America is at a crossroads.

All one has to do is turn on the news, read a paper or even look to the street corners of Kingston Pike to see the polarization of America today.

One can be easily overwhelmed at the sheer myriad of issues that are the hot topics of debate in America today: Bottom-Up or Trickle-Down Tax Policies, how to tackle the looming Fiscal Cliff, and what role does the government need to play in social issues like gay marriage and employee's rights.

The issues above boil down to one question: what role should the government play?

It can be argued that the issue of the role of the government in the society was personified in the 2012 presidential election as the central domestic issue of the next presidency. Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, spent his career making about $200 million in private equity, and is taking up the mantle of the smaller government advocate. Romney espoused he believed the government should play a lesser role in both the economy and American life.

President Obama, on the other hand, who spent his career in community work and academia, ran contrary to Romney. He envisions the federal government playing a larger role in the economy, by stimulating demand when the business cycle slumps and helping impoverished Americans with tax payer funded aid. Politically, President Obama is clearly seeking to emulate President Franklin D. Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln, both champions of activist policies; whereas Romney is clearly striving to model his policies after the examples of President Ronald Reagan or Calvin Coolidge.

Economically, Romney hopes to implement policies advocated by the late Milton Freidman, and President Obama implementing those of Paul Krugman.

The former points underline this fact: this past election season, the American people chose between two very different futures. Good. It is high time we faced these issues. We must face these issues that are polarizing the country.

The ramifications of past choices by different administrations are coming, and coming quickly. As these policies come to fruition, America is having to face its own schizophrenia of public policy: we want to tax ourselves like a country with a small government, yet we want the entitlements only a big government can provide. These two approaches to government, as personified by the two candidates, cannot coexist.

Eventually these decisions will further fall on our generation. And it is our generation that will reap the fruits of these policies.

Just look at the way the Affordable Care Act has divided us. Rabid supporters of repealing the law face off on Congressional floors against closed-minded proponents who fail to even entertain the notion that the unintended consequences of the law further compound the problems of an inherently messy insurance market.

Both sides are guilty of being blinded by dogma.

The foresight of our forefather's is uncanny. The checks and balances built into our political system marginalize the threat of one political movement overpowering another. Essentially, it prevents a tyranny of the majority.

Today, we have one group of Americans who have had legislation they fundamentally disagree with shotgunned through Congress without their support. On the other side of the coin, the controlling party believes that reelection gives them the mandate to pass whatever legislation they see fit.

Compromise is the ordained solution to our problems.

Our elected officials in Washington must begin to reach across the aisle and stop this gridlock where everyone in our nation suffers for their partisanship. This is the only way to defuse the venomous polarization that grips our country.

We as voters must uphold our obligation as well. We are charged with understanding these issues, their history and their ramifications. We cannot afford to be low-information voters any longer.

The challenges and choices facing our country are gargantuan, and it is our duty to see through the smoke-screens of political rhetoric to support the statesmen with true solutions to our problems – it's not just us who will be worse off, but future generations.

Ronald Reagan's words ring true for us: "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We'll preserve this for our children this, the last best hope of earth, or we will sentence them to take the last steps into a thousand years of darkness."

Adam Prosise is a senior in economics. He can be reached aprosise@utk.edu.