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Libertarians believe in smaller government. How much smaller? Roughly back to its size and scope in the 90s — that is, the 1790s.

So one might naturally assume that libertarians would cheer federal government shutdowns. These do not stop all federal government activities, but they at least suspend some parts temporarily. And no doubt many libertarians do find government shutdowns appealing.

But I think that view is a mistake. Perhaps shutdowns serve the libertarian view in a small way by illustrating that government is not as essential as past and present gloom-and-doom commentary suggests. After all, the United States has experienced 18 shutdowns, of varying size, since 1976, and in each case, the world kept spinning on its axis.

They have no meaningful effect on how much the government spends, however. To begin, shutdowns are (presumably) temporary. The average length of previous government shutdowns was seven days. And if history is a guide, then most of the suspended expenditure for salaries, benefits, and the like will be paid retroactively. If you think a shutdown helps keep the budget in check, you’re wrong.

Shutdowns also have zero effect on entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare, which continue automatically unless Congress explicitly amends them. Shutdowns only influence discretionary spending that has to be reauthorized every year. Because entitlements constitute the large majority (roughly 67 percent) of federal expenditure, and because this component is growing at an unsustainable rate, shutdowns cannot have any meaningful impact on the budget deficit. And even with discretionary spending, around half is exempt given that many Department of Defense and Homeland Security functions are exempted from the shutdown, because they are considered “essential” services.

What’s more, praising the shutdown lends credence to the view that libertarians hate government in all its forms, which is not accurate. A full cessation Read More Here