The Missing Pieces of the Preamble

If you haven’t had the opportunity to experience The Wilderness Downtown by Arcade Fire, please allow me to suggest that you enter your childhood address into the website and enjoy the ride back in time. The results as you will soon discover will vary depending on the availability of Google Streetview in your area, but given its prevalence in this day and age I’m certain you’ll find someplace in space and time to revisit.

What I appreciate most about the video is its ability to transport me to the street lights that I used to play under as a child, running back home as quickly as possible before they were fully lit. It’s a particular memory to be sure, but the music and the experience — along with the surprise ending which I won’t spoil — evoke a particular view of the city where I grew up. I can see myself not only as an individual but as an angst-ridden teenager surrounded by constant change.

This is important when looking at the missing pieces of the Constitution in today’s conversations which focus on freedom and liberty. While one or the other is clearly the objective of the United States and the Ohio State Constitutions, what exists equally in both is the promotion of our general welfare. We the people of the State of Ohio and these United States, in order to secure the blessings of liberty and promote the general welfare, do establish this Constitution.

When we focus solely on our individual blessings, we lose sight of our general welfare, and increasingly skip ahead to the line or the Amendment which enabled us to protect our communities, and instead serve our own personal interests. I’m referring of course to guns, not out of fear or contempt, but out of concern that we view the protection of our rights as ultimately dependent on them. To turn an old phrase, when you look at every problem down the barrel of a gun, every solution looks like a target.

To make matters worse, the Constitution which established the government is frequently found at the end of the barrel, being seen not as the framework of society but ultimately as it’s enemy. This narrative of the gun standing against the injustice of a corrupt and unholy system has eroded our faith in public education, made a monster of public healthcare, and turned the very notion of general welfare into a word: Unconstitutional.

What is missing in my mind is the image of America. Not as a soaring eagle dressed in red, white and blue but a place that I call home. A home I share with friends and family, with neighbors and policemen, doctors and shopkeepers. It’s a complicated and ever-changing place to be sure, one that requires the tool created by our Founders in order to function properly for all of us. That tool is the Government. To defend our rights and promote the general welfare we must learn how to use it.

Because if there’s one thing we can all agree on, that it’s not working well for many of us.

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8 thoughts on “The Missing Pieces of the Preamble

  1. “When we focus solely on our individual blessings, we lose sight of our general welfare, and increasingly skip ahead to the line or the Amendment which enabled us to protect our communities, and instead serve our own personal interests.”

    Sorry. This is complete nonsense. Focusing on the individual does not mean we lose sight of the “general welfare”. As a matter of fact the people in the private sector focused on their individual achievements are often the most charitable and most involved in their communities. Not to mention that their own achievements make have a positive effect on the general welfare. It also implies that those who work in government, public education or public health are somehow not selfish and greedy.

    “To make matters worse, the Constitution which established the government is frequently found at the end of the barrel, being seen not as the framework of society but ultimately as it’s enemy. This narrative of the gun standing against the injustice of a corrupt and unholy system has eroded our faith in public education, made a monster of public healthcare, and turned the very notion of general welfare into a word: Unconstitutional. “

    Nonsense as well. Faith in government run education and healthcare was blown to hell by the government…not individual liberty.

    “ It’s a complicated and ever-changing place to be sure, one that requires the tool created by our Founders in order to function properly for all of us. That tool is the Government. To defend our rights and promote the general welfare we must learn how to use it.”

    It is very complicated. That’s why government should be in the business of setting up rules for everyone to play by. Instead government is making decisions for people. Obamacare is the perfect example. His administration has no idea what type of insurance is optimal for my family but is going to dictate to me what minimum coverage we need. That’s idiotic.

    • Hey Joe, big thanks for taking the time on multiple occasions to help me through my thought process. At the moment, I’ve been struggling with our commitment to personal liberty and relentless attacks on our general welfare.

      While I do appreciate the effort that many people in the private sector put into promoting our general welfare, it’s place in our Federal and State Constitution clearly identifies this as the stated goal of our government.

      Why do you so brazenly call the words of our Founders nonsense? Would you consider freedom and justice as mere suggestions for the private sector?

  2. I was not saying the words of the founders were nonsense. I was saying that the notion that promotion and protection of individual liberty is antithetical to the promoting the general welfare is nonsense.

    The promotion and protection of individual liberty by the government is exactly what promotes the general welfare. Unfortunately the trend is in the opposite direction.

    • Totally agree that individual liberty isn’t antithetical to the common good, but serving your own interests doesn’t automatically benefit everyone by default.

      Take the issue of healthcare for example. Everyone knows that the costs continue to rise higher than any other nation on earth, and yet many people are opposed to any reform other than a free market solution, claiming the government has no place in the healthcare industry.

      How exactly does that promote the general welfare when people are losing their life savings to healthcare? While I agree that forcing me to purchase insurance is a threat to my personal liberty, paying taxes to support a single-payer system is no different than paying for military defence.

      Would you also claim that the government has no place in the defense industry given the amount of financial abuse, and argue instead for a free market solution based on our founders clear opposition to standing armies?

      • “Totally agree that individual liberty isn’t antithetical to the common good, but serving your own interests doesn’t automatically benefit everyone by default.”

