As I have established in previous pieces this year, I believe that the legitimacy of a government derives from its capacity to govern the populace. A government that refuses to govern, like ours, quickly hemorrhages its legitimacy, contingent on the arising societal dysfunction. Luckily, though, things seem to be carrying on just fine for the most part, so I see no need to declare the illegitimacy of the current government, and I look forward to the day it resumes its duties. Still, it does concern me that it was allowed to shut down in the first place.
It strikes me as downright absurd that our government can just stop functioning without our elected officials suffering any sort of repercussions. If a business were to shut down due to internal disagreements, would there not be lay-offs and reorganizations to prevent such a thing in the future? Yet, does anyone really expect that similar measures will be adopted by our government with its unperturbed functioning?
It seems that the incentives for our elected officials to avoid a government shutdown are simply too ambiguous to be reasonably effective. While it is possible that there will be reprisals in the next election, I suspect that Democrats will blame Republicans, Republicans will blame Democrats, and there will be no unified condemnation of both parties for their childishness and immaturity. It is because of this that I have decided to propose a few measures that should be implemented to ensure that we do not again suffer the embarrassment of having a non-functional national government.
First off, in the event of a government shutdown, all members of Congress should become immediately ineligible for re-election. They may finish serving the rest of their tenures, but that should be the end of their political careers. They should be banned from holding any other political office in the future, whether it is a federal, state, or local position, since they have demonstrated their inability to live up to the responsibilities of public service.
Additionally, Congressional pay should be suspended for a year. Why should we pay people who refuse to work? Our taxes pay their salaries so that they can make laws and govern our country. If they refuse to hold up their end of the bargain, they should not receive compensation. The contract is violated, and thus rendered void.
Finally, there is nothing like public shaming to keep people in line and really hammer home the impropriety of certain behavior. I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to putting politicians in the stocks for a day as punishment for this kind of impropriety, but I prefer a more subtle approach. Why not make them wear a scarlet letter, at least until the shut-down is over? Nothing like a little social opprobrium to keep people within the bounds of responsible and reasonable behavior.
This may all sound extreme, but is not the very idea that our government can simply stop governing in the event of sufficient disagreement an extreme possibility in itself? This is such a departure from historical norms of governance that the overwhelming majority of humanity throughout time would be unable to comprehend it. Moderate solutions cannot fix extreme problems. We need strong measures in place to discourage politicians from shirking their duties, and strict punishments in place for those that do. To do anything less is to invite dysfunction, squabbling, and an ineffectual government.