- - Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Imagine a situation in which there is an earthquake that destroys a suspension bridge over a deep canyon.

A passenger train is speeding toward the location, and those in charge realize that there is a potential problem ahead, but choose instead to argue over the ambient temperature in the passenger cars, the food service and whether they will reach their final destination on time. A few people are quite disturbed when they learn of the tragedy about to unfold if the train isn’t halted, but they are labeled as “alarmists” who really are not sophisticated enough to understand the situation.

Obviously, I am referring to our nation and the impending disaster that awaits us if we continue on a course of ever-expanding government control of our lives, fiscal irresponsibility, unwise energy policies and a laissez-faire attitude regarding our world leadership responsibilities.

Conservatives and other thinking individuals must recognize that we are in dire straits. They must adopt a sense of urgency in order to prevent irreparable damage to the concept of a nation where people are free to pursue their dreams without interference — as long as they are not harming others.

They should not be arguing among themselves over petty differences and refusing to support individuals who largely agree with them about the direction of the country, but perhaps have some disagreements about issues that can easily be resolved after the disaster has been averted.

It is troubling to see members of the Tea Party being attacked by establishment conservatives, and vice versa. If they get angry when their candidate loses in a primary race and refuse to support the winner, they are playing right into the hands of the progressives, from whom they could learn much.

Currently, there are two major visions for America. Liberals envision an overarching central government that controls all the resources and ensures “equitable” redistribution in a way that prevents anyone from suffering hardship, regardless of their lifestyle and life choices.

The conservative vision emphasizes personal responsibility and a governmental role confined by the U.S. Constitution. This is the vision that was embraced by our Founders.

The liberal vision, however, seems to be rapidly gaining momentum, even though many of its proponents would argue either that the government really is not trying to take control, or that authority is a necessary function in its role of determining qualifications for licenses, setting standards and determining such things as age requirements for public school attendance.

These big-government proponents also argue that Obamacare is no more intrusive on our freedoms than other forms of government regulation. This indicates a lack of understanding of the liberal nature of governmental control, which eventually results in authoritarian oversight of virtually every aspect of our lives. By encircling businesses, educational institutions and health care enterprises with massive regulatory shackles, the government will eventually be able to shut down virtually any entity that refuses to cooperate with its mandates.

For example, recently, the last lead-smelting plant in the United States was shut down by the Environmental Protection Agency for violating some of those regulatory shackles. That certainly could be seen as a victory for some who are interested in decreasing the amount of ammunition available to gun owners.

Putting the Internal Revenue Service in charge of enforcement of components of Obamacare establishes a situation where the most feared government agency is empowered to wreak havoc on the lives of citizens who express dissent. It is quite astonishing that many are unable to fathom this danger and thus dismiss it — much like those in charge of the passenger train speeding toward danger.

Liberals have just as many disagreements among themselves as conservatives. Still, in order to accomplish their goals, they have learned to put aside their differences and create large, loyal voting blocs. Sometimes, they make empty promises, but by repeating them often, people actually believe that they are benefiting when, in fact, the opposite may be occurring.

Liberals appear to be quite comfortable with a health care bill that was passed with obvious deceit emanating from the highest levels of government. Very much like the radical Islamists who believe any means is acceptable to accomplish their goals, many in the liberal movement are willing to relegate to the sidelines the Judeo-Christian values that so rapidly elevated our country.

Conservatives shouldn’t emulate this deception, but they ought to learn to present a united front to harness the power and energy necessary to reverse the downward spiral of the greatest nation in the history of the world.

We must look at the big picture and concentrate our efforts on establishing responsible national fiscal policies, fair taxation, responsible energy and environmental policies, and empowerment through education. Many social issues can be dealt with in time, as can entitlement reform. To worry about these issues before addressing the failing economy is a mistake.

The dismal state of the current economy, as indicated by the falling labor-force participation rate, is quite conducive to the further development of big-government programs. By the same token, the correct policies that will result in an explosion of the economy will make entitlement reform much easier.

If we focus on the big picture, everyone will win.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and author of the forthcoming “One Nation” (Sentinel, May 20).