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Jewish World ReviewNov. 2, 2000 / 3 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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The stakes

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- LONG ELECTION-YEAR campaigns can make you weary and disgusted with politics. But, at the end of it all, is an election in which the stakes are as high as the fate of this country and the future of our children.

The way both political parties are vying with each other to give away goodies to buy votes is a painful contrast to what John F. Kennedy said at his inauguration: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

This country has done more for us than we can possibly do in return. And yet many are calculating whether they personally would get more from Bush's plan for this or Gore's plan for that. What about the infinitely greater question of what kind of country you are going to be passing on to your children and grandchildren? Don't you owe that much consideration to those who passed this country on to you?

First and foremost, are we going to be a country tearing itself apart by pitting group against group with preferences and quotas, the demagoguery of victimhood and the political promotion of paranoia among the elderly, women, blacks and others? Al Gore's election depends on such tactics. And, if he is elected, he will have to keep such polarizing hype going, in order to get his agenda through Congress and get himself re-elected.

The differences between Al Gore and George W. Bush are not in the details of their particular policy proposals, much as media pundits and policy wonks may focus on such things. The candidates' real differences are in their over-all vision of the role of government power -- and these are the differences that will determine what kind of world we and our children live in.

Those who believe in the expanding power of government -- under whatever pretty names they call it-- have already succeeded in confiscating half the wealth produced annually by the American people and using it to finance projects favored by politicians.

Taxing money at someone's death that was already taxed when the person was alive does not bother liberals like Al Gore. Politically, the people being taxed can simply be called "the rich," as if right and wrong changes according to how many zeroes are in someone's income or wealth.

The issue of the role of government affects many aspects of our lives and of the country's future. Will the erosion of our rights as parents, homeowners or ordinary citizens continue, as bureaucrats, judges and politicians increasingly micro-manage our lives? Already the federal government prescribes everything from what kinds of showers and toilets we can use in our own homes to whether we can be hired on the basis of our qualifications to do a job or whether someone else must be hired instead to fill a quota.

The right to raise our own children with our own values is increasingly undermined by the propaganda in the public schools and by the growing powers of education bureaucrats, shrinks and social workers. They can tell you that your child has to be drugged with Ritalin because he is bored and restless in school -- and you can even be charged with child neglect if you don't go along.

This is the ugly reality behind the pretty words of Hillary Clinton about how "it takes a village to raise a child" -- whether or not the parents want their child raised by a village or its politicians and bureaucrats. There are already "home visitation" programs that get strangers into your home under a variety of pretexts, in order to try to impose the values in which these visitors have been indoctrinated. The next step is not having to use pretexts, but to send them in whether you want them or not.

"I cannot say enough in support of home visits," Hillary Clinton declared. Nor should these visits always be "consensual," she added.

Even at the local level, big-government advocates have made it an ordeal for many people to try to remodel their own homes, without inspectors getting underfoot and telling them what they can and cannot do -- with their own property. And G-d help you if they find an endangered species on your land -- which will never really be your land again, because the government will call the shots, while you pay the price.

You can't follow every detail of every policy proposal or track down every lie told in a political campaign. But you don't need to eat a whole egg to know that it is rotten. However, you do have to stop and think. Is that something you are willing to do for your country before entering the voting booth?

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, A Personal Odyssey.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate