species of human infirmity, and thus to assume all that duty of either public philanthropy or public necessity to the dependent, the orphan, the sick, or the needy which is now discharged by the States themselves or by corporate institutions or private endowments existing under the legislation of the States. The whole field of public beneficence is thrown open to the care and culture of the Federal Government. Generous impulses no longer encounter the limitations and control of our imperious fundamental law; for however worthy may be the present object in itself, it is only one of a class. It is not exclusively worthy of benevolent regard. Whatever considerations dictate sympathy for this particular object apply in like manner, if not in the same degree, to idiocy, to physical disease, to extreme destitution. If Congress may and ought to provide for any one of these objects, it may and ought to provide for them all. And if it be done in this case, what answer shall be given when Congress shall be called upon, as it doubtless will be, to pursue a similar course of legislation in the others? It will obviously be vain to reply that the object is worthy, but that the application has taken a wrong direction. The power will have been deliberately assumed, the general obligation will by this act have been acknowledged, and the question of means and expediency will alone be left for consideration. The decision upon the principle in any one case determines it for the whole class. The question presented, therefore, clearly is upon the constitutionality and propriety of the Federal Government assuming to enter into a novel and vast field of legislation, namely, that of providing for the care and support of all those among the people of the United States who by any form of calamity become fit objects of public philanthropy.
I think perhaps the entire message should be required reading. Consider also this warning. Is it not wholly applicable to our government today?
Indeed, to suppose it susceptible of any other construction would be to consign all the rights of the States and of the people of the States to the mere discretion of Congress, and thus to clothe the Federal Government with authority to control the sovereign States, by which they would have been dwarfed into provinces or departments and all sovereignty vested in an absolute consolidated central power, against which the spirit of liberty has so often and in so many countries struggled in vain.
"The beginning of the end," as Pierce envisioned it, has already arrived.

Related Tags: , , ,