With the infamous “shutdown,” the federal government attempted to drive home one point in particular: “You need us.”
The people’s answer? “No we don’t.”
The big centerpiece of the shutdown charade was the closing of national parks and monuments all across the country, as they are a highly visible target, and therefore perfect hostage material.
Unfortunately for the feds, they forgot one thing: the monuments etc. are still there. They didn’t magically disappear once funding was cut. People were still free to visit them as usual. So they erected barriers and “do not enter” signs, and posted guards where possible. Still, scores of tourists brazenly disregarded the prohibition and entered parks and memorials anyway. Apparently, the people have realized they don’t need the government to tell them when to be proud to be Americans.
But all that rebellious touristing is only possible for a short while. Sooner or later, that public property is going to need maintenance. Without the government there, who will cut the grass? Protect the memorials from vandals? Our heritage sites will surely fall into disrepair without public funding… right?
Wrong. As it turns out, some people will just take charge and do a public good. Without direction or permission. For free.
All of a sudden, the shutdown doesn’t look so scary anymore. Then those dangerous little questions start bubbling up to the top of our heads: If we can do without some government programs, what else can we cut? Do we ever have to raise the debt ceiling? What if America became great in spite of, not because of, a strong federal government? What if the only thing standing between us and another couple hundred years of glory is precisely that government?
The federal government attempted to engage voluntary action in a grand duel. Big mistake. The lesson to would-be tyrants? Be careful when you threaten to give people more freedom… they might like it.