As much as some people like to complain about our imperial city, Washington, D.C., I tend to find it, like the European capitals it is designed to emulate, much like the American ethos. It is at once aspiring to what is perhaps an unattainable, maybe even mythological, desire to live an egalitarian utopia; and, it envies the grandeur and power of monarchs represented by rows of imposing stone buildings and the grand palais of the ruling classes.
The city itself is beautifully designed as a tourist attraction and a symbol of dominion. Work there can be challenging but the outsized salaries, luxurious benefits and abundant prestige more than offset the inconvenience of long commutes and extortionate cost of living. D.C.’s suburban communities in Maryland led to that state being named the wealthiest in America. But the mix of money and power, like chum in the water, tends to attract a certain kind of fish.
Overhearing a conversation about government spending in a D.C. restaurant between me and a longtime but politically opposite friend, another diner determined to participate in our polite exchange. The interloper, apparently charged by a disagreement with his much younger female companion and likely one whiskey too many, ultimately expressed his frustration by saying, “You business people are all alike – you all think that government should be run like a business.”
“No,” I replied, “government should be run like we run our families.” Isn’t it possible to be fiscally responsible without lacking compassion? Isn’t it possible to match our desire to give with our ability to do so? Isn’t it as harmful to spoil as to starve? Can’t we share power with our spouse, find and even seek compromise knowing that ours is a shared course and that we are better served for traveling together?