The political parties throw a lot of glitz at us with their made-for-TV spectaculars, which we call conventions.
But the bottom line defining the choice facing Americans this year is stark and clear, and these conventions provide no new insights or information.
If you think we're struggling because we don't have enough government, then the Democrats are the party for you. If you think the point of government is to protect individual freedom, and the problem is it has gone way beyond that, then Republicans are the party for you.
No visual dominates the landscape of our nation's capital like the Washington Monument. Today, however, other than memorializing our first president, it also provides a message about the role and efficacy of government.
Last year on Aug. 23, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit Washington, D.C. The earthquake caused cracks in the monument, which stands at a height of almost two football fields, so the National Park Service shut it down.
Now, one year later, the monument remains in disrepair, closed to the 600,000 annual visitors it usually receives.
The Washington Post reported in January that the monument would be closed until sometime in 2013. According to that report, the contract to do the repairs would "probably not be awarded until late summer, with work starting sometime after that."
Now the latest report in The Washington Post indicates that repair of the monument may not be complete until sometime in 2014.
In January 1994, Los Angeles was hit with a massive 6.7-magnitude earthquake, knocking down two sections of the Santa Monica Freeway.
An initial estimate from the California Department of Transportation was that it would take 12 to 18 months for repairs.
Considering the massive potential costs to the local economy of shutting down sections of the world's busiest freeway, Caltrans officials decided to turn loose the time-tested formula for American success: market incentives and individual ingenuity.
They opened bidding to contractors who would accelerate the repair process, offering incentive bonuses for early completion.
The result: The repairs were completed in less than three months, with the contractor collecting a $14.5 million bonus for finishing 74 days ahead of schedule.
A rule of life is that we can always expect the unexpected.
Natural disasters deliver this truth in graphic and shocking ways. But the unexpected is with us constantly, natural disasters or not.
It's why an enduring society must be a free society. Only when free can individuals deal with life's endless surprises in creative and resilient ways.
Bureaucracy and government control are guarantees for failure.
Now, sadly, we watch those on Louisiana's Gulf Coast bear the brunt again of a brutal hurricane.
Think of the despair that followed Katrina. There was no shortage of opinions that New Orleans was done forever, that it could never recover.
But, human resilience, will, creativity and freedom have revived this city.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in the New Orleans region is below the national average.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on the surge of entrepreneurial activity that has occurred there. Tax incentives have given birth to a growing, nationally competitive film industry, with music and software design following suit.
A failed public school system has been revitalized, with 80 percent of the schools now charter schools.
Shouldn't it tell us something that Apple, the icon for innovation, once on the brink of failure, is now the most valuable company in history?
And that all the major areas where we are having problems are areas controlled or dominated by government?
Americans don't need to watch fancily produced political conventions to know that one question faces us this year: Do we want to be free?
Secularists relate to government, not as a protector, but as a tool of aggression to force others to accept and live with values they reject. (comments)
A leader in a diverse country is to keep things going in generally the right direction -- compromise is always part of the game. (comments)
The idea of the Olympics as a platform for promoting peace and goodwill among nations is particularly weak today. (comments)
Militant left wing blacks like Jesse Williams only care when tragedy serves their message of victimhood and oppression. (comments)
The culture wars that Thiel calls "fake" were not fake to Reagan. (comments)
Today the NAACP is part of the status quo and, despite its rhetoric, now fights to protect special interests. (comments)
When we don't take law seriously at the highest levels of power in the nation, the message reverberates throughout the land. (comments)
Without taking action, Social Security benefits will be substantially cut in just 13 years. (comments)
It is a total perversion of the purpose of society. (comments)
Why can't the Black Caucus stand up uniformly for free enterprise? (comments)
We will not be victorious over terrorism with might alone. (comments)
After new regulation, as much of 80 percent of the loan volume could be curtailed. (comments)
Why should our education system be shielded from capitalism, the competitive forces that produce excellence? (comments)
The civil rights movement became unmoored from the religious and moral values that drove it to begin with. (comments)
Many with great political power in Washington, who control so much of our money, cannot distinguish between a fact and an opinion. (comments)
Republicans have not stood ground and provided a real conservative alternative to the party of the left. (comments)
As the politics of the welfare state and moral relativism have increasingly taken control of the country, they have disproportionately hit our minority communities. (comments)
The constitution does not exist to use government power to force the set of values of one private citizen on other. (comments)
If the forces of anger and fear prevail, we will pay a dear price. (comments)