In physics, a unified field theory is an attempt to explain with a single hypothesis the behavior of several fields. Its political corollary is the Cupcake Postulate, which explains everything, from Missouri to Iraq, concerning Americans' comprehensive withdrawal of confidence from government at all levels and all areas of activity.
Washington's response to the menace of school bake sales illustrates progressivism's ratchet: The federal government subsidizes school lunches, so it must control the lunches' contents, which validates regulation of what it calls "competitive foods," such as vending machine snacks. Hence the need to close the bake sale loophole, through which sugary cupcakes might sneak: Foods sold at fundraising bake sales must, with some exceptions, conform to federal standards.
What has this to do with police, from Ferguson, Mo., to your hometown toting marksman rifles, fighting knives, grenade launchers, and other combat gear? By printing and borrowing money, government avoids thinking about its proper scope and actual competence. So it smears mine-resistant armored vehicles and other military marvels across 435 congressional districts because it can.
And instead of making immigration policy serve the nation's values and workforce needs, government, egged on by conservatives, aspires to emulate East Germany along the Rio Grande, spending scores of billions to militarize a border already bristling with hardware.
Contempt for government cannot be hermetically sealed; it seeps into everything. Which is why cupcake regulations have foreign policy consequences. Americans, inundated with evidence that government is becoming dumber and more presumptuous, think it cannot be trusted to decipher foreign problems and apply force intelligently.
The collapse of confidence in government is not primarily because many conspicuous leaders are conspicuously dimwitted, although when Joe Biden refers to "the nation of Africa," or Harry Reid disparages the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision as rendered by "five white men" (who included Clarence Thomas), Americans understand that their increasingly ludicrous government lacks adult supervision.
What they might not understand is that government is so bereft of restraint and so disoriented by delusions of grandeur that it gives fighting knives to police and grief to purveyors of noncompliant cupcakes.
George F. Will is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Email: email@example.com.