If something’s not worth fighting over, will people fight?

On Friday night, Mitch Pearlstein and Kim Crockett made a joint appearance on TPT’s program, Almanac, in recognition of the merger between the Center of the American Experiment and the Minnesota Free Market Institute.

I was disappointed the conversation didn’t turn to some of the ongoing challenges facing the state (public pensions, a state budget that is on an auto-pilot path towards more red ink, an achievement gap in public schools that rivals any seen elsewhere in the nation). But the discussion, which focused on the tone of political discourse (with the theme of “civility”) did bring up a very important point.

When Crockett was asked to speculate about the reasons for the increasingly acrimonious tone of political talk, she said (I’m paraphrasing here) that the growth of state government was one important reason.

Indeed. Federal and state government (and depending on where you live, local government as well) have gotten to the point that they touch on so many areas of life that the realm of what is “political” has grown as well.

It’s easy to think of areas of life that are now subject to some sort of law, regulation, or threat of the same: Social Security has socialized retirement planning for a good portion of our population. The health care industry is shaped through and through by federal and state laws, and will become more so under ObamaCare. Nine out of ten children attend government-run schools under a scheme by which any other option is unaffordable to millions of parents–so naturally we squabble over the curriculum.┬áTelling an off-color joke can get you into legal trouble. People are told, by law, what sorts of light bulbs they may buy.

When politicians, egged on by bureaucrats and private-sector busybodies and interest groups, seek to regulate more and more of our personal lives, is it any wonder that the debate gets heated? In Minnesota, “Vikings or Packers?” is enough to start a contentious debate, to say nothing of the more far-reaching activity that politics gets involved in. It’s a good thing that state and local government has no involvement in sports. Right?