Minnesota govt shutdown — a superb case study/experiment to see whether govt useful or not

It did not cross my mind but the Minnesota Govt shutdown for 20 days is a superb case study. The shutdown was from Jul 1 2011 to Jul 20 2011. Here is a liveblog on the proceedings.

I came across this exciting article from Chuck Raasch. He says the shutdown points some government services are very useful. The shutdown points we need to bury certain thoughts about government being a necessary bad:

My wife and I drove across Minnesota twice during the recent budget shutdown ugliness in that state, and the quiet road construction zones and sparse traffic made us think we had landed on a different planet. It was as if the old saw of Minnesota having two seasons — winter and road construction — had been submerged in a giant tub of lutefisk. It just did not seem right, on a hot July day, to not be stuck in a half-hour road-construction delay looking at the behinds of cattle in a livestock truck.

When you mess with fishing and beer-drinking in Minnesota, when you shut down road construction, you might as well cancel summer. Levity aside, Minnesota’s shutdown offered a lesson for everyone — including cross-the-border Dakotans snickering about their neighbors having to get by without their big government.

You don’t have to love government or even like it much to quickly realize that only government can perform certain functions necessary for a civil and peaceful commonwealth.

He points how government regulates and makes fishing sector functional in Minnesota:

the collective disappointment for this proud angler reminded us that government does important things that private enterprise simply cannot.There was no Fishing Incorporated to step in and weigh this guy’s muskie for the record books, or to run the state parks, or a lot of other outdoorsy things that Minnesotans count on in the season to be outside.

Fishing is an integral element of Minnesota’s economy, culture and heritage; ensuring that it remains essential to all three is not an automatic byproduct of either freedom or free enterprise. Serious fishers, the kind that want to pass their love of the outdoors to their kids, are the most likely to understand the need for fishing licenses and limits.

The angler who hauled in the monster muskie was on a publicly regulated lake, fishing under regulations designed to keep the waters safe and productive for other fishers. In other words: government.

Hmmm… Pretty much the function for a government – regulate properly..

In the end he says:

There are real reasons to believe that government at all levels has gotten too big, and that leaving 40 cents of every dollar the federal government spends to our children and their children in the form of debt is civic child abuse and generational malpractice.

But equally destructive is this idea of government inherently as enemy. It makes the people the foes of their own commonwealth. Such absolutist positions make it that much more difficult to decide what is essential, and how to do it the best for the most. It allows politicians to dig in on pledges that may look good on the campaign trail but are not practical to solving solutions in as diverse a country as this.

While we try to bury debts and deficits, maybe such absolutes can be buried along with them.

Amazing stuff.

I would think this shut down is an amazing manmade experiment to figure role of government in society. What is the essential role of government and what is not? Where did people miss government and where there was no real impact? Based on this focus could be on former and do way with latter. Though it would be Minnesota specific, broad lessons can be drawn.

Hope to hear something on this soon…

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