Jumping the Shark

August 10, 2009

In September of 1977, ABC aired a three-part episode of the TV sit-com Happy Days in which Henry Winkler's bad-boy biker character Fonzie jumps a caged shark in a daredevil water skiing stunt. Producers hoped that this ridiculous plot line would freshen up the show and keep it at the top of the ratings. Happy Days did manage survive and even succeed until it was cancelled in 1984, but most critics and even some cast and crew of the show itself point to this episode as the point where the show "lost something." Since that time, whenever a TV show's plot veers off into unbelievable story lines or weird characterizations the show is said to have "jumped the shark." The phrase is used in pop culture to denote the time when anything passes its prime and begins to decline. It seems that in many ways our own nation has jumped the shark.

A nation once committed to the destruction of tyrannies, elects tyrants, wannabe little King Georges sans the robe and crown. Since they believe what they are doing is best and we are just too stupid to know it, I like to say Obama, Pelosi and Reed are nanny tyrants. You have to look no further than the government-run health care debacle and the cap-and-trade disaster as evidence of their desires. They, along with their minions in Congress, are in the process of forcing these programs upon us no matter our thoughts on the subject.

Our founders envisioned a central government that had strong powers but a very limited scope. The scope of its powers centered mainly in the area of foreign policy; that is, how the Union of States dealt with other world powers, and how the States dealt with each other. The central government would not govern the individual citizen. Other than electing a President and Representatives, the individual citizen would have no need to deal with the central government. What governing of the citizens was necessary would be the responsibility of the States' governments.

Now look around you. The central government has a finger in almost all aspects of the individual citizen's lives. The central government collects individual income taxes, regulates business and agriculture, the car you drive, the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the air you breathe, and how your children will be educated, just to name a few. I am not saying that some regulation in these areas is not necessary but no one can explain to me why the individual states could not do this just as well if not better than the central government.

I say better because with the central government you get "one size fits all" regulation. However, people from different states have different needs, desires and values. The decentralized arrangement our founders envisioned maximizes individual liberty in that if one is not happy with the way citizens are governed in one state, he is free to move to another state more to his liking.

Some say that since these nanny tyrants were elected they can therefore do what they want. This is not true. The United States is not a direct democracy; it is a representative republic with a Constitution that must be adhered to (at least in theory). We simply select our leaders democratically. No politician, or group of politicians, can make wholesale changes to the structure and limitations of the federal government no matter how many people voted for them.

My father enlisted in the US Navy on December 8, 1941. He spent four years of his life in the Pacific fighting the Japanese. He did that because he wanted his children to grow up and live in a free nation where they could enjoy personal liberty tempered by personal responsibility. Yes, he was a hero but he is not alone. As I write this, we have brave men and women in harm's way fighting because of a similar motivation. They are also fighting for our freedom and liberty. Therefore, we must do everything we can to beat back the forces of an out of control, power mad central government. We must try to jump back over the shark.

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Copyright ©2009 Humphrey Stevenson

Humphrey Stevenson has BS degrees in Chemistry and Mathematics and an MBA and makes his home in Tulsa, OK. He is a chemist by trade, has been published in trade journals, and is a recent "tea party" participant and political writer. His inspiration, as with many conservatives, is Ronald Reagan.