Government Shutdown

Keep Government Closed

Government shutdowns are opportunities to reveal how unnecessary much of government is.


The government is open again. That's too bad.

One day, one of these shutdowns should be permanent. We would still have far more government than the Founding Fathers envisioned.

That's because even during so-called shutdowns, a third of federal employees—nearly a million people—remain on the job, declared "essential" government workers. Military pay continues, too, although political commentators, eager to make a shutdown sound scarier, repeatedly claimed that military families were being cut off.

Here's a list of functions that kept going during the "shutdown":

  • Law enforcement.
  • Border Patrol.
  • The TSA.
  • Air traffic controllers.
  • The CDC.
  • Amtrak.
  • Power grid maintenance.
  • Social Security checks.
  • Medicare checks.
  • Medicaid.
  • Food stamps.
  • Veterans hospitals.
  • The U.S. Post Office.
  • U.S. Treasury debt auctions.
  • Federal courts.
  • The EPA.

Do we need more government than that? Do we even need that much?

If you love the FDA, the Agriculture Department or government websites, you might be frustrated, but the private sector (Underwriters Laboratories? Consumer Reports?) would do drug testing faster; much of what the Agriculture Department does is harmful; and private websites update information faster than government websites.

And don't forget there are still 50 state governments, plus thousands of local governments. We're buried in governments.

Fortunately, since most of life goes on in the private, voluntary sector, Americans didn't show much sign of freaking out last weekend, despite the hysteria spewed by politicians and the press.

Monday's New York Times front page carried the headline "Shutdown Crisis Deepens." Crisis? What crisis? Most Americans didn't even notice.

The federal government was shut down for 16 days under Barack Obama, 26 days under Bill Clinton, three days under George H.W. Bush. Almost no one remembers.

We don't need government to live.

Because the 1995 shutdown was blamed on Republicans, the press searched for people who were killed or injured by lack of government. They couldn't find any.

The best they did was finding a few people who were inconvenienced or annoyed. TV news crews reported on people who needed passports on short notice but couldn't get them because passport offices, though still open, were slow.

This is not a crisis. The next shutdown, which may come in three weeks, won't be a crisis either.

The real solution to most of our problems is to let the private sector do more. Instead of reopening government programs, use a shutdown as a time to privatize them.

Sell some monuments to private groups so we don't need federal workers to maintain them.

This shutdown, national parks stayed open. Good. During an Obama administration shutdown, politicians were so eager to convey "crisis" that they put barricades in front of parks. Absurd. It cost more to block access than allow it.

Instead of politicians blaming the shutdown on the "other party," this is an opportunity—a chance to ask how much government we really want.

I'll bet at least half those "essential" government workers are no such thing—let the market sort out whether they're useful.

Privatize airports so they run more efficiently and compete to see how much security screening the public really wants, instead of leaving us in the hands of the TSA.

Privatize Amtrak and the post office, too. Let private companies build and maintain toll roads.

Even though America is $20 trillion in debt, people still expect our government to be all things to all people.

In the private sector, companies shed workers and unpopular products all the time. It lets them reinvent themselves and stay useful to customers.

In slow times, AT&T cut 40,000 workers. Sears cut 50,000. IBM cut 60,000. That was tough in the short term for those laid-off workers, but most eventually found more productive work. The layoffs made the companies more efficient—and sustainable. Consumers liked their products and prices more than when the company was bloated and inefficient.

Government shutting down—partially—is not a disaster.

The real disaster is paying $4 trillion a year to keep it running and getting such poor service in return.


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  1. Well shoot. All the commenters must be elseware.

    1. OR…

      We’ve all been here… the whole time… sitting quietly… and just… watching you.

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  2. I doubt that the CDC or the EPA are essential.

    1. FDA, entire Dept. of Ed, entire Dept. of the Interior, The Raisin Board, Amtrak, NRC…fuck, don’t get me started!

      1. Don’t be such a Debbie Downer. We got rid of the mohair subsidy!

        1. Love mohair. Twenty years (220,000 miles) in a Cadillac interior and very little wear on the driver’s seat. The rest of the interior was cherry. Worth a few orphans.

