Thomas Sowell

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.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate