Free Minds & Free Markets

The Lessons of the Government Shutdown

Private citizens often step in to do what government officials say only the government can do.

This government shutdown is now longer than any in history. The media keep using the word "crisis."

"Shutdown sows chaos, confusion and anxiety!" says The Washington Post. "Pain spreads widely."

The New York Times headlined, it's all "just too much!"

But wait. Looking around America, I see people going about their business—families eating in restaurants, employees going to work, children playing in playgrounds, etc. I have to ask: Where's the crisis?

Pundits talk as if government is the most important part of America, but it isn't.

We need some government, limited government. But most of life, the best of life, goes on without government, many of the best parts in spite of government.

Of course, the shutdown is a big deal to the 800,000 people who aren't being paid. But they will get paid. Government workers always do—after shutdowns.

Columnist Paul Krugman calls this shutdown, "Trump's big libertarian experiment." But it's not libertarian. Government's excessive rules are still in effect, and eventually government workers will be paid for not working. That makes this a most un-libertarian experiment.

But there are lessons to be learned.

During a shutdown when Barack Obama was president, government officials were so eager to make a point by inconveniencing people that they even stopped visitors from entering public parks.

Trump's administration isn't doing that, so PBS found a new crisis: "Trash cans spilling... (P)ark services can't clean up the mess until Congress and the president reach a spending deal," reported NewsHour.

But volunteers appeared to pick up some of the trash.

Given a chance, private citizens often step in to do things government says only government can do.

The Washington Post ran a front-page headline about farmers "reeling... because they aren't receiving government support checks."

But why do farmers even get "support checks"?

One justification is "saving family farms." But the money goes to big farms.

Government doesn't need to "guarantee the food supply," another justification for subsidies. Most fruit and vegetable farmers get no subsidies, yet there are no shortages of peaches, plums, green beans, etc.

Subsidies are a scam created by politicians who get money from wheat, cotton, corn, and soybean agribusinesses. Those farmers should suck it up and live without subsidies, too.

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    The IRS is recalling 46,000 workers to handle tax returns

    Anyone who doesn't show for work is FIRED, which will be a lot of people.

    Its a great way to trim the fat.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Angered over employees having to work without pay, the union representing IRS staff sued in federal court last week to challenge any such agency action on constitutional grounds. The Constitution doesn't allow the government to obligate funds that haven't been provided by Congress, and the executive branch "can't continue to force more and more employees to show up in exchange only for an IOU," the National Treasury Employees Union said.

    There you go folks, the IRS Union considers your over payment of taxes to be "income" for the US Govt and therefore needs Congress' approval to get your interest free loan back.

    The fucking nerve.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    the executive branch "can't continue to force more and more employees to show up in exchange only for an IOU," the National Treasury Employees Union said.

    Why not? That's how Social Security works.

  • loveconstitution1789||


  • A Lady of Reason||

    Ridiculous they act as if Trump's shutdown is somehow unlike others throughout US history! Its clear they whine simply because Trump did it! What about Obama's shutdown???

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Ridiculous they act as if Trump's shutdown is somehow unlike others throughout US history!

    Strangely enough, it's because it is unlike any other. It's the first to go on long enough for employees to not get a paycheck.

    I know, BFD. But it is different, dummy.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Why would most of the federal workers need a paycheck? Most have not worked in over two weeks.

    Federal workers that worked since the shutdown need backpay for the time that they worked. The federal workers that didnt work should get no pay since their last day of work.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Because people working a job are effected when furloughed. Even if we think they should seek other work, it's not great mystery why people are upset at not having a job anymore.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    It's not like shutdowns are a new thing. According to Wikipedia...

    "Since 1976, when the current budget and appropriations process was enacted, there have been 22 gaps in budget funding, 10 of which led to federal employees being furloughed."

    So- 10 furloughs in 40+ years = an average of 1 furlough every 4+ years.

    What do you call someone who takes a job with the risk that they will be furloughed, who gets upset when they are furloughed?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Not much sympathy from me for federal workers.

    They chose this line of work.When you live by the sword, you die by the sword.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    I have read it is the first shutdown over appropriations, not the national debt limit, and thus a *selective* shutdown, as *selected* by Congress and Trump.

    And I also have read that Congress hasn't passed any spending bills and so Trump hasn't vetoed any of them. Not even the Democratic controlled House has passed any spending bills.