        As long as I’m not violating anyone’s rights or infringing on their liberties that’s not an issue or anybody’s business for that matter. But of course if I just indulged myself and produced nothing of value to someone else then I probably wouldn’t have any money to feed myself or my family.

        “Take the issue of healthcare for example. Everyone knows that the costs continue to rise higher than any other nation on earth, and yet many people are opposed to any reform other than a free market solution, claiming the government has no place in the healthcare industry.”

        There hasn’t been a free market in most of the healthcare industry for our entire lifetimes. The interference by the government by the government in fact has been increasing during that time frame you are referencing.

        “While I agree that forcing me to purchase insurance is a threat to my personal liberty, paying taxes to support a single-payer system is no different than paying for military defence. “

        It is absolutely different. I can easily negotiate with my doctor and or insurer over prices, services and coverage. It’s trade between two people.

        “Would you also claim that the government has no place in the defense industry given the amount of financial abuse, and argue instead for a free market solution based on our founders clear opposition to standing armies?”

        Hyperbole. I don’t know anyone who has ever said that it isn’t a proper role of government to provide national defense. Waste and fraud are separate issues. While some of the founders may have opposed large standing armies they addressed the issue by making Congress appropriate funding for armies.

      • Just to take a step back for a moment, because I see where you’re coming from, but I can’t see the point of belonging to a community from your perspective. It would seem that the logical conclusion would be to move into the wilderness to teach your own children how to grow their own food, but that wasn’t what led to us living in the greatest nation on earth.

        From my perspective, it required the creation of transportation system to ship goods and services, an educational system to ensure that more people were capable of doing more than simply hunting and farming, and a healthcare system to ensure that each individual was capable of remaining healthy in order to contribute. My assumption is that each of these support systems to build and maintain our nation would be considered theft from your perspective.

        What’s missing is the same utopian promises which I’ve come to doubt of socialism, which according to libertarians would produce heaven on earth by placing our faith in the hand of the free market. As I discovered with socialism, such a place has never existed, and so too would you agree that a free market has never existed. Throughout history, whenever the free market comes close to reigning, the businesses take advantage of the people’s needs in order to serve their own interests.

        Why shouldn’t we seek to rule ourselves through a model of open government instead of tearing down our systems of governance and placing our faith in the golden calf?

  3. “It would seem that the logical conclusion would be to move into the wilderness to teach your own children how to grow their own food, but that wasn’t what led to us living in the greatest nation on earth.”

    Why is that the logical conclusion? Not sure I understand where that comes from.

    “From my perspective, it required the creation of transportation system to ship goods and services, an educational system to ensure that more people were capable of doing more than simply hunting and farming, and a healthcare system to ensure that each individual was capable of remaining healthy in order to contribute.”

    If you are insinuating that these are only a product of government action that is inaccurate. Individuals have been building roads, teaching and providing healthcare long before the government became involved in them.

    “My assumption is that each of these support systems to build and maintain our nation would be considered theft from your perspective.”

    Why would it always be theft.? I would be more than happy to voluntarily pay for the use of a road, the service of an educator or doctor if I needed it.

    “What’s missing is the same utopian promises which I’ve come to doubt of socialism, which according to libertarians would produce heaven on earth by placing our faith in the hand of the free market.”

    I’ve never heard a Libertarian talk about utopia. Most of them tend to be very realistic and believe that life can be incredibly wonderful and at the same time filled with tragedy. The idea that man and society can be perfected is a progressive idea…not a libertarian idea.

    “As I discovered with socialism, such a place has never existed, and so too would you agree that a free market has never existed.”

    You run into free markets every day in your personal life. They are just so ingrained into your life that their existence is just taken for granted.

    “Throughout history, whenever the free market comes close to reigning, the businesses take advantage of the people’s needs in order to serve their own interests.”

    Example?

  4. “It would seem that the logical conclusion would be to move into the wilderness to teach your own children how to grow their own food, but that wasn’t what led to us living in the greatest nation on earth.”

    Why is that the logical conclusion? Not sure I understand where that comes from.

    “From my perspective, it required the creation of transportation system to ship goods and services, an educational system to ensure that more people were capable of doing more than simply hunting and farming, and a healthcare system to ensure that each individual was capable of remaining healthy in order to contribute.”

    If you are insinuating that these are only a product of government action that is inaccurate. Individuals have been building roads, teaching and providing healthcare long before the government became involved in them.

    My assumption is that each of these support systems to build and maintain our nation would be considered theft from your perspective.

    Why would it always be theft.? I would be more than happy to voluntarily pay for the use of a road, the service of an educator or doctor if I needed it.

    “What’s missing is the same utopian promises which I’ve come to doubt of socialism, which according to libertarians would produce heaven on earth by placing our faith in the hand of the free market.”

    I’ve never heard a Libertarian talk about utopia. Most of them tend to be very realistic and believe that life can be incredibly wonderful and at the same time filled with tragedy. The idea that man and society can be perfected is a progressive idea…not a libertarian idea.

    “As I discovered with socialism, such a place has never existed, and so too would you agree that a free market has never existed.”

    You run into free markets every day in your personal life. They are just so ingrained into your life that their existence is just taken for granted.

    “Throughout history, whenever the free market comes close to reigning, the businesses take advantage of the people’s needs in order to serve their own interests.”

    Example?

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