The Elders of Israel
and the Constitution

Chapter 10
The Real Threat Against The Constitution

      As a matter of fact, the threat against the Constitution is really a threat against free agency itself. That this is the real threat is evidenced by a statement in a small pamphlet entitled Statements on Communism and the Constitution of the United States, by President David O. McKay.

We again warn our people in America of the constantly increasing threat against our inspired Constitution and our free institutions set up under it. The same political tenets and philosophies that have brought war and terror in other parts of the world are at work amongst us in America. The proponents thereof are seeking to undermine our own form of government and to set up instead one of the forms of dictatorships now flourishing in other lands. These revolutionists are using a technique that is as old as the human race. . . .(1)

      What is the technique as old as the human race being used to destroy freedom? If the Latter-day Saints understand the enemy's technique of operating, they should be in a stronger position to withstand his onslaughts. The enemy's technique is exposed by President McKay in these words:

These revolutionists are using a technique that is as old as the human race,—a fervid but false solicitude for the unfortunate over whom they thus gain mastery, and then enslave them.(2) [p. 84]

      That technique has a familiar ring to Latter-day Saints. Where did they hear it before? Isn't it the same technique used by Satan in the Council in Heaven?(3)

      Paraphrasing Satan's argument will show how familiar that technique really is. Essentially he was saying something like this. "Everybody should be equal. It isn't fair that some should have greater rewards than others just because they do better than others. Just give me the power and I'll see to it that everyone gets the same rewards.(4)

      Actually, he was presenting a plan under which he would become the all-powerful dictator, and those for whom he showed such concern would become his puppets. This thought was expressed by President McKay in these words.

Even in man's pre-existent state, Satan sought power to compel the human family to do his will by suggesting that the free agency of man be inoperative. If his plan had been accepted, human beings would have become mere puppets in the hands of a dictator, and the purpose of man's coming to earth would have been frustrated.(5)

      Satan's solicitude for the unfortunate was fervid, but it was false because his objective was not really the welfare of the unfortunate, but rather power for himself. Having failed to have his compulsion method of government adopted in the preexistence, he is still zealously promoting it here on earth. By using the technique of a fervid but false solicitude for the unfortunate, he has deceived many well meaning people into believing that his compulsion system is desirable.

Inviolate Property Rights Essential To Freedom

      In the Doctrine and Covenants the basic rights of each individual to life, liberty, and property are affirmed in these words: [p. 85]

We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.(6)

      Today there are those who declare that it is possible to maintain the rights to life and liberty inviolate without maintaining property rights inviolate. This position is used to justify compulsory taking of property from some to give it to others. However, the above Doctrine and Covenants statement concerning the importance of property rights is borne out by the attitude of the Framers concerning the relationship between inviolate property rights and freedom. The Framers firmly believed that freedom could not exist unless property rights are held inviolate. For example, John Adams declared:

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist.(7)

Tyranny Begins With Assault on Private Property

      Not only is it necessary for the right of private property to be held inviolate for freedom to continue, but in at least one way the right of private property is of even greater significance than the rights to life and liberty. When a government departs from its proper role as the protector of inalienable rights and commences on the road to tyranny, the destruction of freedom ordinarily begins with an assault on private property. The reason for this is that if tyranny's first steps included the deprivation of life and liberty, the loss of freedom would be immediately recognized.

      Having referred to a tyranny, it might be well to comment that a tyranny is not limited to a government dominated [p. 86] by a single unjust ruler. Instead a tyranny can be any government under which rights to life, liberty and property are not maintained inviolate. If the government is a tyranny, there can be much jockeying for power and changing of individual leaders without any substantial change in the status of the people.

      When a government commences on the road to tyranny, the destruction of individual property rights at first proceeds slowly. Plausible programs are presented that seem to involve the solutions to human needs. But the proposed solutions typically involve the taking of property from some and giving part of that property to others, which solutions violate the right of private property.

How People are Induced To Support Destruction of Private Property

      Many people who support the destruction of property rights do not realize that they are helping to undermine freedom. Their attention is diverted to human suffering, and they are motivated to support programs to alleviate that suffering. Their focus is thus shifted from opportunity to security, and they do not have enough understanding of freedom and the proper role of government to realize the destination of the road on which they are induced to travel. However, Latter-day Saints, who believe the Framers to have been inspired, should bear in mind that the Framers deliberately rejected the compulsory taking of property for welfare programs as a violation of property rights. For example, James Madison declared:

Government is instituted to protect property. . . . This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own. . . . That is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man has . . . is violated by arbitrary seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.(8) [p. 87]

How Violation of Property Rights Leads To Loss of Freedom

      There are several reasons why freedom cannot exist if property rights are not held inviolate. The tyrant's control of property makes the tyranny stronger and the people weaker and prevents the people from acquiring the tangible means needed for successful opposition. Also, a tyranny tends to obtain control over people's livelihood and to make people dependent on it for their Support. People whose livelihood is under the control of others or who are dependent on others for support tend to lose their independence of character and desire for freedom. If enough people lose the desire to be free, freedom will disappear. One of the most insidious aspects of government paternalism is that it deprives people of the will to be free. By means of continued doses of government welfare, people are transformed from lovers of freedom, motivated by a spirit of independence, to seekers after security unsure of their ability to stand on their own feet with the help of God. They are willing to forget about freedom if the government will promise them security.

      This latter condition is little different in principle from a willingness to barter one's own freedom in exchange for a promise of security from a master—in other words to sell oneself into slavery. Slaves have their lives and a considerable freedom of movement if they convince their masters they will do only what their masters wish. Any property they have would be subject to the control of their masters; but this is not of great importance to a slave because he is fed, clothed and housed by his master anyhow. The really significant element a slave lacks is the right to exercise his own will in opposition to the will of his master. Yet the Lord declared that He established the Constitution so that people would be free to exercise their own will. [p. 88]

Erosion of Freedom in the United States

      When a person mentions that freedom in the United States is being eroded, he is often challenged to point out specific examples. While he senses a lessening of his freedom, he may be unable to give specific instances of reduced freedom. The reason for his difficulty is that he is looking in the wrong direction. He is thinking in terms of less of freedom in the sense of limitation on his movements, when actually his freedom of control of his private property is being diminished. The erosion of his freedom is mainly in the areas of government regulation of his economic activities and appropriation through heavy taxation of a major part of the fruit of his labors for the purpose of giving his property to other individuals. If he would look in the those directions, he would easily find many major ways in which freedom in the United States is being rapidly diminished.

      This rapid diminution of freedom in the United States arises out of adoption of a philosophy that it is the responsibility of government to promote prosperity through regulation of the economy and to look after the welfare of the people instead of just protect them in their freedom. Socialism is the word usually used today to describe this philosophy.

Socialism Defined

      While socialism is often defined as government ownership or control of the means of production and distribution, a better understanding of socialism is obtained by consideration of its ostensible purpose or philosophy. Socialism is the political, social, and economic system growing out of the philosophy of government that it is the proper function and responsibility of government to promote the social welfare and prosperity of the people. Control of the means of production and distribution is the method by which those objectives are pursued under socialism.

      The diminution of freedom in the United States today is often justified on the ground that socialism is a new, [p. 89] modern, more enlightened philosophy that should be adopted in the United States. Unfortunately, most of the people do not seem to be aware that this so-called new, modern, more enlightened philosophy of government is actually very old. Furthermore, not only has it been tried repeatedly, but its record is one of consistent failure.

Socialism Rejected By Framers

      Actually, the Framers were familiar with the principles of what today is called socialism and rejected them. As is indicated above, there are really two closely related aspects to socialism. One is government management of the economy, and the other is government welfare programs. Government management of the economy, then called Mercantilism, was the prevailing economic system at the time of the drafting of the Constitution and was rejected by the Framers. Government welfare programs were also well known to the Framers and consciously rejected by them. The Framers' rejection of the idea of government welfare programs was not based solely on their belief that such programs involved the beginning of the destruction of liberty through violation of sacred property rights. Their rejection was also supported by the belief that such programs were not really in the best interests of the people, but were primarily a pretense for gaining their votes. This attitude was shared by Thomas Jefferson, who wrote:

If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.(9) [p. 90]

      A particularly interesting reference confirming the fact that the various socialistic programs adopted by the federal government in recent decades are really unconstitutional is found in a paper published in 1968 by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. The author of the paper is Rexford G. Tugwell, one of the original Roosevelt Brain Trusters, and an ardent proponent of the welfare state. In this paper Mr. Tugwell argues that the Constitution should be rewritten because it is inadequate to the present time. In attempting to justify the need for such a rewriting, Mr. Tugwell admitted that although it has been consistently claimed that socialistic federal programs were a proper extension of the Constitution, they have really been unconstitutional all along. For example, he said:

The Constitution had been meant for an age . . . with a different notion of men's relations to the government and to each other. . . . The Framers had had different beliefs (from those widely accepted today). . . .