    It's funny how Trump wants the credit, takes the credit, the Democrats give him the credit .... and yet he hasn't done much except dare the Democrats to pass a spending bill he can veto.

  • Architect of Liberty||

    Yes -- the Democratic-controlled House has indeed passed spending bills. Essentially, those bills were DOA when they were filed in the Senate; so, Congress has yet to present POTUS a spending bill that fully funds Government operations.

    I laugh every time I hear the talking heads spout "It's Trump's shutdown!!!" when in fact Congress has yet to send him a bill to sign.

    More popcorn, please!

  • JesseAz||

    The Senate also passed a spending bill. House could always vote on that one.

  • A Lady of Spam||

    Amen to that sister, TOTALLY agree... Finally someone has the cajones to say what I'm sure WE ALL were thinking....
    What's with this $park¥ guy, he won't leave us women on this site alone.... I think he has a crush! Sorry $parkman, this items off the menu, REAL women only date REAL MEN.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    "What about Obama's shutdown???"

    No such thing. All shutdowns are the fault of the Republicans.


  • JesseAz||

    Cardi b has something to say about Obama's shutdown.

  • Longtobefree||

    First obvious lesson; put the Coast Guard back under the military.
    Then eliminate TSA street theatre, and the rest of 'homeland security', and use 40% of the savings to hire competent terrorism analysts.
    Move student loans to the treasury department, stop all new loans, and eliminate the department of education.
    Rinse and repeat.

  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    The Coast Guard is already and always has been military -- ranks, courts martial, salutin' and sirrin' -- all that military stuff has always applied.

    It has been under the DoD only during WW II, possibly WW I if it existed as the Coast Guard then. It is now under the DHS, but previously was under Treasury, I believe.

  • ||

    Created by Congress on 4 August 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States.[Note 2] As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton headed the Revenue Marine, whose original purpose was collecting customs duties in the nation's seaports. By the 1860s, the service was known as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the term Revenue Marine gradually fell into disuse.[9]

    The modern Coast Guard was formed by a merger of the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service on 28 January 1915, under the U.S. Department of the Treasury. As one of the country's five armed services, the Coast Guard has been involved in every U.S. war from 1790 to the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan.

  • ||

    That comment is all a quotation from the Wikipedia article the link goes to.

    Before it became part of DHS the Coast Guard and its antecedent the Revenue Cutter Service were part of the Treasury Department and its original mission was preventing smuggling.

    The United States Life-Saving Service was a United States government agency that grew out of private and local humanitarian efforts to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers. It began in 1848 and ultimately merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the United States Coast Guard in 1915.
  • a ab abc abcd abcde abcdef ahf||

    That last point needs (re-)clarification. In WW II, the Coast Guard was moved out of Treasury; there was no Department of Defense then, just the Departments of Navy and War, so I am not sure where it went; my guess is Navy.

    But it has always been a military service, at least since it became the Coast Guard in 1915.

  • ||

    Navy would be correct. Coast guardsman were prominent as operators of landing craft but also served in anti submarine and other coastal patrol operations.

  • tlapp||

    Glad the mention of all those troops in Europe and Japan. Can't they defend themselves this many years after WWII. National defense for the US defense.

  • Nardz||

    If federal employees are furloughed for a period of 30 days or more... they can be let go and their positions eliminated.

    I hope the Ds hold out for one more week at least

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I hope this is true. Because this will make Trump extra awesome!

  • Reardon||

    Yes, people work around government while its shutdown. But the shutdown also shows how entangled it is in our lives. That is another reason to shrink it so even if it does shutdown again, it will have less impact. Eg: Soc Sec payments are automated but the Customer Service can be contracted out. Also, TSA can be private.

  • jcw||

    I'm curious to see what happens when judiciary staff and federal public defenders no longer get paid in February. I guess the judiciary can be made private "the moon is a harsh mistress" style and the defendant's sixth amendment right can be amended. I guess it will help and make people less litigious, so that's good!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The government is neither shut, nor down.

  • wreckinball||

    Good article by a guy who seems to the last libertarian at Reason.

  • Architect of Liberty||

    Stossel is not a libertarian; he is a classical liberal -- still a good article, though.

  • jerbigge||

    All true regarding the shut down. Many of these services may not be all that necessary and private enterprise most likely can do the same job for less cost to us taxpayers.


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