Paul Jacob

When my kids complain that things aren’t “fair,” it usually concerns who gets the bigger slice of pie. I tell them what my parents told me: “Life isn’t fair.”

But I also tell them that it’s my pie, so it would be perfectly fair for me to keep it all — and for them to get none. I’m being nice to give them pie, not fair.

I think I’m teaching them a valuable lesson about what’s theirs and what isn’t, not to mention encouraging them not to sweat the small stuff, and to have a positive attitude in order to rise above any real or perceived slight.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m for fairness. Fairness is good. I try to teach that, too.

Equality before the law, for example, is more than merely good — it’s vital. We all have an equal stake in our community. No one deserves better treatment from the police or the assessor or the inspector than someone else. We’re all part of the government (like it or not), we’re all “in it” together. So policies should be fair, equal. That is, equally applied — and of such substance that we’d want the laws equally applied.

That’s the idea. The good ol’ republican, good ol’ democratic idea.

But too often, today’s standards are not the same for all. Too often our leaders express opinions about fair and equal that are, well, let’s just say “at odds.”

Years ago, when Ronald Reagan went to the Soviet Union, he used the fact that there are many parties allowed to form in the United States — not just two, and not just one, as in the Soviet system — to make the case for freedom. Freedom to associate, freedom to petition government, and the practical ability to do so, these are all-important aspects of a free society.

Ronald Reagan believed that. Nearly every American knows the justice of the argument.

So, why do there remain onerous hurdles placed in the way of third party and independent candidates to gain spots on the ballot? And why do Republicans and Democrats face hardly any requirements at all?

The questions almost answer themselves.

It’s that way because major-party incumbents want it that way. And the courts have not been strong enough in protecting a pluralistic political system (as recognized in the Constitution.)

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.