The Constitution was a negative document, meant mostly to protect citizens from their government. . . .

The Framers lived in the age of Adam Smith's economics and Montesquieu's politics.(10)

Above all, men were to be free to do as they liked, and since the government was likely to intervene, and because prosperity was to be found in the free management of their affairs, a constitution was needed to prevent such intervention . . . among the Framers there was no concern for the welfare of citizens as welfare is now conceived. Opportunities were open to all, and if they were not taken advantage of, or if an individual lost out to a more enterprising competitor, it was his own fault. . . . The laws would maintain order but would not touch the individual who behaved reasonably. He must pay taxes to support a smallish government and he must not interfere with commerce; but otherwise laws would do him neither [p. 91] good nor ill. The government of the Constitution was this kind of government.(11)

Joseph Smith on Socialism

      Joseph Smith has been described by many as a man of remarkable intelligence and understanding in addition to being a prophet. In September of 1843, at Nauvoo, Illinois, he attended two lectures on socialism given by Mr. John Finch, a socialist from England. In recording the experience, Joseph Smith underlined this comment. "I said I did not believe the doctrine.(12)

      Some may question whether Joseph Smith knew what he was talking about in concluding that socialism is a false doctrine. His conclusion can be tested by applying the very testing device suggested by Christ himself in the Sermon on the Mount when he said that the way to detect false prophets is by their fruits.

The Fruits of Socialism

      What are the fruits of socialism?

      One learns from history that seemingly logical theories are often proved invalid. One would therefore expect that to induce an intelligent person to accept a theory its proponents should show a significant body of examples of its successful operation, and the relative absence of examples of unsuccessful operation.

      Examination of socialism reveals that its proponents prefer not to investigate large numbers of specific examples. Instead they tend to limit themselves to general theoretical considerations. This enables them to avoid admitting that the many examples of socialistic experiments of various sorts and sizes have been consistently unsuccessful. The promised day of freedom and plenty is always around the next corner. [p. 92]

Jamestown and Plymouth

      It is of interest that socialistic experiments were tried and were unsuccessful in both Jamestown and Plymouth. Neither colony began to prosper until those experiments were discontinued and each man began to work for himself.(13)


      It has been popular in recent years to refer to Sweden as an example of how successful socialism can be. In fact Sweden is often enthusiastically called a workers' socialistic paradise.

      Every lawyer knows how impressive an unchallenged statement can be—until its flaws are exposed in the closer scrutiny of cross examination. In view of the consistent lack of success of other socialistic experiments, it seems appropriate to take a closer look at the Swedish socialistic experiment to see if it really is a valid example of successful socialism. In doing so it should be pointed out that Sweden is only partly socialistic because its underlying economic system is capitalism rather than state ownership of the means of production and distribution.

      The following quotations are taken from two recent articles in U. S. News and World Report:

After 20 years of building the world's greatest welfare state, Sweden finds most of the original problems unsolved and, in some cases, grown greater instead of fading away.

The costly welfare and educational reforms have not curbed such social ills as crime, alcoholism and drug addiction. Sweden's crime rate has doubled since 1950, with juvenile crime largely responsible.

Now you hear this comment from a high police official: . . . "It has become increasingly clear over the past 10 years that the welfare state we live in is anything but an ideal society."

Housing subsidies are one of the achievements of which the social planners are most proud. [p. 93]

Yet housing today is one of the worst of the messy situations troubling Sweden's welfare state.

Young married couples often are forced to live with relatives. Many face a wait of 10 years before they can have homes of their own.

Workers in the lower and middle income brackets pay in taxes twice as much as Americans in the same brackets.

In this welfare state, wages and salaries have risen even faster than prices, but higher taxes have swallowed most of the gains in pay.

Wage inflation now is beginning to undermine the competitive position of some industries.

Widespread discontent over high taxes, inflation, the housing shortages and other flaws in the welfare state led to a setback for the Labor Government . . . in last autumn's elections.

Sweden's top Communist . . . has greater popularity than any Communist has ever before enjoyed in Sweden.

As the Labor Government moves leftward to meet the Communist challenge, it loses support from business and other "moderate" elements.

So when you look behind the facade of Sweden's "Great Society" you find a disturbing picture—a picture of developing crisis, not one of social problems solved.

