x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Governing irrelevancy

A closed-down US government isn't the end of the world – just look at Lebanon and Belgium.

Squabbling politicians in Washington are holding the government hostage. Faced with extensive cuts to the federal budget and a raft of Republican legislative amendments, it is quite possible that leaders in both parties will do what they do best: nothing.

The rather embarrassing consequence would be the shutdown of the federal government if a budget cannot be passed next week. The same kind of partisan bickering during the Clinton administration saw federal offices close in the 1990s, and this time around the White House is warning that the economic recovery is in jeopardy.

But if past experience is any guide, life does indeed go on in the absence of government. Just take a look closer to home: Lebanon has been struggling to form a cabinet for the last two months. Some might argue that there actually hasn't been an effective government in Beirut for the better part of three decades.

And then there is Iraq, which held the record for the longest time it took to form a government until Belgium stole that dubious honour last week.

But somehow babies are still being born, shopkeepers open their doors and civil society manages to totter on. Washington's politicians may be in for a lesson in humility. Governments are a handy invention, but perhaps not as indispensable as they themselves believe.