The Weiner Component Vol.2 #3 – The Purpose of Government

English: Citizens registered as an Independent...

English: Citizens registered as an Independent, Democrat or Republican. Derived from :Image:Party affiliation USA.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the question of what is the primary purpose of government in the 21st Century is raised then depending upon which major political party you adhere to you get different answers. 


Historically people have always been social animals, always functioning in groups with some form of social organization.  Traditionally governments have functioned to provide a framework in which people have lived.  They have provided rules or laws that have allowed them to live together, kept them safe within the society and from foreign invaders, provided the necessities for reasonable living conditions and protected their property.  These governments have provided a currency and regulated trade within and with other nations.  Other than that people have provided for their individual needs for themselves.  This, in essence, is the Republican concept of the function of government.


In 1929, through following these concepts and unlimited growth on the stock market, the United States economy crashed and billions of dollars were lost almost overnight in the 1929 Great Depression.  From 1929 through 1932 feeble attempts were made by the Republican dominated government to allow the Stock Market to adjust itself.  Instead it kept dropping lower.  This occurred from 1929 through 1932, when it and the rest of the economy reached its lowest level.  The Market Model was unable to adjust itself; it had been abused too much.


In 1933, the Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt became President, replacing the Republican, Herbert Hoover.  Roosevelt, in dealing with the massive unemployment problem, extended the purpose of the Federal Government, by having the Federal Government assume responsibility for those people who could no longer function successfully within the broken society.  He created mechanisms whereby these people could again function with a measure of success within the economy.  The Federal Government had now assumed responsibility for the people in the country who could no longer provide for themselves.  This now became the new additional function of the Central Government. 


While conditions improved considerably the Great Depression did not end until about 1940 with the outbreak of World War II when first European and Asian nations bought unlimited goods from America and at the end of 1941 when the Federal Government began unlimited spending in fighting the war. 


The government had dedicated itself to a new purpose which would continue on after the war had ended, more or less, depending upon which political party controlled the Central Government.  The Republicans tended to favor business and the wealthy, limiting social spending as much as possible, while the Democrats favored the middle and lower class extending this practice as much as they could.


Currently with the Republicans in control of Congress and the Presidency they are moving to get rid of Obamacare (Affordable Health Care).  They are presumably going to replace it with Trumpcare, whatever that is.  Probably it will be a voucher system that will be cheaper for the government to operate, but will gradually become more and more expensive for its recipients as medical costs increase but government vouchers do not.


Two events occurred: one began in the 1970s, an increasing need for more money to be available in the National Cash Flow; and the other in the 1980s with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.  In the earlier decade the major banking houses in the country began packaging mortgages in small fractions and selling them.  They did this gradually on a larger and larger scale.  The process took off in the 1980s with the Reagan White House.  This, in turn, increased the value of the homes.  In essence a percentage of the population began mortgaging and refinancing the ever increasing value of their houses over and over again.  At no time during the 30 years of this period was there any real inflation in the country.  For the first 10 years the country was in an inflationary cycle that began with the Viet Nam War.  This was ended at the beginning of the 1980s.


Reagan was the first of the really Conservative Presidents.  Forty-five years earlier he had majored in economics as an undergraduate in college.  Since that point in history economics had developed far from where it had been when Reagan was a college senior.  Much more about its functioning was understood in the 1980s.


Adam Smith began modern economics with the publication of his work,  “An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations,” in 1776.  In this work, among other things, he developed the Market Model, which functioned through the use of the “invisible hand.”  The invisible hand is the profit motive.  Smith believed that the profit motive would best make all the Market decisions of what to produce and how to produce it. 


President Ronald Reagan and a good percentage of Republicans in Congress also believed this.  During his presidency hey did away with all bank regulatory laws that had been developed during the 1930s and beyond to avoid another Great Depression.


In the period before the 1929 Stock Market Crash many bank executives had taken depositors monies and invested them in stocks.  Shortly thereafter when the price went up they had sold the stocks and pocketed the profits.  People could also buy stocks on margin; all an investor needed was 10% of the value of the stock he/she bought, the banks would lend the remaining 90%.   The problem here was that many people were in love with the concept of the stocks, not with their true value, and they kept forcing up the value of all the stocks by continually buying and selling them.  This created a bubble that had to burst at some time.  When it did, from 1929 on, it not only bankrupted innumerable stockholders but also innumerable banks with unbelievable negative effects upon the overall economy.


