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A United America??

There’s a lot of talk about “uniting America.” Such talk is especially common during presidential election years, with each candidate accusing the other of “dividing America rather than uniting America.”

This talk, as with almost all political speechifying, is empty. It sounds good; it sounds noble. In fact, it’s no more than hot and dreamy air.

Americans can be united. But for a society of any substantial size – especially one as dynamic and heterogeneous as ours – the level at which this unity is possible is only very high. We can be united only on our principles.

We can be united in a love of peace and hatred of war; we can be united in a love of freedom and hatred of tyranny; we can be united in a respect for individuals and individual differences and a hatred of groupthink and enforced conformity; we can be united in a respect for the rule of law and a hatred of arbitrary use of power.

But with government now in the business of taxing the alleged rich for the alleged benefit of the alleged poor – of using subsidies and tariffs to force some citizens to pay excessively high prices for goods and services produced by other citizens – of supplying formal education in an ever-more centralized and bureaucratized fashion – of deciding which health-care products Americans are legally allowed to use – in short, with government firmly in the business of forcing some people to pay for favors politically supplied to other people, as well as in the business of playing nanny to hundreds of millions of adults, any hope of being united in a genuine way is lost.