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Why we are a nation divided

With the presidential elections coming up this year, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to why we are so divided as a nation. I know division has always been endemic in our country – in any country, really – but lately it seems that things are getting worse.

Why is that, do you suppose?

In a previous column, I touched on an idea that may offer some insight. I believe we’re divided because each side wants the government to support its own agenda, rather than keeping the government within its constitutional limitations.

What I wrote was: “So when election-year promises come down to politicians informing us that ‘MY government solution is better than THEIR government solution,’ I’m not impressed. … If we got rid of unconstitutional government interference, most of our country’s problems would solve themselves through the often harsh corrections of the free market.

“The trouble is, by allowing free-market corrections, we’d have no one to blame but ourselves when things go wrong or fail. But when we accept Big Brother solutions, it means we can blame the other guy’s government. And that’s why this nation is so polarized – we no longer take personal blame and responsibility for our failures, and instead spend all our time blaming the other guy’s government ‘solution.'”

When we accept the blame for something we did wrong rather than trying to transfer the blame (and the consequences) onto someone else, most of us will try to correct matters. If we had a baby out of wedlock and were forced to live in poverty or live with our parents as a result, most of us wouldn’t have any more babies out of wedlock. If our business failed, we would try to figure out how to make it succeed next time, instead of asking for government support to artificially keep it afloat.

We are encouraging government to be cancerous and invasive, rather than streamlined and minimalist. Instead of letting people make their own mistakes, suffering the consequences and learning … we are using the government to “save” us and thus ruin us. Brought to its ultimate conclusion, this means – as far as the federal government is concerned – there would be no government rescue programs, no welfare and no entitlements … because those things were deliberately not in the Constitution.

Whether or not these are realistic or even admirable goals is not the point of this column. The point is, we want Washington to make other people do what WE want, rather than limiting the government to what it’s supposed to do.

There was an age where people disagreed just as strongly on various issues as we do today, but it would never have occurred to them to use the force of the federal government to pass their opinions into law. They might disagree with each other, but they didn’t expect the government to do anything about it. These citizens knew all too well the evils that would result if Washington were permitted to stick a toe outside its constitutional boundaries … namely, tyranny.

Now all that’s changed. Now we want the feds to pass endless legislation to support our own personal agendas, and to force the “other half” to conform (unwillingly) to whatever we say. And make no mistake, this attitude is visible just as strongly from the right as from the left.

So when I hear candidates debating various issues, they’re missing the biggest point of all: asking whether the issue is even the government’s business to address. And if any of those candidates were willing to be honest, they would closely examine the Constitution and Bill of Rights and conclude that no, the issue under debate should never have come into the realm of the feds to begin with. At most it should be a state issue, and probably not even that.

Our founders were so worried about this slide toward tyranny that they wrote the Bill of Rights – the original amendments – to reinforce the limitations already included in the Constitution. The main purpose of the 10th Amendment was to allow states to compete with each other. If one state passed too many onerous laws or raised taxes too high, people could vote with their feet and leave for another, less restrictive state.

But the federal government cleverly recognized that by ignoring the 10th Amendment and imposing its will on all states, people would not be able to vote with their feet – they were stuck no matter where they were. So Washington, year after year, decade after decade, president after president, has grown bigger and more intrusive. It’s gotten to the point where We the People have entirely forgotten the purpose of government and now expect it to regulate our lives so we no longer have to think for ourselves.

C’mon, folks, do you really think it’s Washington’s business if an Amish dairy chooses to sell raw milk to willing customers? Do you really think it’s Washington’s business if a preschooler brings a homemade lunch that doesn’t include chicken nuggets? Do you really think it’s Washington’s business to fund abortions or other reproductive products?

But the government does these things because We the People have abdicated our power and our interest in self-rule to give milk safety laws, lunch regulations and health care to the feds.

At this point in the election cycle, I really don’t give a rip who gets elected president. All the candidates are merely flip sides of the same coin. That’s because politicians, left and right, are busy promising the unconstitutional moon and stars to we-the-stupid-people, and we’re swallowing it. But hey, as long as we’re getting our “free” goodies, and as long as we’re making the “other half” do what we want, who cares?

Folks, this is wrong. This is not what America was meant to be. This is not what the Founding Fathers envisioned. If we continue down this road, we will become merely another slumping socialist mess on par with Europe. We will no longer be the shining beacon of freedom and liberty that brought millions of immigrants to our shores in search of a better life.

No strong presidential candidate has emerged to say what should be said: STOP. Stop violating the Constitution. Stop funding things the government shouldn’t fund. Stop corrupting the free market. Stop, stop, stop.