Monday, December 31, 2018

A Libertarian look at "government shutdown"

Partial government shutdown drags into 2019 with no end in sight | Fox News - Alex Pappas:

December 31, 2018 - "The partial federal government shutdown enters its second week – and the new year – without a deal to re-open the government in sight.... Republicans and Democrats have been at a standstill over President Trump's demands for $5 billion to fund the border wall....

"Funding for a slew of federal agencies lapsed at midnight on Dec. 22 – just days before Christmas – after Congress and the White House failed to pass a spending package. Nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies have closed, affecting about a quarter of the federal government."
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Some Libertarians Cheer When the Government Shuts Down. Here’s Why They Shouldn’t. | Cato Institute - Jeffrey Miron:

January 21, 2018 - "Libertarians believe in smaller government.... So one might naturally assume that libertarians would cheer federal government shutdowns. These do not stop all federal government activities, but they at least suspend some parts temporarily....

"But I think that view is a mistake. Perhaps shutdowns serve the libertarian view in a small way by illustrating that government is not as essential as past and present gloom-and-doom commentary suggests. After all, the United States has experienced 18 shutdowns, of varying size, since 1976, and in each case, the world kept spinning on its axis.

"They have no meaningful effect on how much the government spends, however. To begin with, shutdowns are (presumably) temporary.... And if history is a guide, then most of the suspended expenditures for salaries, benefits, and the like will be paid retroactively.... Shutdowns also have zero effect on entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare.... Because entitlements constitute the large majority (roughly 67 percent) of federal expenditure, and because this component is growing at an unsustainable rate, shutdowns cannot have any meaningful impact on the budget deficit. And even with discretionary spending, around half is exempt given that many Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security functions are exempted from the shutdown, because they are considered 'essential' services.

"What’s more, praising the shutdown lends credence to the view that libertarians hate government in all its forms.... Libertarians believe most government impinges our freedom and reduces economic efficiency [and] will happily vote to reduce most government, but in an orderly way that gives current beneficiaries time to adjust and allows private markets and institutions to develop in the place of government. Given the abrupt personal and economic disruption shutdowns cause, they may actually hurt the cause of small government....

"Libertarians will only succeed in reducing the size of government when they convince non-libertarians that smaller government is better. A government shutdown does little to nothing to change minds.... Shutdowns distract from the serious conversations that need to be had about fiscal reform and the size of government."
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