Government Shutdown

Andrew Cohen of Bleeding Heart Libertarians has an interesting piece up, and I largely share his views (though there is an analogy in there I find rather weak…). From the article:

People who were promised paychecks will not get them. Some will get them late. Some will get smaller paychecks (due to furlough time). Some of these people will face tremendous difficulty. I think it fair to say they will be harmed–having planned their lives given the promise of a regular paycheck, they have legitimate expectations that are being set back. Perhaps the government should not have hired those people in the first place (after all, they are “non-essential” personnel!). But the fact is they were hired and treating them this way is wrong and makes a mockery of contract.

This is a good point that many libertarians and conservatives are apt to miss. Many libertarians in particular are going to dispute the legitimacy of those obligations, but if government is a legitimate entity, then the obligations it enters into need to be taken seriously and the obligations honored. Now certainly, in the private sector, jobs are generally not seen as secure as government jobs. Perhaps thats a good thing, as it promotes increased productivity and competition, ultimately helping to serve the consumer. However, there is an implicit expectation of continued work when a full time employee gets hired by someone, whether the government, a corporation, or small business, and possibly could be considered part of their work contract. The government, currently, is not honoring that contract. However, given it’s abysmal record of honoring individuals and their rights, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.


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4 responses to “Government Shutdown”

  1. necessaryandpropergovt says :

    Hi, EC.

    Here’s a news flash for Mr. Cohen: If past shutdowns are any indication, once the impasse is resolved, anybody that was “furloughed” will get their missed pay, retroactive back to Oct 1st. So in effect, these people are getting paid vacation days right now.

    If they’re designated “non-essential,” that says it all…doesn’t it?

    – Jeff

    • The Existential Christian says :

      Jeff, you’re right; most likely the furloughed employees will get retroactive pay. However, I happen to know several federal employees, all under NOAA, and after the most recent debt ceiling debate in 2011, they all signed a contract that they couldn’t seek retroactive pay. Now, of course that contract wouldn’t stop Congress from passing legislation to restore that pay, and I imagine that such a piece of legislation would be popular, and as such I expect them to do so.

      However, there are other people affected by the shutdown. I have a friend who works in a naval yard, but is no longer in the Navy, and works for a contractor. Because of the shutdown, he is not working, and most likely would not have his pay restored by legislation, either.

      Lest there be any confusion, I am not suddenly in favor of all sorts of government jobs, but I don’t believe that this is the proper way to go about eliminating them, or should be seen as a positive thing. It does have a real effect on people’s lives, and their value as individuals shouldn’t be disregarded.

      As far as essential vs. non-essential, well, it’s the government that’s doing the deciding! Honestly, I think quite a few more of those jobs should be lumped into the “non-essential” category, but your point is well made… if they’re not essential, why are they there? Should money really be forcibly taken from peaceful individuals in order to fund these non-essentials?

      • necessaryandpropergovt says :

        Hi EC,

        Admittedly, there’s one other valid admonishment you could have included: Some of those who will eventually get their missing paychecks restored retroactively are living paycheck to paycheck. For folks who have no savings to tide them over, then I do recognize that they’re not feeling like this is a paid vacation.

        I acknowledge that events like this, when viewed through individual anecdotal lenses, are disruptive and maddening…like artificially-induced natural disasters in people’s lives.

        My stone-hearted comments were more inspired by the decades-long growth of the size of the federal government and its master-planning policies, taking on so many things that should be left to states, local municipalities, charities, and individuals. It was relative to that long-term backdrop that my point about “non-essential personnel” was made. I agree that short-term turmoil is not a fair way to trim the size of government. It’s saddening to observe that there doesn’t seem to be any feasible long-term interest among the majority of voters to fiscally restrain ourselves as a country.

        – Jeff

  2. The Existential Christian says :

    I thought about including people that live paycheck to paycheck, as I’m sure there are federal employees who do. However, according to this website, the average federal employee makes $81,704, which in my opinion doesn’t leave much of an excuse for living paycheck to paycheck!

    You’re right; it is frustrating that there doesn’t seem to be a way to restrain the government. My fear is that “progressivism” may have actually ruined our culture sufficiently so that there is no longer a desire for that restraint.

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