“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Let’s break it down.
1. We the People are in charge, not the government. We tell government what it may and may not do. We also lay out the design of our government.
2. form a more perfect Union: This is about aiming for a decent level of cooperation among the states that make up the Union.
3. establish Justice: This refers to setting up a court system so that citizens may settle their disputes without recourse to violence.
4. insure domestic Tranquility: Avoid armed conflict within the U.S. This has worked out pretty well, aside from that unpleasantness in the 1860′s.
5. provide for the common defence: Defend the U.S. against foreign threats.
6 .promote the general Welfare: Notice it says “promote”, not “provide”. Also, it addresses the “general Welfare”. Public sanitation measures and Interstate Highways almost certainly fall into this category. Taking money from Peter to give to Paul probably does not. And remember, this Constitution pertains to the Federal Government. The States, depending on the strictures of their own Constitutions, can do many things that the Federal Government is not authorized to do.
7. secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity: (my favorite part of the Preamble) By referring to the “Blessings of Liberty”, the Founders are addressing an idea that is metaphysical and transcendent; a goal that is far above and beyond the mere machinery and power of government.