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?
A 2011 Gallup poll showed that whereas 39 percent of whites say they are "very religious," 53 percent of blacks do. (comments)
Does anybody believe that if we were designing a national retirement program from scratch we would come up with what we now have? (comments)
Liberals use any crisis for their ongoing agenda to expand government control over our lives. (comments)
The current Republican lieutenant governor of Virginia, Bill Bolling, immediately criticized his party for nominating Jackson, saying it will feed the "image of extremism" in the party. (comments)
Planned Parenthood, which rakes in hundreds of millions in the abortion business, actively discourages women from going to crisis pregnancy centers. (comments)
The irony does not drip but pours forth like a tsunami when liberals start talking about morality and ethics. (comments)
Black Americans are bearing the brunt of the cost of a nation that has lost its moral rudder as a result of wantonly legal and available abortion. (comments)
As our reverence for life has diminished, so has our reverence for the institutions that surround and support it. (comments)
National pro-life leaders were demonstrating outside Kermit Gosnell's abortion center as early as February 2011. (comments)
Carson, through diligence and traditional values, achieved on his own what trillions of dollars of government programs were supposed to deliver. (comments)
Employment set-asides designated for unskilled foreign workers, with wage levels determined by the government, are nothing but a stick in the eye to competing low-wage workers in the American market. (comments)
The purge of religion and traditional values from our public schools has produced a new generation of with values different from those of their parents and grandparents. (comments)
If we are going to save our cities, we need to get back to what built them in the first place: Freedom, enterprise and entrepreneurship. (comments)
I saw a once-barren land -- a land once described by Mark Twain as "a desolate country ... a silent and mournful expanse" -- now fruitful and ripe. (comments)
No gun-sale background check could have prevented the Sandy Hook tragedy. (comments)
Medicaid is a pure welfare program. (comments)
Gun control initiatives mask the issues that really need attention. (comments)
At the National Prayer Breakfast, Ben Carson reminds us that religious ritual devoid of content is pointless and destructive. (comments)
No matter how hard you squint and try to discern the values of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass in those now wielding the money and power at the top of the party, they've disappeared. (comments)
Why are the president and Feinstein so ready to compromise basic American freedoms with gun control measures to solve a problem that Obama acknowledges we don't understand? (comments)