If you had told me during my youth that I would live to see the dissolution of the Soviet Empire and that it would all happen without war, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet it happened from 1989-1991.
Now, if you told me that I might also live to see the crumbling of America and that its decline would be self-inflicted, I would nod in solemn agreement.
You don’t have to be a political junkie to sense that things have gone all wrong. People choose whether or not to speak to each other based on their respective political beliefs. They chose restaurants, products and TV stations based not on any objective measure of quality or value, but on the perceived political bent of those who own the enterprises themselves. This is idiotic as well as destructive, and not just on the surface.
Earlier this month, we held a mid-term election that cost billions, settled nothing, and unsettled millions of American citizens. But why look for answers to this mess, when it is so much easier to merely point the finger of blame at others?
Let me try something downright dangerous these days: try to find an explanation for why things are such a mess and then suggest at least a partial corrective.
Why doesn’t the U.S. government work any more? Why has Washington, D.C. (drained or un-drained) become a swamp?
- IT’S TOO BIG. Efficiency tends to decrease as size increases. Self-evident if you once had one responsibility and now have ten, if your once-manageable life has spiraled out of control when you take on too many tasks. The Federal government is so big, it can no longer be effectively operated, much less overseen by those tasked with the responsibility to do so. It’s why laws that once were clear and understood now run 900 pages and become the responsibility of ever-growing bureaucracies that are unaccountable to the American people;
- THERE’S TOO MUCH POWER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. This is not to say that there aren’t legitimate areas where the Federal Government needs to assume control (more on this later), but nowadays there are precious few areas of our lives where the Federal Government does not presume a coercive or even controlling role for itself, constitutional or otherwise. Personal liberty is an endangered species. It reaches absurd heights. Yesterday, representative Joseph Kennedy III of Rhode Island called for the legalization of marijuana on the national level. To get the government out of our personal lives? Hardly. So that the federal government can more readily regulate its use, price, distribution, and, no doubt, taxing potential. Some day they will want to regulate the names we can give our children;
- THERE’S TOO MUCH MONEY INVOLVED. Used to be that politics was a realm of ideals, at least on rare occasion. Now it’s a cash grab. Next year, the Federal Government is budgeted for $4.4 trillion. And, of course, they will exceed that number by year’s end, print and/or borrow more money to make up the difference and make every one of our hard-earned dollars worth a little less that it was worth last year.
Both major parties are not so much competing visions of America as they are competing agglomerations of moneyed special interest coalitions, vying with one another over who gets to control all that money and exercise all that power.
What if we limited government to its truly legitimate role (the way it was designed to function by our nation’s Founders)? Here are four suggestions:
- The Federal Government has as its primary purpose to protect the sovereignty and assure the safety of the country. That means military strength and preparedness, and an immigration policy that serves the interests of the United States first, and the rest of the world only secondarily. It means secure borders. It means state and local governments that follow national laws.
- The Federal Government has a duty to protect the strength of our currency. No deficits that weaken the dollar and diminish its value for all workers. No amassing of debt today that steals from our children and grandchildren down the road. It means fewer mandates passed on from Washington that burden the states beyond their financial capacities. It means nobody is “too big to fail.” It means no corporate welfare. It means the government lives within its means, like the rest of us have to do.
- The Federal Government assures equality of opportunity, not equality of results. All Americans deserve a fair chance to pursue their goals on an even playing field. Educational opportunity for all. School choice for the inner city poor. Freedom of personal choice, generally speaking. But let the government shun the role of choosing winners and losers, or imposing racial, ethnic, gender quotas on the results of equal opportunity. Don’t punish effort. Don’t reign in ability. Don’t tarnish success.
- The Federal Government assures equality before the law. Justice is color-blind, and blind to gender, economic and social status. Connections don’t matter, only the law, equally and justly applied. If you want to erode the foundation of this nation, keep alive the growing sense that we have the best justice that money can buy. This especially applies to politicians, who are the ones seen as benefiting (along with their moneyed friends) from the system they have rigged, and from the laws they have enacted. The word oligarchy appears nowhere in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence.
I’m sure there are some who would dismiss all I have said as simplistic and idealistic. But simplification of an overly-complex system and a return to the ideals behind its founding is better, IMO, than continuing down our current path. We have to start somewhere, maybe by listening to one another, and to ideas that challenge the ones we currently have. Perhaps a new political party is the place to start. (More in my next installment on this theme.)