The US government has shut down twice already in 2018. The first shutdown occurred on January 20th, 2018 and ended on the evening of January 22nd. The shutdown began after a failure to pass legislation to fund government operations and agencies. The second occurred on February 9th, 2018. This second instance may be called a funding gap rather than a shut down as it only lasted nine hours overnight and did not interrupt government functioning or services.
The third shut down, which appears inevitable, will occur at midnight on December 22nd, 2018. It is unknown how long this shut down will last but there does appear to be stubborn resistance on the part of the Democrats, Republicans and from Trump himself.
On the eve of this shutdown, it is worth considering three points in relation to governmental shutdowns.
First, the people who really lose from a government shutdown are the people who keep the American state running. CNBC has reported that 421,000 Americans will work without pay if the US government shuts down. Despite the shutdown, all workers who go without pay will be paid when the government reopens. But this may not be immediate. In 1995-1996 the US government shutdown for 21 days, the longest shut down in history.
Included in these 421,000 state workers are military personnel, border security staff, politicians and welfare officers. There is some irony in knowing that this shutdown is occurring due to funding for a border wall, which is being sold to the American people as a minimum requirement for national security. Yet this shutdown is going to directly affect the people on the front lines, such as military and border security staff who are keeping the United States safe.
The Republicans are blaming the Democrats, the Democrats are blaming Trump and Trump is blaming everyone. It is not the hard-headed politicians responsible for this shutdown who will have to tighten their belts this Christmas, but the American workers.
Second, government shutdowns are not necessarily bad things. They act as roadblocks to halt centralisation and consolidation of state power. They are designed to ensure that the state grinds to halt before its politicians become too heated and irrational. Although the shutdown is not a good thing for American workers, it reduces the possibility of rapid change within the American political system, and in a nation of nearly 350 million people, this is a reasonably sensible safeguard.
Third and finally, political conservativism traditionally seeks the minimisation of the state’s social influence, whenever possible and practical. The shutdown of the US federal government is likely to fracture the integrity of the institution that is the American state which ultimately serves to benefit Trump and the conservative Republican party. At worst, Trump and the Republicans look hard-headed, while what is really happening is a dismantling of state strength and effectiveness which leads to a triumph for conservative ideals.
Whether you agree in the necessity of a large US state, the fact of the matter is the US government is the size it is because of the size of the nation. A minimal state or not, 421,000 people will not be paid over the coming days because American federal politicians are to busy arguing, rather than negotiating. The blame game will continue; however, all-American politicians have a responsibility to protect the people they stand to serve. Politicians will not be serving the American people if the US government shuts down.