The 2024 election is the MOST important in American history, they say. Even a year out from the election, no doubt you have already heard the phrase countless times. Liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, have been saying it ad nauseum for months. You will hear it many more times before the election comes around.
You undoubtedly heard the same thing about the 2020 election. And the 2016 election before that. Assuming the nation hobbles along for another four years, you will hear it about the 2028 election, too. And the next one after that will be the same hysteria all over again, if America is still standing. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Surely, they cannot all be the most important election in history, right? As a matter of fact, it is true: By almost every objective measure, each election becomes more important than the last one. The reason for that is simple: Every year, the government gets bigger and more powerful. And every year, the government spends more money than it spent the previous year.
That ongoing growth in the size and scope of government means that with each passing year, there is ever more money and power at stake when it comes to who wins the election. More money and spoils will be doled out to members of the winning coalition and their cronies. And growing government power will increasingly be wielded against the losing side. As such, the next election becomes more important than the previous one as the stakes get higher and higher.
Today, the federal government spends well over $6 trillion annually. When combined with the trillions in additional spending by state and local governments, almost half of all the wealth produced by Americans each year is being sucked up and doled out by the government. Put another way, that means working Americans are spending about half of their time toiling away for the government, often more in high-tax states.
Consider how rapidly this spending has exploded, too. In 1900, the federal government spent around 2.5 percent of GDP. Today, it is more than ten times that amount, with the feds spending about $20,000 per man, woman, and child in the United States. Those numbers are continuing to balloon as the national debt and unfunded liabilities are now measured in the hundreds of trillions. State and local governments have been spending more and more money, too.
Clearly, this trend is unsustainable. If present trends continue, government will bankrupt the nation and consume virtually everything produced by the American people in the not-too-distant future. In light of this, each election is increasingly becoming an existential threat to a huge segment of the American population.
And so, the division, polarization, and hate that characterizes this mad rush to control the power and money of “government” will continue to increase — at least until civil war, collapse, or both become inevitable. Think of government like a loaded gun to be wielded by whatever coalition can garner the most support, typically by promising to take stuff from you and give it to others. It’s a road to ruin. But it does not have to end that way.
The fastest way to reverse the acrimony and restore a sense of national harmony and unity is to drastically shrink the size and scope of the federal government. Think about it: If the federal government were small and limited to its constitutional duties, with power returned to the states and the people where it belongs, Americans can remain united at the national level, while policy disagreements and discussions over what big-government programs to fund can be settled at the state and local levels.
By showing other states what benefits freedom brings, freer states such as Florida will inspire other states to follow. Those states that refuse to keep spending and taxes in check will end up losing labor, companies, and capital. And all of it can happen peacefully, without the hate and division that are so prevalent today.
The Swiss, a nation and people who inspired America’s Founding Fathers, understood well the benefits of a small and weak central government to preserve unity. The components of what eventually became Switzerland were very different: Some cantons were Catholic; others rejected the Vatican and became Protestant. And yet, by keeping most power at the state (canton) and local level, the Swiss were able to unite into a single, unified nation that could defend itself against powerful external enemies.
This unity behind an exceptionally weak central government continues to serve the Swiss well to this day. Government ministers and even the president regularly travel the country by train with no bodyguards, mingling with regular people. Federal lawmakers meet for a few weeks per year, and then go back to their real jobs. Because of this, the Swiss have largely avoided the horrific division and polarization that increasingly plague the United States.
In fact, according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data, over 90 percent of Swiss are satisfied with their government and its efficiency — the highest level of any OECD member nation by far. Incidentally, Switzerland is also one of the richest and most peaceful nations in the world, even as the government gives almost every 18-year-old male a fully automatic machine gun to keep at home.
Inspired by the Swiss, the Founding Fathers understood these principles well when they framed the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution. Among other key lines, the Declaration said the right to the “pursuit of happiness” was given by God and that this fact was a self-evident truth. Who knows better than you how to pursue your own happiness? And if you know best how to pursue your own happiness, does it not follow that others know best how to pursue their own happiness? Of course it does.
When creating the Constitution, the framers decided to leave all but a few specific powers to the states or to the people. The list of authorities delegated by the states and the people to the federal government is mostly listed in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. It includes a post office, a Navy, declaring and fighting wars, protecting intellectual property, regulating imports, and a few other tasks.
Everything else — ranging from police powers and healthcare to education and crime — were reserved to the states and the people. That meant that very different states could be part of the union but still maintain their religious traditions, culture, values, and differences without any problem. It also meant that the most contentious political debates would be undertaken at the state level, while the national government focused on a few mostly external issues.
Freedom was critical to uniting the colonies. And it will be critical in uniting Americans once more if the nation is going to survive.
Modern political leaders have understood that liberty and limited government are unifying factors, too. “Freedom brings people together,” explained then-Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) during his 2012 presidential campaign, which was extraordinarily successful despite media and establishment hostility. “I think it’s magnificent that the crowds that have come out over the weeks and months have been very diverse, because that is the way it should be.”
Some people want their freedom to practice their religion one way, explained Dr. Paul. Others would prefer to practice their own religion in some other way. Some may not want to practice religion at all, he said. And yet, all three of those can unite behind religious liberty. “Freedom, if you understand it, we should all fight for freedom, because then you can exercise your freedom in the way you want,” argued Dr. Paul as the crowd cheered.
The same is true with economic freedom, continued the liberty-minded congressman, who ran on a platform of obeying the U.S. Constitution and drastically reining in the size and scope of the federal government. “It should bring people together,” he said of economic liberty. Allowing everyone to pursue their own economic agenda — either by selling their labor, starting a company, investing, and so on — should be common sense.
While typically politicians call for “compromise” and “giving up some of your beliefs,” with freedom, that is not necessary, explained Dr. Paul, an advocate of strictly limited government, sound money, and a non-interventionist foreign policy. United under the banner of freedom, Paul said, a broad coalition of those who want freedom for different reasons could rally together, even if they do not agree with each other on issues.
It is certainly true that there is today a sizeable faction that will not easily give up the ability to extract wealth from fellow Americans using government. “Free” stuff can be addictive. But if and when it became clear to everyone that the government would no longer be a tool to plunder one’s neighbors, people would soon go back to doing what people have always done in a free-market system: Serving each other and trading through voluntary exchange. Bitterness and division would promptly fade away.
Of course, there are other major considerations in today’s America. For instance, it will be impossible to restore national unity as long as government schools continue indoctrinating children with lies to hate their neighbors and their country. But even here, putting the federal beast back in its constitutional cage where it belongs — and thereby getting it out of education altogether — would go a long way toward reining in the hateful and divisive brainwashing being forced on American youth.
Read more of this article at GEORGE magazine.