Here in Stockholm, suggestions are heard that the U. S. Congress, inundated with new ideas and new plans for bigger and broader benefits to be financed by taxpayers, might take a long, hard look at what has happened in Sweden.(14)

      Sometimes one wonders why the collectivists turn one's attention toward Sweden, because the Swedish example disproves one of their basic assumptions. This is the assumption that crime is the outgrowth of poverty and an economically deprived childhood. Since Sweden provides "cradle-to-grave security,"(15) if their assumption were correct, crime should have been all but eliminated there, especially among the young. Yet, as indicated in these articles, [p. 94] the reverse is true. Crime has been increasing rapidly, especially among the young.

      When one takes a more objective balanced view of the fruits of partial socialism in Sweden, one finds that the Swedish experiment is really additional evidence that Joseph Smith was right and socialism is not a sound doctrine.


      Here in North America, there is a better example of the fruits of socialism. From 1944 to 1964 the Canadian province of Saskatchewan operated under a socialist government. Unlike Sweden which has traditionally maintained friendly relations with business, the Saskatchewan government followed the usual socialist attitude of being anti-private enterprise.

      Finally in 1964 the people of Saskatchewan decided that they wanted the fruits of capitalism instead of the promises of socialism. They elected a government committed to taking Saskatchewan back to a private enterprise economy with reduced government services and reduced taxes. Thereafter, W. Ross Thatcher, Premier of Saskatchewan, was invited to the United States to speak at a Conference of Western Governors on Saskatchewan's experience with a socialist government. Here are a few of Premier Thatcher's comments:

In 1944, the socialists said they would solve the unemployment problem by building government factories. Not only this, they promised to use the profits from these socialist enterprises to build highways, schools, hospitals, and to finance better social welfare measures generally.

Of course, in the overall picture, there were no profits — rather there were colossal losses. Thus the welfare program had to be financed from taxation.

Under the socialist government, our provincial debt went from $150 million to $600 million. During the period more than 600 completely new taxes were introduced. 650 other taxes were increased.

All throughout their regime, the socialists tended to use compulsion. Repeatedly, their boards and agencies were manned [p. 95] by some social theorists, who told businessmen how their businesses should be run.

Mr. Chairman, 20 years ago, the socialists promised to make Saskatchewan a Mecca for the working man. Instead, we saw the greatest mass exodus of people out of an area, since Moses led the Jews out of Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

Mr. Chairman — Is there a lesson to be learned from Saskatchewan's experiences? I think there is—a rather horrible lesson.

If there are any Americans who think that socialism is the answer, I wish they would come to Saskatchewan and study what has happened to our province. Twenty years of socialism gave my province—industrial stagnation;—retarded development;—oppressive taxation;—major depopulation.

In our province, we know socialism not from text books but from hard, bitter experience. We have found that there is nothing wrong with socialism except that it doesn't work.(16)


      Perhaps the most comprehensive modern example of an actual socialistic experiment is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—Communist Russia.(17) [p. 96]

      In connection with the inability of socialism to provide the promised economic benefits, it should be remembered that the economic promises of socialism have not been fulfilled even in Russia where the compulsory power of the state has been used to force socialistic economic progress.

      Although, by concentrating its resources, Russia has been able to achieve spectacular results in limited areas, this should not be confused with overall economic progress. On a per capita basis the USSR ranks, not second, but about twentieth in measurable social and economic indices among the principal countries. In fifty years the USSR has not overtaken any country with the possible exception of Italy, which is itself heavily involved with socialism.(18)

      In a lecture given at Moscow University in the Summer of 1965, Professor Abel G. Aganbegyan, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, made the following comment concerning living standards.

With respect to increase in living standards, things are going badly. . . . There has not, in fact, been any rise in the standard of living during recent years. Ten million people have suffered a decrease in their living standards.(19)

      Concerning prospects for improvement in the Russian economy, Professor Aganbegyan declared:

Everything that has been said is highly alarming because it is not just a question of the situation existing in our economy today, but one of the existing trend and this is very, very much worse.(20)

      Is there some conclusion to be drawn from the difficulty socialists seem to have finding examples of successful socialism to counter the consistent pattern of socialist failures? Can it be that although most of the people who accept socialism feel that they are intelligent and enlightened, [p. 97] acceptance of socialism is really based on a kind of unreasoning emotional faith rather than an intelligent analysis of extensive factual evidence?