The result of what Reagan considered reforms was that a multitude of banking organizations began an almost limitless level of refinancing homes, allowing people to take their ever increasing equity out of their properties to buy whatever, and countless billions of dollars were created in the National Cash Flow allowing almost endless spending.  All of this occurred until 2008 when the bubble burst.  Interestingly some of these companies insured the bank loans, charging generous premiums.  These companies and many banks faced immediate bankruptcy with the crash.


In the year 2008 the Housing Bubble, that had been developing over the last forty years, burst, bringing about an almost instant and complete drop in home property values.  People’s home values virtually dropped overnight hundreds of thousands of dollars per single unit leaving a percentage of homeowners underwater, suddenly owing more on their home properties than they were worth.


This process had been slowly building since the 1970s, with it massively accelerating during the Reagan administration in the 1980s, when virtually all banking laws, many of which came into being during The Great Depression in the 1930s, were done away with and the country followed the administration’s mantra of letting the Free Market make all the economic decisions.  A good percentage of the population, with strong encouragement from the banks, had gone through a wild period of spending.


Specifically what happened was that the country did not have enough money in the National Cash Flow to meet its needs.  There was a shortage of money in the overall society.  The banks, among the many services they perform for the general society, also can increase or decrease the amount of cash available within their specific regions.  They do this through their lending or non-lending practices.  Most exchanges of cash at this time was through the transfer of funds by writing checks, bringing about an exchange of numbers in different columns of different bank ledgers.


People discovered the advantages of their equity in their home loans by taking out First, Second, and Third mortgages based upon their equity.  Over the forty year period as people borrowed upon their homes the value of their homes went up continually.  It seems the continual borrowing created a desire in people who rented living space to attempt to buy homes, forcing up the value of the homes even more for this forty year period.  Properties that were purchased for well under one hundred thousand dollars, because of the sudden great demand, were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 


For the forty year period, well into the year 2008 home values kept rising.  People refinanced their properties over and over again buying whatever they wanted.  The overall economy prospered.  People bought all the toys they ever wanted: boats, mobile homes for traveling, whatever.  There was no real inflation.


By the year 2007 the indications of a collapse were present for those in a position to understand what was going on.  But the bankers, who had taken home millions in compensation, were in total denial.  They were incapable of understanding that conditions could change.  To encourage further refinancing many banks raised the level of refinancing homes to 125% of the appraised value of the property.


Toward the end of the year 2008 the bubble burst or the crash came.  Many homeowners suddenly discovered that they were underwater, owing more on their home than they were then worth.  Some just walked away from their properties, leaving a deserted house behind them.  Others just stopped making payments they could no longer afford.  Unemployment rose significantly. 


Hedge Funds that had been developed from some of this mortgage paper were suddenly worthless.  Banks foreclosed upon properties that they both owned or had owned and sold to hedge funds.  The entire situation was a total mess.  Hedge funds were suddenly worthless, many banks were on the point of bankruptcy.  It looked like the entire economy was on the point of collapse.


At this point President George W. Bush and his Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson, arranged for bank loans to keep many financial institutions from going bankrupt.  Then Bush was replaced by President Barack Obama who continued the bank loans and also bailed out the American auto industry which was also at the point of bankruptcy at that time.  With President Obama’s massive spending efforts what could have been a greater depression than the Great Depression of 1929 turned into what has been called the Great Recession, from which the country is still on its way out of.  By January of 2017 unemployment in the United States had dropped to 4.8%. 


The problem that existed here is that from the 1970s on more money was needed in the economy that should have been supplied by the Federal Reserve on a more gradual level.  A controlled increase of funds for the nation would have allowed for a slow healthy economic growth with no crash in 2008.  Allowing the banks to do this with just the profit motive led to unlimited and reckless greed as the major factor controlling the economy.


English: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert...

