Human beings have created many empires in recorded history. Every one of them, from the Roman Empire, to the Ottoman Empire, to the British Empire, on which the sun never set — every great empire has failed.
And here we have the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on the brink of shutting down the government of the United States of America — ON PURPOSE! If there were any logic, any sense in the world, closing the U.S. government would be treason.
Last time politicians shut down the government, in 1995, it was able to reopen in a few days with no more serious consequence than closing a few national parks.
However, there is no guarantee for the future. The law of unintended consequences is in effect. We live in the 21st century, the century of the “Black Swan.” Major events, or chains of events, that are unpredictable and highly improbable can happen. You can learn more about the “Black Swan” here.
Politicians who would shut the U.S. government — on purpose! — are tempting fate. Our ancestors fought a Revolutionary War to establish this government. We fought a Civil War to hold the Union together. American soldiers died in foreign wars. And now modern politicians are willing risk throwing it all away over a budgetary dispute? Whatever the unintended consequences, Republicans and Democrats will share the dishonor equally.
We live in perilous times. The U.S. is embroiled in three foreign wars. We recently survived the worst worldwide financial crisis since the Great Depression, but many countries continue to struggle with economic and debt problems of dangerous proportions. Portugal is begging for a bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Portugal is the third European nation to require financial rescue. Japan, after two lost decades of economic stagnation, has been driven to its knees by an epic earthquake. Its nuclear power plants spew radiation, poisoning Japan’s food and water.
Enemies wish to destroy us. We’re threatened by terrorists from abroad, and by homegrown terrorists. War might be unleashed at any time, in Yemen, or the Ivory Coast, or an attack from North Korea or Iran. India and Pakistan are always on the verge of war. So are the Israelis and Palestinians.
What’s my point? Events like a government shutdown can spin out of control. One unexpected consequence cascades into others, until the entire edifice trembles. Who could have predicted that a World Trade Center building might collapse? Both towers disappeared into rubble before lunch on a single day.
On top of all the dangers in the world, U.S. politicians are going to shut down the U.S. Government? For a few days? If politicians cannot agree to keep the government open this week, will they agree to reopen it next week? What if two weeks go by? Three? The longer the crisis continues, the more difficult it will be to end. Be afraid of the “Black Swan.”
Some remnant remains after an empire fails. Rome exists as a city to this day. The British islands remain a functioning nation, with shrunken power. The Mayan civilization left ruins. Descendants of the Mayan people live today throughout Central America.
North America will remain, and millions of people will live in the historical United States. Modern civilization will continue, probably. Beyond that, there are no guarantees for the U.S. as a nation. A federal shutdown for more than a few weeks would force the states to fend for themselves. A shutdown could lead to default on the sovereign debt, or weakening of U.S. armed forces.
Once started, a process of devolution and decay may accelerate out of control, and who has power to stop the chaos?
— John Hayden
- Shutdown could mean U.S. troops on the battlefield get half a paycheck (dailykos.com)
- Economists: Gridlocked Congress ‘Playing With Fire’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Global Cost Of A U.S. Government Shutdown (globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com)
- Paul Ryan’s Plan, the Coming Shutdown, and What’s Really at Stake (tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com)
This is a thoughtful and moving post.
I don’t think I’ve felt the fear that I feel these days since I was a child and afraid of the Russians. My dad always assured me that our soldiers would protect us, so my fear was settled. Who will protect us now?
I know how you feel. I’m trying to decide whether I’m paranoid, or if there really are U.S. citizens who want to close the U.S. government, permanently.
Wow, me too.
nice blog john, hope i’m as insightful and energetic as you when i reach 60! , keep up the great work!
Thanks! Since you work in the world of music, you’ll probably live to be 100. I think music, and also dance, are the fountains of youth.