Wednesday, April 13, 2016
The Founders and the Poor
From the preface:
On the poor: Far from being indifferent to the poor, the Founders regarded the protection of private property rights as a necessary means for the poor to escape the kind of subjugation by the wealthy that they had experienced in Old Europe. And far from throwing the needy into the streets, the Founders maintained government-funded "safety-net" programs for them. Their property rights and welfare policies, which are often scorned today for their supposed indifference to the poor, were arguably more just and compassionate than ours.
On the supposedly undemocratic electorate: Far from excluding the poor, the electorate in the founding era was the most democratic of any large nation in history. It included about 85 to 90 percent of free males. Those Founders who defended a property requirement for voting did so, not in opposition to, but on the basis of, the equality principle of the Declaration of Independence. They feared—as we will see, not without reason—that the propertyless poor might become the tools of influential and wealthy demagogues, distorting election results and endangering the survival of liberty. They changed their minds on this point as it became increasingly clear that the poor were not opponents but friends of the rights of mankind, including the right to acquire and possess property.
Larger preview available here at GoogleBooks.
[HT: Our Founding Truth]