An old joke about the Irish goes like this. The Irish once tried to convert to right-side driving, but it didn’t work. They wanted to ease into it, so they drove on the right every Thursday, but only for trucks.
A lot can be said for staying in your lane.
Jonah Goldberg made this point vividly clear last Friday in his normally meandering (but particularly covfefe) “news”letter.
Still, even as a generalist, there are some topics that aren’t a natural fit for me. I rarely write about sports. I can’t remember the last time I weighed-in on relations between Peru and Singapore or why I might spare One Direction’s lives if I were czar. I don’t review video games, miniature-horse rodeos, or Canadian pornography. But I will confess that, if I wanted to, I could. And, if someone out there wants to pay me to share my musings I will be happy to discuss terms.
Money is fungible—it is mutually interchangeable for any purpose in any viable denomination. If you want to pay someone to wash your car, or fix your roof, or to sit on your porch and do nothing, nobody will stop you.
Yet not all activities, goods, services, or purposes for which money can be exchanged are fungible. Life works best when people stay in their lanes.
Government and society in America was purposely, thoughtfully, and creatively constructed with lanes. We have three co-equal but separate branches of government. We have a free press. We have a basic law preventing government from intruding into religion or spiritual questions.
We have a right, as individuals, to assemble, present our grievances to government, and to vote for representation in that government.
In America, we even have rights that, if they were legal in driving, would result in chaos, injury or death. We have the right to get out of our lanes.
Our government is badly out of its lanes. We have given the judiciary power to drive against traffic in the executive and legislative lanes. We have given the executive power to bulldoze practically every lane, and we have created traffic jams in the legislative lanes to the point of complete stoppage.
Worse, we’ve given government power over our personal lanes, and allowed personal lanes to intrude into proper governance.
When late-night comedians and talk show hosts influence political opinion more than professional news organizations, they are out of their lane. When news organizations—the First Amendment-protected press—take partisan positions at the expense of truth, they are out of their lane. When politicians play for pay with lobbyists as a rule, to keep themselves elected, they are way out of their lane.
When the President of the United States slams the mayor of a foreign capital for his reaction to an attack on his own city, he’s out of his lane. When a former president acted to try to influence a foreign election because he personally hated its prime minister, he was way out of his lane.
When illegal aliens stand up in the Texas legislature and proudly admit they are here and not leaving, and legislators nearly come to physical blows to protect them from being potentially deported, they are out of their lane. When American servicemen are murdered on U.S. soil (on Army bases and in recruiting centers) by men shouting “God is great!” in Arabic, and the sitting president wouldn’t acknowledge the attackers’ motivation, we’re out of our lanes.
When Americans have to take sides over Russia’s proven and documented efforts to improperly influence our elections using propaganda, lies, and cyber-warfare, we are out of our lanes.
When “nuclear family” has become a forbidden phrase, and “gender roles” are a matter of making statements against biological facts, our society has totally abandoned lanes.
This country was planned and can only be maintained if, in general, people stay in their lanes. The federal government should be small and unobtrusive. State governments should have the power to regulate activities of citizens, not because we derive our rights from the government, but because our rights are innate and must be protected.
Other countries should stay in their lanes and manage their own affairs. When there is conflict or war, we should use our power with purpose and determination.
It has never been America’s purpose to spread “Americanism” around the world, or to defend the whole world from others who wish to spread their own –isms. That’s not to say we are isolationists—we have real friends, allies and national interests to protect. But we should stay in our lane as a nation.
Countries ruled by dictators have no lanes—the dictator speaks and all other voices are equal in their irrelevance. Countries like the U.K. with all-powerful parliaments have fewer lanes than America. America has political, governmental, and social lanes which were created to allow a pluralistic, immigrant society to exist in relative harmony without destroying itself.
Lanes are the “how to” behind our national motto “e pluribus unum”—from many, one. But we’ve all moved out of our lanes, into everyone else’s, which is why we see so much chaos, violence, and hate today.
It’s possible for us to return to our lanes, little by little. We have to start with a return to a federal republican form of government (small “r”). If we remove the enormous power of the administrative state, restore the proper venue and jurisdictions of the federal courts, and re-empower states to govern their constituents, we will then see how much better things function.
When we, beginning with our government, return to our natural lanes, and recognize that not everything is fungible, we will be a happier and more prosperous nation. That was the way the founders designed it.