The current American political landscape would appear to have us divided into red and blue states, but I would argue that this is a "convenient delusion" as liberals and conservatives actually have one really big thing in common - they both want to run our lives.
The evidence suggests that Democrat or Republican credentials make little or no difference the morning after the election. Once in power, both instantly succumb to Washington's magic spell (and they would like to take the rest of us down the rabbit hole with them) that believes that more government is the answer to all of life's problems. The only difference that seems to survive the rapture of Washington's wonderland is the definition of what constitutes a problem.
Conservatives want the state to monitor your morality because you are obviously too big a fool to avoid damnation by falling prey to the evils of unpoliced cable TV, Frankenstein stem cells and, God forbid, the Sodom and Gomorrah of gay marriage.
Liberals, on the other hand, look back on the 20th century and conclude that the success of the Soviet Union was proof of the economic superiority of socialism. Their plan is to raise your taxes because the $2.3 trillion we are currently sending to Washington isn't quite enough, and besides, they are better at spending your money than you are anyway. After all, they are smarter than you and should be trusted to know what school your kids should go to, the kind of health care you need, how to manage your retirement and for that matter take care of any other pesky personal issues you might like them to handle.
I also find it interesting that conservatives want to send our troops to places where our vital interests are threatened while liberals want to send them places we have none.
Does this scenario remind you of "The Wizard of Oz"? The Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow and Dorothy all went off to see the Wizard in search of courage, a heart, a brain and a one-way ticket to Kansas. As it turned out, the Wizard was as powerless to solve their problems as Washington is to solve ours (much less win wars on terror, drugs and poverty), and the reason is pretty clear. The Wizard's parting gift of wisdom to the travelers applies to us, as well. The solutions to our problems already reside within us. Wizards can bestow medals, clocks and diplomas, but these don't create courage, hearts or brains, or make dreams come true. Only we have the power to choose that which can make them real.
In the end, it makes no difference what color state you live in once you realize that Ronald Reagan was right: "Government is not the solution, government is the problem."
In the upcoming election, one side will tell you the government will raise the dead, while the other will want government to legislate enough virtue to ensure that you expire in a state of grace. Here's a thought: How about we all click our heels three times and vote for a government that wants to get out of our lives - or at least one that produces gridlock.
Rich Shields of Scottsdale teaches economics at the Keller Graduate School of Management.