I’m afraid that a nation I love is making a big mistake.

The nation is the United States, arguably the most successful nation in history in bringing opportunity and prosperity to average people — but, sadly, a nation with many political, social and religious leaders who seem to have forgotten the lessons of history.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said Albert Einstein, by all accounts a really bright guy. We need to listen.

The United States currently has a gaggle of politicians who are determined to vastly increase the power of the central government, redistribute wealth among people, impose incredible tax burdens, nationalize private services such as health care … basically turn the United States into a socialist state. In a sense, this would create a society in which the government determines what is right and wrong rather than behave in conformance with natural law.

This has been done before, at other times, in other countries, and the results always have been really bad. So we must be insane to be taking this path.
In fact, we have some very obvious opportunities in recent history to compare the success of free democratic societies vs. societies closely controlled by a central government.

For example, following World War II, Germany was divided. West Germany went the democratic route and enjoyed great economic growth and prosperity — helped in large part initially by relief efforts from the United States. East Germany went the totalitarian route and people starved, froze and tried to leave.
Leaving became so popular in East Germany that the government built a wall to keep people in. They still found ways to escape. And I don’t recall any instances of people “escaping” from the West to the East.

After the Korean War, South Korea embraced a democratic, free enterprise system that made it an amazing economic growth engine, bringing a higher standard of living to its people. In North Korea, a totalitarian dictator ruled a powerful centralized government that brought its people fear, hunger and poverty.

There are many more in Eastern Europe where we can easily compare the prosperity of nations before and after the fall of the Soviet Union. Free enterprise and opportunity bring prosperity. government control — even when well-intentioned — brings disappointment. And the disappointment isn’t just material, it is spiritual.

In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI says: “Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. All this is essential if hearts of stone are to be transformed into hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), rendering life on earth divine and thus more worthy of humanity.”

His encyclical, which even a regular guy like me can understand (pretty much), is worth reading.

Total faith in government has never brought happiness to the governed, which is why the U.S. Constitution is mostly about putting limits on government. Our nation’s founders weren’t scared of the people — they were scared of Big Government because they had experienced it failings.

As Pope Paul VI wrote in Populorum Progressio, “The whole Church, in all her being and acting when she proclaims, when she celebrates, when she performs works of charity is engaged in promoting integral human development … authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension.”

I don’t think you’ll get that from a government.

Jim Fair writes from Chicago.