Because of political wrangling over ObamaCare, the federal government has shut down all so-called “non-essential” functions involving national parks, the National Zoo, NASA, and the like. But no politician at the national level has, to my knowledge, defined the standard by which a government function is properly deemed essential or non-essential.
We need a government for one and only one reason: to protect individual rights, including rights to freedom of speech, to control one’s own wealth, to contract freely with others, and so on. We need a government to protect our rights so that each person is free to live his own life for his own goals and by his own judgment. In order to protect rights, the government needs to run an effective military, police force, court system, and the aspects of government necessary to support them. Those, and nothing else, are the essential functions of government.
As for government activities that are non-essential and that should therefore be phased out completely, a good place to start is with most of the bureaucracies listed in the “A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies,” which lists such bodies as the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the African Development Foundation, the Agricultural Marketing Service, and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau—and that’s just a few items listed under “A.”
Politicians and pundits should quit pretending that the “shutdown” now in effect is anything other than a minor and temporary reduction in activities that, for the most part, the government has no legitimate business performing in the first place. And Americans in general should call for their representatives to begin shutting down all genuinely non-essential functions of government. That would be a “shutdown” to celebrate.
- The American Right, the Purpose of Government, and the Future of Liberty
- Why “Big Government” is Not the Problem
Image: Wikimedia Commons