Free Minds & Free Markets

Stossel: Government Shutdown Shows Private Is Better

Shutdown teaches us that much of government is NOT essential.

The government shutdown is now longer than any in history. The media say it's a "crisis."

The Washington Post talks talks about the "shutdown's pain." The New York Times says it's "just too much."

John Stossel says: wait a second. Looking around America, everything seems pretty normal. Life goes on. Kids still play and learn, adults still work, stock prices have actually increased during the shutdown. It's hardly the end of the world.

But he adds that the government shutdown is still a problem. For some 400,000 furloughed workers, and another 400,000 working without pay for now, the shutdown hurts.

But while New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls it "Trump's big libertarian experiment," Stossel notes that the shutdown is not libertarian. Government's rules are still in effect, and soon workers will be paid for not working. Stossel calls that an un-libertarian experiment.

Libertarians want to permanently cut government, not shut down parts for a few weeks and then pay the workers anyway.

There are lessons to be learned from the shutdown.

Government stopped collecting trash and cleaning up public parks in DC, so volunteers stepped in to pick up trash. Without so much government, Stossel says, private citizens will often step in to do things government workers used to do.

Stossel says the shutdown highlights where some government waste can be trimmed.

Farmers don't get their "support" checks during the shutdown. But Stossel asks–why should they get checks at all? While the big subsidies go to grain and corn farmers, most fruit and vegetable farmers get no subsidies. They survive without them. Other farmers could, too.

FDA inspection of food has stopped during the shutdown. Paul Krugman asks smugly, "does contaminated food smell like freedom?"

But Stossel notes that the main reason food is safe isn't government. It's competition. Companies worry about their reputation. Just ask Chipotle, Stossel says. Their stock fell by more than half after food poisoning incidents at their stores; since then they have instituted far more food inspection than government requires.

Most food producers already do that. Beef carcasses undergo hot steam rinses, and microbiological testing goes well beyond what government requires. Market competition protects us better than rule-bound government bureaucrats.

Stossel says most of government could be done away with or privatized.

Even airport security. TSA workers aren't getting paid. But some airports (San Francisco, Orlando, Kansas City, and 19 others) privatized security. Those workers are still getting paid. They also do a better job. A leaked TSA study found that the private security agents, in test runs, are much better at detecting weapons in bags than the TSA. A congressional report found they are also faster at processing passengers.

Stossel says that while politicians bicker about $5.7 billion in wall funding (much less than 1 percent of the federal budget) what they really should worry about is that America's debt will soon reach $22 trillion because government squanders money on useless things.

At union protests, government workers say "We are essential!"

But based on the above, Stossel says: Give us a break.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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  • Don't look at me!||


  • loveconstitution1789||


  • Peter Duncan||

    When did America stop being great, statist?

    You incessantly chanting MAGA implies the only way to make it great again is through a strong central government issuing diktats conjured up by Top Men.

    How long have you had these progressive tendencies?

  • marshaul||

    "Tendencies" is overly charitable. lc1789 is a bonafide communist, though he seemingly remains oblivious to that obvious fact.

  • vek||

    We're still fairly great... But anybody who can't see the long, slow, slide into oblivion... Well they're a moron.

    There are a ton of indicators from our debt, to the inability to govern, to the unbroachable political gap between people in this country, and on and on, that all point to us being a nation in decline. Anybody who knows anything about history can see the parallels between us and countless other empire right before they fall apart.

    We're probably doomed as a nation. Almost certainly doomed as a free-ish nation anyway... Unless somebody comes along and fixes at least a few of the major drivers of the disintegration and enables at least a dead cat bounce (look it up if you don't know the term).

    Trump is trying to give us a dead cat bounce, but too may people are too dumb to even realize that we need major reforms or we'll be done that much quicker. We'll see how it all plays out...

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

    The understatement of the century!!

  • marshaul||

    I don't see you hosting Stossel on your website.

  • MasterThief||

    It's sad that this is the first time the site has taken a libertarian stance on the shutdown

  • vek||

    Stossel is pretty much ALWAYS the only person on Reason who regularly has a sane opinion on things. I have almost never disagreed with him on anything, and when I do it is VERY minor. Whereas the regular writers have things ass backwards 95% of the time.

    That's because Stossel is a moderately right-libertarian, instead of one of these douche bag left libertarian tools like all the rest of the writers here. Stossel isn't a Progressive who understands economics (as I like to say) like Cosmotarians, he's a sane, rational, normal person who understands economics.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    Have you been French kissing your Krugman poster again?

  • A Lady of Reason||

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It also teaches us that most Americans are willing to live with a government which is mostly non-essential.

  • markm23||

    Or that politicians give us what they want rather than what we want.

  • Rockabilly||

    Never fear, the IRS is automated.

  • Uncle Jay||

    But...but...but...if these government employees had to work in the private sector they would have to show up to work on time, work hard, produce and wouldn't be able to bleed the taxpayers white with their bloated salaries and benefits.
    Talk about cruel and unusual punishment.

  • ChrisBowen||

    Only a small part of the government is closed, and even still they had to reopen a bunch of it.

  • TJJ2000||

    John Stossel for Supreme Court nominee! :)

  • RenaD||

    And furthermore, if you're an adult not fresh out of school and are working a cushy government job and you don't have a couple month's worth of expenses saved up, then the problem isn't a government shutdown. The problem is YOU.

  • vek||

    Love me some Stossel. I hope all the other writers for Reason die in a natural disaster and they put him in charge... This place might actually become good again!

    Also, Trump should just never reopen the government. After 6 months or a year it would really make it sink in that none of these people needed to have guvmint jobs in the first place!

    ALSO, interesting thing I saw in passing, but haven't looked into. Supposedly after 30 days of being furloughed, there is a statute that says federal employees can be PERMANENTLY LAID OFF without a lot of the normal BS hoops required for canning federal employees. Some more 3,873 dimensional chess types are wondering if Trump isn't running it up to the 30 day limit so he can permanently can a shit ton of people, and then refuse to hire people back. I doubt it, but it'd be badass if he was!

  • markm23||

    That's only for a _permanent_ shutdown (closing an agency) or a reduction in size of the agency - IF that ever happened, the employees would get 30 days of pay while they try to get on somewhere else. It doesn't apply to "emergency shutdowns" like this one.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    For someone with a PhD and a Nobel Prize, Krugman says some really stupid things. He's also a mean and spiteful little bastard, isn't he?

  • Internal_Eyes_Only||

    Love me some Stossel but I think he's misquoting the NYT piece.

    As of this comment the article reads: "Domestic meat and poultry are still being inspected by staff at the Agricultural Department, but they are going without pay. The F.D.A. oversees about 80 percent of the nation's food supply as well as most overseas imports."

  • Outofpatience||

    Fair distinction to make, but I think his point is still valid. Competition for the consumer's dollar does more to keep companies honest than any mandate does. When profitability determines whether or not you are a going concern, there is less room for screw-ups, like tainted meat. When tax dollars fund your operations, you can be as inept and wasteful as you want and never worry about becoming insolvent.

  • Internal_Eyes_Only||

    I'm with him on the general premise.

    I'm just unsure which is correct - they DO or DO NOT oversee 80 percent of the nation's food supply?

  • markm23||

    Something is wrong with that article - the FDA does not inspect meat, the USDA does, and I doubt that meat is only 20% of the food supply.

    Back in the Korean War, USDA inspections were so bad that the Army trained its own meat inspectors and sent them out to all meat packers supplying the military. My father was drafted to inspect meat! Maybe the USDA has improved since, but today _with_ government inspection, we get lettuce contaminated with poop and frequent recalls of meat after someone got food poisoning.

  • wearingit||

    "Government stopped collecting trash and cleaning up public parks in DC, so volunteers stepped in to pick up trash. Without so much government, Stossel says, private citizens will often step in to do things government workers used to do."

    Yeah....I'm sure they'd continue doing that permanently. Load of BS. They'd just fall into disrepair. Only being done now as a stopgap.

  • ||

    Yeah, this bothered me.

    "And we will all hold hands and sing songs. We don't need police, because without police we all realized we could just enforce criminal law ourselves. Also, we don't need firefighters. We just put out the fires ourselves. In fact, we are better because we are local!
    We don't need building or safety codes either. The market takes care of it. If a building burns killing everyone inside, no one will ever hire that builder again!"

    He really bought into that libertarian utopia idea pretty hard. I would love to go see the country living by this all-volunteer standard. Where is this magnificient city?

  • RockLibertyWarrior||

    I don't know why anybody takes the idiot, gas bag, Krugman seriously. He's been wrong on almost every prediction he has ever made, I guess leftards like people who are stupid and jibe with their over arching desire to control everybody, regardless if they make pronouncements and theories that never turn to be right.

  • ||

    Two things--- A lot of the volunteering for trash collection in national parks is seen as a stop gap, and cannot be expected to continue indefinitely, and one of the reasons we seem to not be hurting so much if we don't work for the feds right now is that many federal employees are deemed essential and so are expected to work without pay. If the shutdown continues a sufficiently long time, they will be forced to resign their positions so that they can work somewhere where they are being paid. Now, in some cases, if the government is willing to relinquish its authority, there may be a workaround. I don't really think TSA adds much to real airport security, but as long as the rule is that you don't board a plane without a TSA inspection, and all the TSA agents quit rather than continue to work without pay, it could create problems. The Trump lovers might not like it as much when border patrol agents start resigning their positions because they need an actual paycheck. Many of these positions are law enforcement related that arguably are part of the essential work of government, and which are more defensible than the TSA. It doesn't matter what some judge orders, at some point, either we pay up, or the work stops getting done.

  • markm23||

    The better approach to park services is to privatize them: contract with a company to pick up trash, clean the restrooms, etc., and collect the fees that pay for this. Warren Meyer's company is keeping several parks running, and the only time they were affected by a shutdown was when the Obama administration spent _more_ money to barricade the entrances. (

  • Sig40||

    I'm increasingly convinced that this utter meltdown of our government is Drumpf's entire end goal. He doesn't give a damn about re-opening government or the wall. This is Putin's wet dream.

  • Salero21||

    Even Congress itself isn't as essential as they think of themselves to be.

  • Solar batteries||

    That's great!

  • ||

    This crisis is a crisis generated crisis.

  • ||

    The tsa and Krugman should be run through a wood chipper and fed to japanese chipmunks on cocaine by federal employees, and then followed by those same employees diving head first into the chipper.


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