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Preamble United States Constitution:We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The phrases “common good”. “general welfare” and are similar sounding phrases that has caused much debate over how they are to be interpreted. In The United States Constitution, the adjective “common” is applied to Defense, while the adjective “general” is applied to Welfare. The phrase “common good” is not actually used, but has been used abundantly in discussions of the meaning of the phrase “general welfare” I submit that the use of the term “common good” is derivative of the conflation of the terms “common defense” and “general welfare”.
In contemporary times the term “welfare’ is associated with government assistance but at the time of the United States founding fathers, there were no government assistance programs and so the meaning must have been “for the general good- or for the general well being”
The founders of the United States Constitution wrote a great deal about the problem of fairness and factions. The solution was a system designed with internal checks against tyranny and totalitarianism. In that context the term “general” takes on the meaning of “that which is common to all factions- or individuals”. National defense is such a common good and so the term “common” has been used in the Constitution as a qualifier of Defense. All of the colonies benefited by the Union of the States in shared defense making national defense a “common welfare”,
Today the terms “common good” and “general welfare” are often times replaced with “public benefit”, a term which removes the reference to something commonly shared and replaces it with the concept of something which is “public”. “Public” is related to the terms “common” and “general” but does not require that all factions share in the benefit. A public benefit need not be a common good but a common good is always a public benefit. A common good leaves much less to interpretation than does public benefit. Public roads are a common good because one way or another everyone benefits by public roads even those that never drive on them receive mail and goods that have been delivered on a public road. Job creation by the government is declared to be a public benefit but it is a benefit for some while its cost is a burden for others.
There are many ways that one can interpret almost anything as a public benefit and likewise argue that it is a common good to the point that one could say that everything and anything that does not do the public harm is a public and common good. In the strictest sense of conservatism, the size of government should be restricted to serving the common good and let the private sector develop ways to serve the public benefit. On that note I would say that providing a net for the most unfortunate in society is a public benefit and I could even argue that it is a common good but there in lies my own interpretation. It was because there exist people at the bottom who rely on government services that the founding fathers of Maine’s corporate state declared that it is likewise appropriate for them to avail themselves to public funds and that is how it came to be that Maine is a state that provides rations entitlements for the bottom and opportunity entitlements for the top, where the gap between the haves and the have nots has been steadily increasing and the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. General welfare roles have grown along side of the expansion in corporate welfare. The middle class which is the opportunity zone for those on the bottom has been gradually withering away in Maine and the USA.
The Preamble to Maine’s Constitution is written with similar words as the United States Constitution and includes the philosophical premise of a Sovereign Ruler of the Universe possessing the quality of goodness which will aid and direct in the accomplishment of justice, tranquility, mutual defense , common welfare and liberty. The term ”general welfare” has been transposed as “common welfare” .The individual states follow the United States Constitution as the premise of state constitutions and were influenced as well by other states Constitutions. It is reasonable to speculate that at the time the Maine State Constitution was created that the term “general welfare” had been discovered to be a term with a wide range of interpretation. The term common welfare is more specific. The Maine State Constitution identifies the object of government as limited to promoting welfare which is shared commonly by all. The goodness of God is called upon as a guide in achieving the objects of government.
Preamble Maine Constitution:Objects of government. We the people of Maine, in order to establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for our mutual defense, promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God's aid and direction in its accomplishment, do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State, by the style and title of the State of Maine and do ordain and establish the following Constitution for the government of the same.
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