Skip to comments.Walter Williams: The Great Generation?
Posted on 11/14/2002 3:01:17 PM PST by PhilipFreneau
The American generation who suffered through the Great Depression and defeated the tyrannical designs that Adolf Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo Hideki had for the world has often been called "the great generation." Will history see it that way? Let's look at it, but first start with a couple of statements from two truly great Americans.
In 1794, Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees. James Madison 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." James Madison, you'll recall, is the acknowledged father of the Constitution, and he couldn't find constitutional authority for spending "on the objects of benevolence."
Your congressman might say, "Madison was all wrong; after all, there's the 'general welfare' clause." Here's what Madison had to say about that: "With respect to the two words "general welfare," I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators." Thomas Jefferson echoed similar sentiments saying, "Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated."
When the great generation was born, Congress spent only three percent of the GDP. Today, as the great generation dies off, Congress spends over a quarter of the GDP. There is no constitutional authority for at least three-quarters of that spending.
Let's look at the recent election campaign. Whether it was a Democratic or Republican candidate, for the most part, they won votes by promising to spend the money of their constituents "on the objects of benevolence." They promised to violate the rights of some Americans for the benefit of other Americans. They promised to take money from younger Americans to buy prescription drugs for elderly Americans, take money from non-farmers to give to farmers and take money from wealthier people to give to poorer people. In a word or two, politicians campaigned on an unstated promise to ignore any oath of office to protect and defend the United States Constitution and instead go to work on undermining it.
Don't get me wrong. I don't blame only politicians. For the most part, they're only the instruments of a people who have growing contempt for our Constitution. You say, "Hold it, Williams. Now you've gone too far!" Check it out. How many votes do you think a James Madison-type senatorial candidate would get if his campaign theme was something like this: "Elect me to office. I will protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. Because there's no constitutional authority for Congress spending on the objects of benevolence, don't expect for me to vote for prescription drugs for the elderly, handouts to farmers and food stamps for the poor. Instead, I'll fight these and other unconstitutional congressional expenditures"? I'll tell you how many votes he'll get: It will be Williams' vote, and that's it.
The "great" generation has transformed the electoral process from voting for those most likely to protect our Divine-given rights to liberty and property, to voting for those most likely to violate those rights for the benefit of others. There's no question that the "great" generation spared the world from external tyranny, but it has outdone any other generation in destroying both the letter and the spirit of our Constitution, and as such produced a form of tyranny for which there's little defense.
Note there are other instances where Madison used his seat in the House of Representatives to combat abuse of the general welfare term, as in this argument in 1792: "It would be absurd to say, first, that Congress may do what they please, and then that they may do this or that particular thing. After giving Congress power to raise money and apply it to all purposes which they may pronounce necessary to the general welfare, it would be absurd, to say the least, to superadd a power to raise armies, to provide fleets, etc."
Further, Madison stated the "general welfare" term came from the Articles of Confederation, and, "it was always considered [in the Articles of Confederation] as clear and certain that the old Congress was limited to the enumerated powers, and that the enumeration limited and explained the general terms."
Madison warned, "If Congress can apply money indefinitely on the general welfare, and are the sole and supreme judges of the general welfare, they may take the care of religion into their own hands, they may establish teachers in every state, county, and parish, and pay them out of the public treasury; they may take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the Union; they may undertake the regulation of all roads other than post roads. In short, everything, from the highest object of state legislation down to the most minute object of police, would be thrown under the power of Congress."
I forget the title of the book- but it was reviewed in National Review years ago and it was about the morale of soldiers in WWII and it was not exactley the picture painted by our popular culture today. It described soldiers who resented bitterly being drafted and low morale. Many soldiers serving in the Europeon theater had little idea of why they were there and most Americans only wanted to fight Japan (after Pearl Harbor only.) So just why are they "great"? For fighting a war they were forced to fight in by a draft (and not to diminish the veterans but it was never a very good army in combat)? For living through the Great Depression? For voting for entitlements and handouts at the expense of the Constitution they supposedly fought for?
Granted- most of the "greatest generation" showed more self reliance and endurance of hardships than any generation since. But they layed the groundwork for our current situation.
A resounding Dr Walter Williams ("Black by popular demand!") BUMP!
Who taught you history? You MUST be under 30 years old. I am currently watching the HBO Miniseries "Band of Brothers". One of the surviving soldiers was interviewed and said, I paraphrase, "We had one kid on the block commit suicide because he was 4F and couldn't join the Army. It was a different time." Forced to fight via Selective Service? Yeah. Right.
As far as not being good in combat. The US soldier was every bit the equal of the German, Japanese, or Russian fighting soldier. US troops were probably the best led troops in the war. If not, then perhaps second ONLY to the Germans. So which nation do you think had a "good army in combat?" The Italians? The French? The Cavalry equipped Poles?
And I guess I should qualify myself. The American foot soldier in WWII was far better trained and much better lead than the average Red Army Soldier (the Red Army was the worst lead and worst trained of the war). But as compared to the average German or Japanese foot soldier they were not as well trained. And I will say the officers of both the German Wermacht and the Japanese Imperial Army were far better leaders than our officers (as they tended to have longer training periods or were career officers.)
But to be honest- given the fact that America didn't have much of a martial tradition or even an Army before WWII we did pretty well in WWII with what we had.
I meant to say "much of an Army"- of course we had an Army before WWII but it was small, anemic, and not funded properly.
The 'greatest generation' sat on their behinds while 58,000 of my generation died in Vietnam. The US lost that war and thus sacrificed the 58,000 for nothing, for the simple reason they didn't extend the same courtesy to us that their parents did to them.
I'll do Mr. Williams one better; The 'greatest genration' are all welcome to kiss my ass.
They were given a wonderful Constitutional tradition, and they threw it away for that tinpot dictator FDR.
But y'know what? They all did their duty, every one of them, from Normandy to Buchenwald.
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