The Founders’ welfare system had three basic principles:
1. It should only be for those who truly need it.
The Founders believed government had an obligation to the governed to provide a safety net, but only for those individuals incapable of providing for themselves, like widows, orphans, the elderly, and the mentally and physically handicapped. If you were capable of working, and refused, government owed you nothing.
2. It should be the bare minimum.
The Founders believed that government should provide the basic necessities of life for those who were incapable of providing for themselves, but it would only be the bare minimum. This meant that you would have food to eat and a place to sleep free of charge, but nothing much beyond that. In other words, welfare was not meant to be comfortable.
3. It should be done at the state and local level, NEVER the national.
The Founders believed that the form of government closest to the individual could best take care of the individual if necessary. This meant all welfare would come from the local and state authorities. The national government was too remote and too general to ever be suited to providing welfare. As a result, poor houses, orphanages, and insane asylums were built by local authorities, at public expense. Churches and neighborhoods also gave some relief.
Today, we have completely abandoned the Founders’ system.