At the start of our national conversation, the genius of Jefferson was to understand that government, on becoming a dispenser of favors, would constantly seek out new favors with which to win friends and oblige voters. Hamilton, with the highest of motives, centered on prosperity and national strength and pushed specific policies (e.g., a national bank) that would encourage commerce. A century later, statesmen decided it was time to do things for labor, too. Then it got to be time for bulking up the middle class with retirement protection and cheap mortgages. That brings us up to 2011 with the debt wars about which we read daily: sometimes in stupefaction, generally with annoyance. Can't these people get anything straight?
The current prescription for straightening things out -- a la Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor -- seems to many of us exactly what's needed to control the debt and put the work force back to work: stabilized or lower taxes, reform of Medicare, or strenuous work to reduce a current deficit of $14 trillion before it drags us down. Maybe something like this will happen after 2012, because the current head-butting in Washington virtually assures short-run perpetuation of the splits and divisions that got us where we are.
One thing we can count on: Unless miraculously we get on the small government track that Mr. Jefferson pointed out to our forebears, the demands of running Monster Government in behalf of an ever-larger population, with larger self-perceived needs than ever before, will overwhelm our heirs and descendants, whether conservative or liberal. Back we'll be eventually to where we are now: fighting over the spoils. The Stephanie Perone formula for coping doesn't sound so bad actually: a glass of wine to go with the angst.