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Walter Williams
Walter E. Williams
10 Feb 2016
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The Founders' Vision Versus Ours


The celebration of our founders' 1776 revolt against King George III and the English Parliament is over. Let's reflect how the founders might judge today's Americans and how today's Americans might judge them.

In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 to assist some French refugees, James Madison, the acknowledged father of our Constitution, stood on the floor of the House to object, saying, "I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." He later added, "(T)he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government." Two hundred years later, at least two-thirds of a multi-trillion-dollar federal budget is spent on charity or "objects of benevolence."

What would the founders think about our respect for democracy and majority rule? Here's what Thomas Jefferson said: "The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society." John Adams advised, "Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." The founders envisioned a republican form of government, but as Benjamin Franklin warned, "When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."

What would the founders think about the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo v. City of New London decision where the court sanctioned the taking of private property of one American to hand over to another American? John Adams explained: "The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.

If 'Thou shalt not covet' and 'Thou shalt not steal' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free."

Thomas Jefferson counseled us not to worship the U.S. Supreme Court: "(T)he opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch."

How might our founders have commented about last week's U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding our rights to keep and bear arms? Justice Samuel Alito, in writing the majority opinion, said, "Individual self-defense is the central component of the Second Amendment." The founders would have responded "Balderdash!" Jefferson said, "What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."

George Mason explained, "(T)o disarm the people (is) the best and most effectual way to enslave them." Noah Webster elaborated: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed. ... The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive."

Contrary to Alito's assertion, the central component of the Second Amendment is to protect ourselves from U.S. Congress, not street thugs.

Today's Americans have contempt for our founders' vision. I'm sure our founders would have contempt for ours.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



5 Comments | Post Comment
Amen, You always hit the nail on the head. Thank you for keeping up the fight. I appreciate it. Others do too.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Eric Jensen
Wed Jul 7, 2010 8:19 PM
If two-thirds of a multi-trillion dollar budget is being spent unconstitutionally, we've got a lot of work to do!

Great column!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Joy Schwabach
Sat Jul 10, 2010 10:56 AM
Excellent Article, Mr. Williams. Too bad politicians continue to think they Taxpayers are going along with their 'spending programs' and the 'passing of 'so-called Ethics Reform' so they can continue on as usual! It's time to offer the incompetent, corrupt, greedy fat cats a couple alternate ways if they want to stay out of prison. 1st option: Give all your assets to pay off the trillions you've borrowed (that America can't pay interest on), leave your offices, no salaraies, no freebies, and no retirements, and go back to where ever you came from - OR: 2nd option: Taxpayers sell you a one-way ticket to GITMO, take all your assets to pay off the trillions, and take all your drug, insurance, oil, and other buddies with you, along with local, state, and federal prisoners, social and welfare recipients, AS IT'S PAST TIME TO CLEAN UP AMERICAN STREETS - which you have never done, never intended to do, and never will do. IT'S OBVIOUS WHAT YOU'VE BEEN DOING; THUS BANKRUPTING AMERICA! There is no 3rd OPTION!
Would you send a "Fox to Guard your Hen House?" I don't think so! "Leaders move government reform through legislature" is a real joke. America has no Leaders? For past five decades politicians' "reform" created 'doomsday' for workers after selling them out for bigger retirement accounts. Think about Nafta, Cafta and their "reform". The only thing we're servicing is unemployment, social and welfare programs. What a pity the politicians have
been allowed to take control, selling Americans out, one job at a time, thus bankrupting America!

The latest "the Healthy School Meals Act #4870" that would reward schools and fight obesity! Taxpayers have heard it all, now! Their "Too Fat to Fight" and unfit for military is the reason politicians know how to gain more control over your children. Parents surely knew this would mean they no onger control. Folks, this is how bigger government works. These programs don't work, never have, never will!

While I'm on a roll, isn't it about time to sell politicians, of all party affiliations, a one-way ticket to GITMO, take all their assets to pay for the trillions they've borrowed without Taxpayers consent. This 'reform' for
over five decades created huge government that borrowed from foreign countries, left IOU's in Social Security that belonged to Taxpayers, and spun America into an oblivion!

Maybe the Governor of California has the right idea. With no budgets, minimum wage in place. Brilliant! Local, state, and federal people, took government jobs for security reasons. Like all politicians, decided their
salaries, all benefits, and retirements, should be higher than private sector and paid for by Taxpayers that were earning a little more than the minimum wage.

Time to Wake up, America!
Comment: #3
Posted by: Shirley deLong
Sun Jul 11, 2010 3:11 PM
Walter, you're wonderful. Our problem is that not one American in one hundred has any real appreciation for these truths concerning the proper roll of our federal government you obviously understand so clearly. One more line from Jefferson: You cannot remain both uneducated and free.
Comment: #4
Posted by: wade mathias
Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:32 AM
Dr. Williams - excellent as always.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Charles
Mon Aug 2, 2010 7:08 AM
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