By Jonathan David Morris
You may have heard that a budget impasse caused a one-day shutdown of Pennsylvania’s state government this week. The only thing I don’t understand is why the news reported this as if it were a bad thing.
I love when state governments go into suspended animation; I wish it would happen more often. In fact, I wish it would happen perpetually. Let all 50 states shut down their state governments. What a great way to prove that life would go on.
The whole idea behind Pennsylvania’s recent shutdown was that 25,000 “non-essential” or “non-critical” state employees would be temporarily laid off until a budget was passed. Fortunately, this meant the police, emergency workers, liquor store clerks, and slot parlor professionals all stayed in business. These are the only people you really need.
But what I want to know is, if 25,000 state employees are considered non-essential, why are those 25,000 people state employees to begin with? We have a system for non-essential work in this country. It used to be called the free and open market; in modern times, we refer to it as Craigslist.
This must be what politicians are talking about when they talk about “job creation.” More people would create their own jobs—or start their own businesses—if we just got rid of the prohibitive taxes, fees, and various other hurdles that prevent them from doing so. But getting rid of those fees and taxes would de-fund the state government, wouldn’t it? So we’ll just make up new state jobs instead.
Just take a look at some of the things affected by these occasional state government shutdowns and you’ll realize exactly how ridiculous this is.
In the recent PA shutdown, for example, Pennsylvanians were turned away from state parks, where the budget crisis back in the capitol somehow meant you could no longer take a leisurely walk. This is insanity. You don’t need the government to hold your hand when it’s up and running. What difference does it make if it’s down? Countless Americans jog through state parks each and every single day. How many of them ever feel the presence of their government? When you’re out there exercising, the government feels like it doesn’t even exist.
Then there’s motor vehicle centers. That’s another service that was affected by Pennsylvania’s shutdown. I’m not sure why these things have anything to do with government whatsoever. In fact, I’m not even sure why states issue driver’s licenses. You already force us to have auto insurance, don’t you? Shouldn’t our ability to drive be the insurance company’s concern?
I think it’s misleading to say Pennsylvania furloughed its “non-essential” employees. Really, they only furloughed some of their non-essential employees. Others stuck around to continue working on the budget.
I just don’t get the concept of full-time lawmakers. I don’t understand why we perpetually need new laws. Do we really need a constant stream of fresh legislation to keep our society vibrant? Because as far as I can tell, it’s our legislative bodies that keep slowing—or even shutting—things down.
Jonathan David Morris is a political writer -- and sometimes satirist -- based in Pennsylvania. A strong believer in small government, JDM often takes aim at oppressive taxes, entitlements, and laws, writing about incompetence at the highest levels of culture and government. Catch his weekly ramblings at readjdm.com.