English: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover in convertible automobile on way to U.S. Capitol for Roosevelt’s inauguration, March 4, 1933 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



e Great Depression was caused by the Republican’s legislating after World War I.  This was from the election of Warren Harding to the presidency through Herbert Hoover.  They created the necessary laws and general milieu that allowed it to come about.  The Housing Crash of 2008 was set forth by the policies of President Ronald Reagan.  He inspired and brought about the environment that allowed the financial institutions to go berserk through the unhampered use of the profit motive.  Now, with the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency an equally horrible situation exists with the Republican legislature and Trump promising to do away with Affordable Health Care and the distinct possibility of taking medical care away from about 30 million citizens.


During his first year as President in 1993 William Jefferson Clinton, among other things, attempted to set up a system of Universal Health Care for all the people in the United States.  He placed his wife, Hillary, in charge of a task force that was supposed to develop a plan for this.  The Republicans were strongly against it.  They tried everything they could to kill this plan.  Finally they succeeded when they came up with a slogan: “There has to be a better way.”  The “better way” ended up being: No way.  With this mantra they successfully ended the plan for universal health care in 1993.


During President Barack Obama’s first two years in office he had a Democratic majority in Congress.  Together, they came up with a plan for the majority of people in the country to achieve health care.  The plan had been developed by a Republican think tank for Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts.  I imagine that President Obama assumed that a Republican Plan would gain some Republican support in both Houses of Congress.  But by that time the Republican members of Congress had in a caucus and taken an oath to make Obama a one term President by not supporting anything he supported or for which he could take credit.  As a consequence they have vigorously opposed and continually denounced Obamacare (Affordable Health Care), which was in actuality their plan.  Affordable Health Care was passed in Congress strictly on a party basis, not one Republican Congressman voted for it.


In 2011 the Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives.  From then on the House passed bills to do away with Affordable Health Care; this was over fifty times.  While the Democrats controlled the Senate the bill was not even taken up there.  In 2014 the Republicans also gained the majority in the Senate.  In 2016 they gained Donald J. Trump as the new Republican President.  They are promising to replace Obamacare with a new and better policy.  But no specific plan seems to be on the horizon.  Meanwhile the first steps have been taken to begin the process dismantling Affordable Health Care.


Interestingly even the Republicans are now stating their sense of responsibility for the medical welfare of the general public.  But Affordable Health Care was their plan for universal health care.  It entails using private enterprise to bring universal medical care into existence. 


What is interesting or strange is that in 2012 when President Barack Obama ran for reelection, his Republican adversary, Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans seem to have totally forgotten the Crash or Great Recession of 2008.  When elected they were going to do away with the laws passed in 2009 and 2010 to avoid that situation from occurring again.  And the same is true about the Presidential Election of 2016.  It would seem that the Republicans have some sort of collective amnesia about their own past.  The difference is that in 2016 the Republican candidate, Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans won the election, not only the presidency but also both Houses of Congress.  What will they do?  It seems that the Republicans themselves are not sure

The Weiner Component Vol.2 #1 Part 3 Introduction

At some point during the 1980s, when I was a social science high school instructor, for the last two or three weeks of an eleventh grade United States history course I decided to teach a unit on the future.  We would examine the possibilities of how the Twenty-first Century might affect the lives of my students.  Virtually everyone in the class balked at this.  They absolutely refused to consider the changes that could occur and how these possible societal changes could affect their future lives as adults.  I had never faced this type of response before.  It was an interesting situation.  The future, even the immediate future was unknown.  The past was known and could in the minds of many also be idealized.  I did not attempt to teach this unit again.  From then on the course ended in the immediate present.


Is the general public that different from my students?  Do they idealize the “Happy Days” gone by and avoid thinking or dealing with the possible changes to come?  It would seem so.  Most people like dealing with what they know.  Unknowns to them are scary since these might easily change their living conditions for the worst.  (Unfortunately even so called knowns can bring about changes in the society.)


Most people (Family units) live economically on the edge; they are, more or less, living up to their financial limit and in many cases slightly or more beyond.  Any real change could throw them into financial disaster.  I would guess that a very large percentage of the population move forward with this concept, problem, or anxiety constantly before them.


Of course, change is constantly occurring: economically many low skilled and other occupations are diminishing, robotics are the new manufacturing tool, some new occupations are materializing.  The myth of a changeless safe society is just that, a myth.  But apparently the reality has nothing to do with the perceptions.


