The Wall Street Journal calls the economic implosion now taking place in Europe "a crisis of the welfare state."
The latest European nation to hit the wall is Italy, where national debt is 120 percent of GDP. That is, for every dollar their national economy produces, they owe $1.20.
The Journal calls this a crisis of the welfare state because the Italian national debt is well in excess of the ability of Italians to pay its obligations and is the direct result of excessive government spending.
When the Republican presidential candidates were asked in the most recent debate if the United States should help bail out these bankrupt European nations, the consensus response was "no."
This, I believe, is the correct answer for two reasons.
First, the way to deal with irresponsible behavior is not to find new ways to finance it but to demand responsible behavior.
Second, we are on the same path here and we need to wake up.
Over the last five years, our national debt as a percentage of our GDP has doubled to 70 percent, where it stands today.
Projections show that, continuing on the path that we're currently on, in a little over 10 years, our national debt as a percentage of our total economic output will be exactly where Italy is today.
We've simply got to change and the big question is if we're up to the task.
This is really the central issue of our time and what will define the 2012 presidential election.
We've got one view of the world in which government takes on a life of its own and takes responsibility for the care and feeding of the nation's citizens. This is the European view, shared by our current president and Democratic leaders.
The alternative view is that freedom and responsibility begins with individuals. Free and autonomous citizens direct their own lives, create wealth and employment, and finance government to provide protection, domestically and internationally.
The machinations going on now with the so-called congressional super committee are essentially a coming attraction -- a sneak preview of next year's election.
These 12 members of Congress are charged with coming up with a plan for $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by Nov. 23. If they don't, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts will be triggered, divided between defense and domestic spending.
Let's recall that this is the result of Republicans earlier this year refusing to automatically sign off on an increase in the authorized debt ceiling for the nation.
Runaway spending and debt does not seem to faze Democrats. It is Republicans -- specifically the Tea Party Republicans in the House -- who drew a line in the sand and why we're being forced to deal with this issue.
Now, not surprisingly, the super committee is at an impasse. Democrats want to raise taxes. Republicans want to cut spending.
The nation as a whole is becoming increasingly and more deeply divided, with Democrats moving further to the left and Republicans moving further to the right.
Some would have us believe that compromise is what has always defined our political process. But compromise works only between parties that are essentially on the same page to begin with.
When what we're dealing with are fundamentally, irreconcilably different views of the world, resolution is what is needed, not compromise.
This is a time for decision and definition. Not a time for splitting the baby.
Are we going to continue in the direction of materialism and bureaucracy and share the fate of Europe?
Or will we make the tough decisions to get back on the path of prosperity, the path of faith and individual freedom?