Lost in the recent debate over the impact of our partial government shutdown has been perhaps a more important question concerning the role of government in our lives in comparison to the for-profit private sector.During the recent debacle that brought us to the brink of defaulting on our debt for the first time in American history, we were told that living without nonessential government services long enough would cause another major recession.
So, with only 17 percent of the government out of service, we all managed to wake up each day, go to work, pay our bills, find food and gas where it is normally sold and get our television programs delivered each evening.What, on the other hand, would happen if instead of 17 percent of the federal government closing up shop for a couple of weeks or so, we saw the same percentage of the private sector close its doors?Consider this.According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, last year, out of the nearly $16 trillion Gross Domestic Product, $395 billion (2.46 percent) was money spent on cars and car parts; $558 billion (3.48 percent) was spent on computers and software, while $828 billion (5.18 percent) was allocated to food and drink from stores.That is only 11 percent of the GDP, but one can only imagine what life would be life if for 16 days (the length of this year’s government closure) we all had to go without food and drink from stores, computer services and batteries for our cars — to name a few.What if we lost — for only 16 days — the $434 billion (2.71 percent) of our spending on gasoline? Like you, I survived the closing of Yellowstone National Park. I am not sure I would survive pushing my car to work.Losing the $709 billion (4.43 percent) restaurant business might not sound like a big deal, but one look at the waistline of our fellow Americans would suggest that a 16-day closure of fast-food establishments might create a riot that our $1.8 trillion health-care industry would not be able to handle.Speaking of health care, which is the largest component of our GDP, how many of us would like to see no drug stores, no surgeries, no emergency rooms or new bandage shipments for more than two weeks?The point of all this is to shed some serious light on the fact that of the two entities — government and the private sector — the latter is much more vital to our day-to-day survival, convenience and happiness.There is no way we could live without those who do things for profit. We need men and women to unlock the doors of their businesses every day so we can make it through that day.We have seen that government — the only institution allowed to acquire money by force — tends to supply us with many things that are not essential to our well-being but are punitive to our wallets.
NBC Nightly News also showed how, in the absence of government, neighbors helped neighbors by delivering food and other household items to families impacted by the shutdown.Our national debt only 20 years ago did not top $5 trillion. It is more than three times that figure today.What we have received for that debt — namely a ballooning welfare state — should be ample proof to every American that losing the federal government from time to time may just be the ticket to a more prosperous and productive America.The same cannot be said if our entrepreneurs don’t show up for work. They would be sorely missed, and the rest of us would be in big trouble figuring out how to grow our own food and dig for crude oil in our backyards.Jack A. Chambless is an economics professor at Valencia College and a senior fellow with the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.