We may ask:  What brings about societal change (both economic and political)?  Is anything ever fixed for a lengthy duration?  Is society dynamic, in an ever state of flux, constantly undergoing some form of evolution (growth, shrinkage) either positive or negative changes?


If change, gradual or otherwise, is a constant what then determines it?  Is it mainly political or economic?


In approximately 900 AD the Emperor Charlemagne set up what has come to be known as Feudalism in his massive domain which comprised most of what was to become Europe.  His lands were divided into fiefs (large estates or sections of land, some as large as modern states, each with its own population and largely self-sufficient).  These were ruled by individual nobles, who, in return for the fief owed their lord (Charlemagne) fidelity (allegiance and a given number of knights and other armed men when called upon by their lord, the king).   With the death of Charlemagne his empire was divided up among his three sons and the beginnings of modern Europe were formed. 


Wealth, at this time, was ownership and control of land.  The king divided his kingdom among a relatively small number of high nobles who owed him fidelity (men and arms in time of need).  These nobles divided their lands up into smaller estates to lesser nobles who owed them fidelity when called upon.  This process could continue into smaller and smaller estates numerous times, with each owing his lord fidelity/military support when called upon.  Each small estate also supported a number of knights.  Theoretically the king ordered the higher nobles to appear at a certain place at a certain time.  They, in turn, ordered their subordinate nobles to do the same and so on down the line, proceeding all way down to the knights and unarmored fighting men.  Thus the king was able to go into battle with an army.  After a few generations all sorts of complications would occur from this arrangement.


The use of money was not a factor.  Supposedly the circulation of specie had ceased by this period.  The use of fidelity replaced the need for money.  However according to quite a bit of historical research done from the middle of the 20th Century on the use of money, gold and silver coins, never quite disappeared.  Their use diminished considerably and at some point slowly began to increase, allowing gradually for the rise of cities and of the bourgeoisie or middle class throughout Europe.  For that matter the Italian City-States existed throughout the Middle Ages.


With the gradual rise of the bourgeoisie and the independent cities throughout Europe money was slowly returning to common use and commerce was also growing.  Wealth was slowly transitioning from land to gold.  And with this there was the slow rise of the modern nations and kings who could collect taxes and pay their armies.  They could also use their armies to break the power of the nobles in their countries.  This was exemplified by the French king Louis XIV who also became the model of an absolute monarch.  Modern nations were formed or defined under the kings. Within two reigns after Louis XIV the French Revolution came about and it would end in rule by the middle class.  The remnants of Feudalism and the nobility would persist, mostly on a name basis, until the end of World War I.


What brought about these changes?  How do we move from small, largely independent economic entities to rule by the bourgeoisie?  To answer this question we have to go to a force Karl Marx called “economic determinism;”   the economic system controls the political system.  During the Medieval Period the nobility controlling the land determined the development.  The society was not static but in a very slow state of flux.  With the change in the wealth base, land to gold, there was the rise of kings.  The wealth which enabled the kings to develop their nations and their absolutism was created by the bourgeoisie who eventually broke the power of the kings and set up middle class democracies.  The economic development of the different nations brought about the changes.  Those who controlled the wealth of the nation would eventually control the nation.


A relatively modern day example, on a smaller scale, would be racial integration in the United States during and after World War II.

During World War II the United States both had massive armies in the field and supplied them and their allies with the materials they needed to successfully pursue the war.  Prior to United States involvement in the hostilities that nation had been largely segregated, but with the war on there was a constant and endless need for war materials.  First the women were brought into the factories to work alongside the men, then the older high school students after their school day, and after that the orthopedically handicapped.  Finally Blacks, in 1943, were hired and because of the great need, were allowed to work alongside whites in the “battle for production.”


Economic necessity had brought about what was then considered a great change in the society.  Blacks not only worked in the factories; they also, as they moved north to get these jobs, ended up, in many cases, living among whites.


And irony of ironies, in the military, segregation continued to exist.  Black troops were commanded by white officers.  The exception being the Tuskegee pilots.  All pilots, in the U.S. Air force, were automatically given officer rank.  Blacks, who flew planes were consequently officers and had to be saluted by soldiers of lesser rank.

