New York state officials are threatening to shut down non-essential government services if a state budget is not passed. But what is an essential government service anyway?
The “first government shutdown in New York history” as the New York Times calls it in a June 9 article won’t be as exciting as they make it sound. Government will still be operating; it will just be less convenient for those who are governed.
Officials intend to continue funding “essential” services, like the State Police (who disrupt highway traffic) and prisons (which mostly house those who commit victimless non-crimes). What will close are bureaucracies like the Department of Motor Vehicles, a government monopoly that people only need to use because essential government workers force them to. State-controlled parks would close, and the computer system that processes Medicaid claims would probably not be operating.
A similar situation occurred in New Jersey in 2006. State politicians continued to govern but wouldn’t let the people use things they had paid for. Basically, people were being held hostage in the pursuit of political sway.
Forcing a decision on what counts as essential government services shows what government’s essential nature is. It exists to exercise force. Not to keep society running smoothly, and not to make sure people have access to medicine. These things are just there to make it look like society could not function without the fist of the state. Government is that which governs, and to govern is to rule over others through unequal authority.
Government shutdown ploys ought to bring forth the question of how to do things without the state. Alternative dispute resolution methods that do not rely on “non-essential” government courts would be one thing to think about.
Another thought would be: how can people take over things that the state claims ownership of?
When business leaders in Argentina abandoned workplaces and those who labored at them, considering them not worth the investment, the workers kept their jobs by taking the workplaces under their own management.
Who needs a governor to say how a park should be run? Schools would probably work better if they were run by people who use them instead by of Department of Education bureaucrats. And all enterprises are better when they are run based on the choices of free individuals, not based on the coercion of essential government services.
If enough people were working for maximum freedom instead of focusing on tweaking the way the state coerces, government crises could be used to gain major concessions from the politically powerful. If there is sufficient demand to do so, states could be shut down for good and we could enjoy a future without coercive agencies that drive up the cost of living while locking the economy into rigid hierarchy.
Authoritarian power structures that always take more from people and place more restrictions on them are unstable. As their operation affects more and more individuals, polarization and conflict escalate. The way forward is to stop struggling to rule other people – anarchy would be good for the world.