'Let's try common sense," President Obama said in the State of the Union address, provoking a spontaneous burst of laughter in the House of Representatives chamber. The unintended humor exposes an important truth about Washington: Everyone knows that won't happen.
More troubling, however, was that the president's speech revealed why common sense is nonexistent. Mr. Obama wants new laws to tell us how to do things better—when the need is to overhaul old laws to restore freedom of choice and individual responsibility. Up and down the chain of authority, the accumulation of law and entitlements precludes sensible decisions.
Americans know what's wrong: Government has taken on a life of its own, dragging our country down to some horrible pit of quicksand where, increasingly, no one can make sensible choices.
Washington is broken. So are most state governments. The reason is the same. Government is out of control, schools are out of control, health-care costs are out of control, lawsuits are out of control—because law has supplanted the responsibility of people needed to keep them in control.
Fixing modern government, Peter Drucker once observed, requires returning to first principles. What's missing in government is the activating principle of all human accomplishment—individual responsibility.