Break it down

On any given day, there is a very small chance that something very unusual will happen. By definition, right? And most of time, if something unusual happens, people can work it out. We have backups, insurance, people we can count on, and so on.

But say, for some reason, some crucial support for the societal backstop we usually rely on is removed. Chances are, everything will be fine, because everybody knows how important that kind of thing is.

But the thing is – the partial shutdown of the Federal government has gone on now nearly a month, and nobody knows how it ends. For the time being, things are more or less fine. Nothing seriously bad has happened, yet. But what happens if there was a crisis right now?

Meanwhile, the British Parliament has voted down, 432-202, the treaty negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May. The deadline for the UK leaving the EU is March 29th. If no agreements are in place on March 30, it is possible trade will grind to a halt. The UK is a net importer of food – cutting off from trade with Europe could be disasterous.

And yet! Parliament also voted down a no confidence motion, thus affirming support of May’s government. Nobody knows what happens next. But I can’t stop thinking about what might happen without a deal. Maybe the no-deal Brexit will happen. And then what?

Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole writes “Brexit in one way alone has done a real service: it has forced the old system to play out its death throes in public. The spectacle is ugly, but at least it shows that a fissiparous four-nation state cannot be governed without radical social and constitutional change.”

One thing that does seem possible once Brexit has occurred is that the Unicorn will file for divorce from the Lion – that is, Scotland will leave the Union and join the EU. It already has a separate Parliament. Why not?

I think in both the cases – Brexit and the Shutdown – the negative outcome is the one people want. I don’t know how that works, of course. But, in some sense, I think people want to go charging into the shitstorm here. Perhaps just to show that they can.

In the US, it seems to me, there’s a strong public narrative that the govnerment is incompetent, corrupt, overrun by fools and crooks. If that really were true, would shutting it down be such a bad thing? Libertarians have been arguing for decades that much of government is unnecessary and merely distorts the naturally occurring market economy.

If that’s the government you’re shutting down, aren’t you doing us all a favor? If that’s the government wasting your hard earned and heavily taxed income, wouldn’t you celebrate its non-functioning?



Published by samuelbarbour

Besides writing a blog, I also teach, farm, cook, and play music. I live in the Illinois River Valley with my partner, Molly Breslin, who sometimes posts stuff at

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