Even Partial Socialism Undesirable

      Some people who admit that socialism is bad in general contend that it is still desirable in small doses. However, that point of view is unsound for two reasons:

      In the first place, socialism is like a habit forming drug. Once started, it tends to require larger and larger doses. In this connection W. Ross Thatcher, Premier of the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan, had this to say in commenting on the failure of the Saskatchewan experiment in socialism:

I am sure you have heard some people say

"We don't agree with socialism — we wouldn't support it generally — but a little bit of socialism might be all right."

Mr. Chairman, we found in Saskatchewan that a little bit of socialism is like a little bit of pregnancy. Once it begins to develop, it is pretty hard to stop.(21)

      In the second place socialism introduces a foreign discordant element into a free enterprise economy that impairs the self-regulating nature of the free enterprise system.

      The Saskatchewan experiment with socialism illustrates another point. There are many who acknowledge that federal socialism is contrary to the Constitution as intended by the Framers, and admit that socialism is bad on the federal level. But these same people sometimes mention that socialism is not unconstitutional on the state level, and they express the thought that it may be desirable there.

      It should be pointed out that the reason socialism was not made unconstitutional on the state level is not because the Framers believed it to be desirable there. [p. 98] The main reason the Framers made socialism unconstitutional only on the federal level is because the then state governments were already in existence and it was the federal government the Framers were designing. The Saskatchewan experiment shows that the undesirable effects of socialism apply even on the provincial or state level.

Should Welfare Help Be Given In Special Cases?

      There are some who will tend to agree generally with the above comments, but will argue that there are some cases in which welfare programs should be adopted, such as those in which some cataclysm of nature suddenly leaves people in need through no fault of their own. The following words of Grover Cleveland, twice elected President of the United States as the candidate of the Democratic Party, should be considered thoughtfully in this regard.

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.(22)

      Many who are seeking to promote socialism confuse the issue by giving the impression that the only alternatives are (1) government help, or (2) no help, which will result in starvation or other dire consequences. However, as President Cleveland pointed out, this is not the issue at all. The real issue has the following two parts:

      1. Should help be given at all?

      In many cases the giving of help at all is really harmful and tends to be destructive of individual incentive, character, and self respect. Adults as well as children can be spoiled by doing for them what they should do themselves. [p. 99]

      2. If help should be given, who should give it?

      Even when help should be given, the issue is still not between government help or no help. As is pointed out by President Cleveland, the question here is between government help and private help.

Socialism Contrary to Constitution

      As Latter-day Saints consider the question of whether needed welfare help should be given privately or by the government, they should bear firmly in mind that the Framers deliberately drafted the Constitution in such a way as to preclude the federal government from giving welfare help.

      The intent of the Framers that the Constitution prevent the federal government from giving welfare help was emphasized shortly after the Constitution was adopted. Early in this country's history an attempt was made to enlarge the intended powers of the federal government by interpreting the Welfare Clause(23) as a separate grant of power authorizing Congress to enact laws it deems desirable involving the use of tax money to promote the general welfare. This attempt was energetically opposed by James Madison, who is noted for the great part he played in designing our constitutional system. Of this proposed interpretation of the Welfare Clause, Madison wrote:

I consider it . . . as subverting the fundamental and characteristic principle of the Government . . . and as bidding defiance to the sense in which the Constitution is known to have been proposed, advocated, and adopted. If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one.(24)

      From the Latter-day Saint point of view it is not necessary to become involved in a consideration of the [p. 100] pros and cons of whether the United States should continue in the direction of becoming a socialist state. This is because Latter-day Saints have the correct standard given them in the Doctrine and Covenants. That correct standard is their understanding with respect to the Constitution, which the Lord declared to be correct and which He admonished Latter-day Saints to support.(25) Under the constitutional system intended and established by the Framers, there is no possibility of a federal welfare state without first changing the Constitution.(26)

      In this connection, it may be well to recall a talk given by Elder Marion G. Romney, an apostle, a lawyer, and a former Democratic office holder. The talk was entitled "Socialism and the United Order Compared," and was given first to the Brigham Young University student body and repeated at the April 1966 General Conference Priesthood Meeting.

      In his talk, Elder Romney pointed out the utter incompatibility of socialism and the United Order. He mentioned that the United States had already gone a long way in adopting socialism, and reminded Latter-day Saints that they must not forget their "duty to eschew socialism and support the just and holy principles of the Constitution as directed by the Lord."(27) [p. 101]

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