On General Welfare

In response to my recent essay, “The Tenth Amendment Prohibited the Living Constitution“, I received an e-mail which informed me that, ” the Constitution … gives Congress the power to make all laws necessary to execute its powers, including the power to provide for the general welfare, which has to include public health and safety.”

This is definitely a very common understanding, but is it correct?  Does the congress have the power to make all laws necessary to execute its powers, including the power to provide for the general welfare?

Let’s start with Article 1, Section 8, clause 1 of the US Constitution, which says,

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

In modern English, the first phrase in that clause might be paraphrased in one of two ways.  First, by distributing the word power across each of the following phrases…

1.) The congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, etc…, the power to pay the debts, the power to provide for the common defense, and the power to provide for the general welfare….

Four powers all bundled into one clause.  Or second, by inserting the clarifying text, “in order”…

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