Government Shutdown: Shouldn’t We Be Asking Some Deeper Questions?

Lynne Kiesling

As we contemplate an impending federal government shutdown and the restriction of government activities to “essential” services, shouldn’t we be asking deeper questions like why we spend so much taxpayer money on “nonessential” services? Jacob Sullum asks that question in Reason and provides some arguments for reducing spending (and thereby the future deficit) on such nonessential services.

But even some services that we deem essential, such as air traffic control, are performed by private firms and employees in other countries (such as Canada). Demagoguery and posturing are cheap and easy, and have probably become reflexive for our federal politicians. By choosing the rhetorical path of least resistance, the members of Congress have given up a chance to enable a substantive conversation about how we provide and pay for essential services, and why we spend so many resources on nonessential services.

2 thoughts on “Government Shutdown: Shouldn’t We Be Asking Some Deeper Questions?

  1. Perhaps an even better question is why the government spends so much on whole departments which are clearly and demonstrably counterproductive, such as the Department of Education; or, on functions such as the National Endowment for the Arts, National Public Radio, Public Television, Planned (non-)Parenthood, Amtrak, etc.

    The Constitution is quite clear on the role of the federal government. The Administration and the bureaucracy are not quite as clear.

    Perhaps Congressman Ryan could revise his FY2012 budget proposal to summarily terminate all of the functions deemed “non-essential” for purposes of the coming shutdown.

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