     Parenthetically this led to interesting situations.  In military bases, particularly in the Southern United States, white privates had to salute Black officers.  Here the rationalization became that they saluted the uniform, not the man.  Another situation occurred in the U.S. Navy, where no Black could become an officer.  A doctor volunteered to serve in the navy during World War II.  An investigation of his background revealed that he had a Black forbearer of which he was unaware.  The event of his volunteering was in the newspapers.  But the Navy could only accept him on the lowest core level.  Consequently he never served.


The U.S. Military sent a segregated, Jim Crow, army overseas to fight the Nazi/Axis menace and bring freedom to the world.  In the decade after World War II the military was integrated, one service at a time.  Despite some people’s contrary feelings there was no longer any practical reason to maintain segregation.  In 1954 the Supreme Court rendered its Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education Decision; and after another decade of resistance education in the U.S. became, more or less, integrated.  Defacto segregation in housing would very slowly break down but never really disappear.


The most effective weapon used by Blacks in most of the southern communities, besides marches and protests which made the nation aware of what was happening, was the economic boycott.  In 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a Black lady, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man.  She was taken off the bus and arrested.  For nearly a year afterwards the Blacks in that city refused to ride the busses and shop in many of the city stores. 


When all was said and done, principles of right and wrong were outweighed by the basic principles of economics.  In Montgomery, Alabama, an economic boycott desegregated the busses.  Other changes would come about brought by threatened or direct economic change: the “sit-ins,” desegregation of interstate busses, etc., etc., etc.  Perhaps the exception might be the Earl Warren Supreme Court decision in 1954 but, I suspect, the state of Blacks and what they were willing to tolerate at that time is what ended the Plessey vs. Ferguson Decision of the late 19th Century which made segregation legal in the South. 

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The Gross Domestic Product includes all the goods and services produced in the United States in one fiscal year, twelve months.  If we deduct from this the amounts needed for the development and replacement of outmoded and worn out machinery, all sorts of necessary research for the development of new products, and take the remainder and divide it by the number of people in the United States we have considerable individual incomes.  If the problem of a fair distribution could be solved no one in this country would be homeless, would go without proper medical treatment, or proper food levels of nourishment. 


We are currently tied to an archaic economic model which, among other things, is shrinking the middle class toward nonexistence.  We could, in the near future, conceivably end up a nation of upper and lower class, with a token middle class; and with more and more of the wealth going to the upper class and less and less to people able to purchase the goods and services provided.  It would be a situation similar to that of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries and could result in a depression far greater than that of 1929.

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If we go back to our earlier premise that in order for goods and services to be continually increasing then those goods and services must be continually consumed:

Production of Goods and Services = Consumption of Goods and   Services

The problem in insuring this positive circumstance is the proper distribution of the money needed.


How can this be done?  If we follow Adam Smith’s market-place model the distribution will actually decrease as control of wealth passes, more and more, to a small group leading eventually to a massive breakdown of the Business Cycle: recession and depression.  And this breakdown could be a meltdown on a world basis causing all sorts of disruptions both within and between nations.


How do we avoid this economic breakdown?  The simplest means would be through transfer payments.  The government taxes everyone on a graduated basis: the more one earns the greater the percentage of tax paid.  It then transfers or pays out to those earning below a certain economic level bringing these people up to a “so called” minimum standard of living.  Thus the government is ensuring a level of consumption which would guarantee continued production of goods and services.


Of course, transfer payments is an attempt, albeit a necessary one, to avoid economic disaster.  It continues an old economic system with yet another variation and allows the market model to continue to work.  What is really needed is a new economic model which would allow for an equitable and continual distribution of goods and services.  And that means a redefinition of the concept of work, with an extended system of remuneration, a fairer tax system, and a new understanding of the concept of money as a means of exchange rather than as a means of wealth.


The basic societal economic decisions: What to produce?  How to produce it?  And for whom to produce it?  These are currently largely determined by the “market;” i.e., demand.  The entrepreneur determines there is a market for a particular product.  He/she then will produce it at the lowest possible cost; and then ship it to the various market(s) where it can be sold at the best possible price.  How would these decisions be made in a non-market economy?