          1. !0% of the cost of the car, but worth every penny.

      2. forgot, can we include the NYT, they seem to be quasi governmental, at least when the D’s are in power?

      3. You can’t kill the Raisin Board, man. Think of the children!

    2. I like the CDC. They still have a few virulent diseases that can be weaponized,

  3. This shutdown, national parks stayed open. Good. During an Obama administration shutdown, politicians were so eager to convey “crisis” that they put barricades in front of parks. Absurd. It cost more to block access than allow it.

    Reason #173 that Caramel Nixon is really quite a p.o.s.

    1. Was this considered a scandal?

      1. Haven’t you heard? There were absolutely NO scandals in the Lightbringer’s administration.

      2. Couldn’t be. And to suggest otherwise is “racist.”

  4. I could add two things that could also go away: the TSA and the EPA.
    Privatize the TSA functions, castrate the EPA.

    1. Depends on what you mean by “privatize.” If it means contracting it out, then that is just a intermediate step to true privatization, which would be to abolish the TSA and let the airlines worry about their own security.

      1. I think castration is the way to go in all cases, actual physical castration, none of this chemical shit either…off with their dicks…guillotines set up on the mall!

  5. I constantly hear that shutting down the government costs more in the long run. Usually by someone hyperventilating over it, so didn’t know if that was true. it is hard to imagine that to be true.. but these are corrupt and inefficient bureaucrats, i guess.

    Anyone know for sure?

    1. I would be shocked if shut downs saved a nickel. All those furloughed employees get paid when they come back.

      1. The reason government employees don’t like shutdowns isn’t because they don’t get paid. It’s because they know eventually we’ll realize they aren’t needed.

        1. Right you are. In the National Parks, for instance, they already have facility operators (like Zanterra) that run the concessions. They could farm the whole operation out and let the operators make a profit. Oh … the humanity!

          I went x-country skiing in Yellowstone National Park during this shutdown. No problem this time, whereas during the Obama administration, they barricaded the parking turnouts and had signs prohibiting any use. They definitely spent more money closing the park than keeping it open would have cost.

      2. I’d be surprised if they aren’t paid interest on the late paychecks.

    2. The bureaucrats and politicians would parade the dead bodies around, so you can be assured that zero people die because of a government shutdown.

  6. My reaction to the shutdown was Swansonesque.

  7. Look for our #1 crying bitch fake libertarian Michael Hihn to show up around 3 in the morning to call Stossel a goober.

    1. You might as well put up the bat signal if you’re going to mention him by name.

    2. But DD, don’t you realize that government shutdowns thwart consent of the governed? The majority wants the government to do all these things, so the government MUST do these things, otherwise it’s violating the majority’s right to get whatever they want. Natural rights? NAP? What are those? The only aggression I’m aware of is nasty words on the internet.

  8. If something is so important it has to stay open, it’s stupid to put it in the hands of government which is controlled by the whims of voters.

    If something isn’t important enough to stay open, why does the government need to be involved?

    1. Great, now they’re going to nationalize 7-11.

      1. Now THAT is truly a fine and humorous comment. Thanks for your wonderful levity.

    2. “If something isn’t important enough to stay open, why does the government need to be involved?”

      Right. They say they only laid off “nonessential” employees, which makes sense. The question is, if they’re non-essential, why would they bring them back?

  9. “The real disaster is paying $4 trillion a year to keep it running and getting such poor service in return.”


    1. More money is needed for training.

      1. further research is required

  10. The reason that the general public does not take Libertarians seriously is because the latter either talk in terms of extremely high abstractions (“freedom,” “markets,” etc.), or in terms of acutely specific, short-sighted perspectives (“dump the EPA!,” “defund public education,” etc.).

    One would have hoped that Mr. Stossel would be more intelligent to realize that no conclusions could possibly be drawn about the merits and consequences of missing government services after a mere three days, especially since virtually all of the benefits are retroactively applied once government funding is re-approved. People make entirely different decisions about their dependencies if they know that problems with resources will be short-lived and they won’t have to suffer for the delays once the resources have been re-established.

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