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The Federal Government, the Partial Government Shutdown, and the Ordinary Citizen

Would daily life really change if the Federal Government, as we know it, disappeared?

Years ago, while a student in college, I learned about the various Antitrust Acts that redefined the power of the Federal Government. I also learned that, originally, the Federal Government had three strictly defined purposes.

  1. A united military
  2. A united currency
  3. The elimination of tariffs between the states

However, the rise of commerce led to to the rise of monopolies, arguably damaging consumers with high prices created by the lack of competition. This resulted in Antitrust laws. “United States Antitrust law is a collection of federal and state government laws that regulate the conduct and organization of business corporations, generally to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers. The main statutes are the Sherman Act of 1890, the Clayton Act of 1914, and the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914. These Acts, first, restrict the formation of cartels and prohibit other collusive practices regarded as being in restraint of trade. Secondly, they restrict the mergers and acquisitions of organizations that could substantially lessen competition. Thirdly, they prohibit the creation of a monopoly and the abuse of monopoly power.” (1)It is the compilation of these three Acts that led to the formation of the Federal Government as we know it today. While as a Feminist, I appreciate the rules and regulations that protect women and other minorities in the workplace, as a business owner I feel the burden of taxation that hits my business every other week from the Federal Government. As a citizen, I feel like our government is a bloated fish that needs an enema.

As our current government is deadlocked on its current funding situation, we are now faced with a partial Federal Government shutdown. We have all heard about this on the television and the radio, but visibly, nothing in my life or business appears to have changed. Past government shutdowns led to the Chickamauga Battlefield being closed, but people simply took down the barriers and went in anyway. We were told that, as a result of the government shutdown, the Battlefield had only “essential workers” taking care of it. As a business owner, I can assure you that everyone in my business is essential, and people who are not, are eliminated, for the sake of efficiency. Our Federal Government, while once with defined duties under its original purposes, is today very, dare I say, INEFFICIENT, with the additional purposes created for it by the passage of Antitrust law.

As an average citizen and business owner in the United States, the partial shutdown of the Federal Government has not noticeably changed my life or my business at all. I remember in the past, during partial government shutdowns, hearing that the police would no longer be funded. I suppose one could be afraid of such a prospect, and yet, I could not help but feel that we govern ourselves pretty well. Furthermore, in the American South, we all have guns, with the police essentially there to take reports after the fact. Additionally, as an advocate of Laissez-Faire economics, I tend to question the value of the Antitrust laws, that led to the bloated monster we now call the Federal Government. The “invisible hand” of the economy would likely take hold, and the matter of monopolies and unfair competition would sort themselves out, according to the laws of efficiency, supply, and demand. Again, it is hard to believe that, with the shutdown of the Federal Government, anything would really change in our day to day lives.

As our Federal Government continues to grow, comparisons with the Roman Empire are inevitable. Reaching across Europe, Asia, Northern Africa and into the Middle East, the Roman Empire arguably brought order to a vast group of people. However, like a bloated animal that keeps taking in more water, it ultimately exploded in a most spectacular manner-or did it? Did the day to day life of the people change during the fall of the Roman empire? Did Rome actually fall in a day?

An examination of the fall of the Roman Empire reveals that the day to day lives of its citizens actually changed very little. Rather than a catastrophic blow, the citizens merely gradually changed their allegiances and continued on with their daily living. Reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire include:

  1. Invasions by Barbarian tribes
  2. Economic troubles and overreliance on slave labor
  3. The rise of the Eastern Empire
  4. Overexpansion and military overspending
  5. Government corruption and political instability
  6. The arrival of the Huns and the migration of the Barbarian tribes
  7. Christianity and the loss of traditional values
  8. The weakening of the Roman legions (2)

The reality is, just like today, while these issues impact civilization on a broad scale, they arguably have very little impact on the average person’s day to day life. The typical Roman citizen engaged in local commerce, like buying food and clothing. They loved their families and spent time with them. They enjoyed walks and experienced the change of seasons. None of the factors listed above had a real impact on their day to day life. Studies of this time period focus on leaders, and the wealthy. The peasants are virtually ignored because their lives consisted of uninteresting factors and primarily stayed the same, regardless of regime charges.

I have often felt that if the Federal Government shutdown, we would never even know it, except for the media. Power would simply fall back to the states, and day to day life would continue on as usual. The average Americans would still get up, eat breakfast, go to work, come home, love their children, etc. One could argue that most of us have an internal locus of control, and would not simply start killing or stealing from one another. As the Queen of England says, we would simply, “Keep calm and carry on.”

The Federal Government originally had three very narrowly defined purposes. Various Antitrust Acts created the path to the over bloated American Federal Government we know today. It, therefore, begs for comparison with the Roman Empire, that ultimately fell under the burden of its own weight. However, just like the Romans during the Empire’s fall, our day to day lives have changed very little, if at all, during this partial government shutdown. Is our government on the same path as the Roman Empire? Only time will tell, but even thousands of years after its fall, there is still a Rome, only now it is a city instead of a country, with people living there as they always have, for thousands of years. While the elite battle amongst themselves, life for the common man changes very little, as we continue to find happiness or otherwise on our own terms, in our own worlds.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_antitrust_law
  2. https://www.history.com/news/8-reasons-why-rome-fell
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