A friend on facebook was recently complaining that because of the looming government shutdown, he was facing no trash pickup, and the closure of the pool he practices in. He rightly criticizes the folks in DC over their political grandstanding and arguing over petty things, but I think he missed the real issue. I can’t help but point out that if things are funded by the government, they are subject to the whims of the political process. And that includes everything from park access to social security checks. Reasonable people can disagree over what the government needs to fund, but we should always keep in mind just how tenuous that funding actually is. Things that seem like a good idea to fund when your team is in power suddenly don’t seem like such a good idea or are in danger when the other team takes over. You can’t really depend on stability in the political sphere, so why would you count on stability of services from it?
When the government shuts down, there will be plenty of places where pools are open and trash is collected because they aren’t operated by the government. Sure, those can be interrupted too, but there are consequences for them if that happens. In the private sector, the pursuit of profits, fear of competition, and possible legal implications over broken contracts keep things going. Things tend to get done more often than not in the private sector. I keep hoping that at some point the discourse will shift over to the idea that perhaps we depend too much on the political process. I’m not holding my breath, especially around here.