of the United States Magazine and Dem cratic Review, called the “voluntary principle” or the “principle of freedom.” In 1837, O’Sullivan wrote,
The best government is that which governs least. . . . [Government] should be confined to the administration of justice, for the pro- tection of the natural equal rights of the cit- izen, and the preservation of the social order. In all other respects, the voluntary principle, the principle of freedom. . . affords the true golden rule.
During the 19th century, most Americans took it for granted that the federal government has no constitutional authority to engage in pub- lic charity (that is, to legislate forced transfers to help some individuals at the e pense of others). It was generally understood that the powers of the federal government are delegated, enumerat- ed, and therefore limited, and that there is no e plicit authority for the welfare state. In 1794, Madison e pressed the commonly held view of the welfare state: “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which grant[s] a right to Congress of e pending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their con- stituents.” From a classical-liberal or market- liberal perspective, then, the role of government
“The role of government is not to ‘do good at the taxpayers’ expense,’ ut ‘to prevent harm’ y esta lishing rules of just conduct and a rule of law.”
is not to “do good at the ta payers’ e pense,” but “to prevent harm” by establishing rules of just conduct and a rule of law.
The general welfare clause (art. 1, sec. 8) of the U.S. Constitution cannot be used to justify the welfare state. That clause simply states that the federal government, in e ercising its enumerated powers, should e ercise them to “promote the general welfare,” not to promote particular inter-