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Does America have terrible problems, or just bad leadership?

Despite the protests of failed leaders and the faithful who support them regardless of poor results, intelligent government makes a dramatic difference.

Daniel Hannan is one of the world’s most erudite and brilliant statesman. He represents southwest England in the European Union’s Parliament, and is the author of the intriguing new book, “Inventing Freedom.”

To illustrate the exceptional difference a government based on the personal freedom of its citizens as opposed to one based on a central authority more powerful than the rights of individuals, Hannan compares the diametrically different fortunes of North and South America:

“…Latin America in general…never achieved the law-based civil society that North America takes for granted. Settled at around the same time, the two great landmasses of the New World serve almost as a controlled experiment. The North was settled by …[those] who took with them a belief in property rights, personal liberty, and representative government. The South was settled by…[those] who replicated the vast estates and quasi-feudal society of their home provinces. Despite being the poorer continent in natural resources, North America became the most desirable living space on the planet, attracting…people with the promise of freedom. South America, by contrast, remained closer to the state of nature…”

Hannan credits the North’s success to its devotion to the rule of law, personal freedom, and representative government.

Since 2009, an increasingly powerful U.S. presidency has essentially ignored constitutional restrictions enshrined in American law since its founding. White House comments such as “We can’t wait”, and “I have a pen and a phone and I know how to use them,” (essentially to bypass the legislative process) enshrine the Administration’s attitude towards Constitutional procedures. Personal freedom has been limited in the pursuit of an agenda that ranks its “progressive” goals as more important.

The prerogatives of representative government, represented by Congress, have been treated with disdain by Executive Branch officials who fail to prosecute voter fraud, use the machinery of the IRS to harass political opponents, gloss over deadly foreign policy failures, ignore repeated scandals by federal officials, and respond contemptuously at legislative branch hearings.

As a result, the United States faces an extraordinary range of highly serious problems that threaten the very foundation of the nation, including an economy that fails to produce adequate employment, crushing public debt and annual deficits, national security challenges more lethal than those endured during the Cold War, and a growing distrust between the federal government and the populace it purports to serve.

Are these mere products of the times, the inevitable outgrowth of forces beyond the control of elected officials, or are they the result of misguided policy decisions by those currently controlling Washington?

A similar question arose in New York City during the latter half of the 20th Century. Progressive politicians controlled America’s most prosperous city, implemented their ideology-based policies, and presided over an era when pundits called the Big Apple the “Ungovernable City,” culminating in the hard-core leftist tenure of David Dinkins in the early 1990s.

Following the debacle, voters elected Rudolph Giuliani, who was the antithesis of his predecessors.

Quite rapidly, NYC’s reputation metamorphosed from the “Ungovernable City” to the “Capital of the World.” Crime dropped dramatically, the economy boomed, and civic pride was restored.

A return to a government in Washington more focused on the resolution of real problems, using traditional Constitutional means, rather than the top-down implementation of a “progressive” agenda could produce a similar recovery nationwide.