Parenthetically, when these decisions were made in the mid-20th Century in the Soviet Union by central planners there was no real correlation between decision and actual needs; and often parts of the system broke down temporarily when vital parts like bolts or a specific type of screw had not been produced in enough volume to meet the needs and the manufacture of something like automobiles had to stop until the bolt or screw had been manufactured and shipped to the auto plant.


It would seem that these market decisions would still have to be largely made by some form of demand.  Of course the government would have to control the process since income was no longer a factor.  In fact, somehow, government would have to control the entire process.  But then again I suppose in this digital age with computers, we can be a lot more efficient than the Soviets.  But can computers determine demand?


The concept of ownership and wealth would also have to become different.  The idea of group responsibility, snergy, would have to change.  We would all have to become our brother’s/sister’s keepers; each becoming responsible for all others.

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To create a new economic model we have to first redefine the concept of work.  In the early 1930s during the depth of the depression the Roosevelt Administration had a group of economists, in Washington, D.C., define the concept of work in order to be able to measure its growth or contraction.  They created, what they called the Gross National Product, which was supposed to measure the wealth produced in one fiscal year, as the form of measurement.  This is now the Gross Domestic Product (G.D.P.).


The question for them was: What to measure?  They decided to include all those aspects of effort that earned money.  They did not include such domestic efforts as homemaker or childcare since these were non- remunerative activities.  Interestingly, in some European countries, housewives and/or mothers are given two week vacations away from their families at government expense.   Even today different societies place different values on what constitutes work.


What, then, would constitute work?  Does it have to be something which is remunerative?   Can it be virtually any activity?  Does it have to produce something: material?   Ascetic?

     Suppose we define work as any effort to achieve something; then building something is work; thinking is work; writing or learning would also be work.  Virtually any activity which brings about any kind of change would be work.

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Let’s start with one type of effort: education/learning.  Every society, no matter how primitive or advanced, has some form of teaching its youngsters to successfully function as adults.  Education, learning should not only be a form of work, it should be considered one of the primary forms of employment in any society for it readies the next generation to continue the progress of development of the society.  Gandhi, in the 20th Century, during his crusade to equalize society in India said, about the Untouchables that among them with proper learning could be another Einstein or Newton.  Can not the same thing be said about the poorer elements of the United States?


Do we search our young to find the truly brilliant individuals and then nurture them to their full development?  No, in the United States we provide, by law, primary and secondary education, albeit at different qualities depending on where the youngster lives and goes to school.  Then he/she may apply for some full or partial scholarship or pay tuition and go on to a Community College, University, or Graduate School.  The cost for this must be borne by the individual or his/her parents


Education is a right in this country to which every youngster is entitled through high school whether or not he/she or their family want it.  It is general and teaches a level of literacy which is supposed to allow the youngster to function later as an adult.  Would it not make more sense, as is done in many European nations, to actually prepare the child for a specific endeavor based upon his/her ability?  Education would still be a right but it would also be a privilege.  The youngster has to earn his/her advances and would consequently be trained to the fullest of his/her ability, from preschool through graduate school or anywhere in between.  Each individual would be trained to the fullest of their ability.  Late starters could be also worked into the system.  No one would be wasted; all the potential Einsteins, Newtons, Rembrandts would be found and allowed to develop.  This would indeed be a positive usage of the concept of work.

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Despite Adam Smith’s concept of “hands off” by government in his market model, governments, particularly of industrial nations, have never totally kept hands off their economies.


The question that arises in the 21st Century is what is or what should be the role of government in dealing with the economy?  If we look at the United States Constitution it begins in the Preamble with the phrase “We the People. . . .”  The document had to be approved by a majority in nine of the twelve states participating.  (Rhode Island had refused to deal with any part of the process.)


If we then ask, after studying the Constitution, what is the major purpose and/or function of the government?  Is it to protect the property rights of the few or provide for the welfare and prosperity of the many?  Are we protecting property rights and allowing more and more people to live at substandard level of existence?


     A “nation so conceived and so dedicated,” to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, is or should be “of, by, and for the people.”  If we accept Lincoln’s premise then the government has a responsibility which is to serve all of its people; and that means to provide for them economically when they cannot or are not allowed to provide for themselves.