There is a quote often attributed to former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank: "Government is simply the name we give to the things we choose to do together."
When Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick quoted Rep. Frank at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, I just rolled my eyes. First, we often don't get to choose what government does. And second, that overlooks the hundreds of ways we do things together other than through government.
The never-ending battle for control of the government is a function of law insidiously creeping like a choke vine into every aspect of our lives. You want a wedding cake? Gotta have a law for that. How about the way your toilet flushes? We have laws for that, too. Light bulbs? Laws.
Those of us who believe firmly in Thomas Jefferson's and Ronald Reagan's words about small government see this as further proof they were correct.
But it isn't just government making life insufferable lately; it is the politicization of everything in the post-2016 presidential election era and the difficulty of finding any place to tune it out.
Before the Super Bowl this past Sunday, millions of people were holding their collective breath — not in anticipation of the exciting gridiron battle but because they dreaded a Meryl Streep-esque halftime lecture or anti-Trump tirade from the featured performer.
This year's star was Lady Gaga. Lo and behold, she gave a powerhouse performance, with nary a condescending word. Most viewers were relieved by the respite and awed by Gaga's voice and acrobatics.
Of course, you can't please everyone. Mikael Wood from the LA Times complained that Lady Gaga "missed her Super Bowl moment to say something profound."
Please, God, can't we just watch the football game?
Apparently not. In the eyes of some, their candidate lost the election, and now it's their sacred duty to subject the rest of us to harangues about their displeasure in every possible forum: Sporting events must have political messages. Commercials must have political messages. Entertainers must use their visibility to spout political messages.
Not only has government not been the primary way we've chosen to do things together, it has not traditionally compelled public or private behavior. There were familial values, cultural norms, general courtesy, etiquette and propriety and Judeo-Christian morality.
But these have lost much of their influence, and in their place we now have a schizophrenic secular morality that points to no authority but itself, demands adherence without question and seeks to use the power of government as an enforcer.
I am not persuaded that this is an improvement.
It's true many laws in American society are motivated by a desire to improve things. But the demands for groupthink and the obsessive need to wrap the law into the minutiae of daily life betray the uglier human impulse for domination and control.
In individual relationships, that impulse is stifling. As a societal practice, it quickly gives rise to authoritarianism and to the furious, pitiless mobs of people who swarm and attack anyone who disagrees with them — and who consider themselves justified in doing so.
A free, democratic and pluralistic society must leave room for people to disagree and to express their opinions without fear of violence or obscene name-calling.
A society grounded in liberty should have wide swaths of life in which government and politics play very little role at all. Mandating uniformity of thought and insisting that every human activity have a political objective is not an exemplar of "things we choose to do together."