As the year started anew, I feared that not much had changed. Unemployment remains high, federal spending even higher, and politicians continue to squabble over thousand-page bills that seem to drive down the economy almost as fast as their own approval ratings. There is no shortage of issues and topics that get my blood boiling and frustrate me to no end. But as I sit here, I find myself strangely reluctant to write.

There’s a fresh new calendar hanging on the fridge, yet, here I am, sitting at my keyboard, staring at the same old issues burning up the news. And despite hearing glorious cries for civility and teamwork from our elected officials, I see the same old business as usual in Washington--fear-mongering and scare tactics are standard operating procedure and spin doctors and statistical magicians run the show.

For a country that supposedly voted for “hope” and “change” in 2008, it seems like we’ve yet to take delivery on that promise. No one has “drained the swamp” and now more than ever I am beginning to question if this is truly a government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. I even question whether or not it’s worth my time and effort to continue to complain.

Our government is working about as well as a ten-year-old computer. Bogged down with spam, viruses, errors, useless files and corrupted data, we barely have enough working memory to play solitaire. Somewhere along the line, we took the machine we bought to handle e-mail, do our homework and maybe even file our taxes, and packed it so full of games, photos and questionable software that it can no longer handle a single download without teetering on the brink of the "blue screen of death".

We’ve clicked “Accept” on so many options, seduced by new apps, that we opened up whole new worlds of waste in pop-up ads, phishing scams, and malware. As our attention wanes from the need of a word processor to the want of a platform for our entertainment, the system gets overloaded and soon fails to do anything effectively.

When things get bad enough, sometimes the only option is to dump everything and start over with just the operating disk.

Our Constitution is that disk. And the Federalist Papers are perhaps the closest thing to a user's manual that we, as a nation, have. And there is a reason that it doesn’t spend any time talking about bailout programs, Social Security, housing prices or bridges to nowhere.

I believe that the time has come to quit trying to pack another “Farmville” onto our already overloaded hard drive. Before spending all that time defragmenting the drive, maybe we should first ask if this is even the right system to play World of Warcraft on. And maybe before we complain that the YouTube videos won’t play very fast, we should think about whether or not we still need that Esperanto language tutorial.

Americans are furious that their taxes are too high; that their health care is too expensive; that their borders aren’t safe; that their homes are being repossessed and jobs are leaving the country, but we really only need to go back to the beginning to find out why. We purchased a system that was only built to handle the basics. Through the generations, we’ve tried to add on all the newest programs and well-intentioned applications. But we became so obsessed with what we wanted to get out of the system that we began to disregard the limits of what the system could provide. We failed to purge the programs that were no longer of use. We ignored the processes that were wasting limited resources. And we became eerily complacent with slower speeds and inefficient operations, all in a rush to install the next big thing.

Our expectations have become wantonly unrealistic. It’s a simple fact--the government cannot give to one person what it first doesn’t get from another. Be it goods or services, the only thing the government can do is be the middle-man, regardless of whether they are securing freedom or building a bridge, that government subsidy had to come out of somebody else’s pocket. It’s time we stop looking to our government for things we’d have a hard time asking for from our neighbors.

The people of this nation do have needs: freedom and security. After that, there’s a long list of wants and desires, any of which can be accommodated, but none of which should be treated as a right.

If we establish our priorities and justify our course of action through a passionate dependence on the democratic process, we can do great things. But every action comes with consequences, and every program comes at a cost. And we cannot play too many games, on a platform built for work.

Read More on Perspective
Volume 7, Issue 3, Posted 4:07 PM, 02.08.2011