us government shutdown Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Five Lessons from the US Government Shutdown

Under previous US administrations, confrontational and destructive tactics were limited by implicit norms regarding how the executive branch should behave, including the respect it should show to its employees. Those norms now lie in tatters.

WASHINGTON, DC – Last Friday, a wave of relief spread across the United States. A completely pointless and highly damaging partial government shutdown was over. Unfortunately, what we learned from the episode was extremely worrying about both what is likely to come next and the country’s longer-term fate. There are five obvious implications.

First, there is no substantive case for building a big concrete wall, or anything similar, on the US border with Mexico. Donald Trump, like previous US presidents, has demonstrated the ability to concentrate national attention on a specific issue. But, as was the case of President Lyndon B. Johnson with regard to Vietnam (or George W. Bush on Iraq), personal experiences and in-depth reporting do not necessarily increase the number of Americans who agree with the administration. In fact, they may have the opposite effect.

The most informative reports are those that provide a detailed tour of the border, including photographs from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. A wall already stands at many places where one would be helpful, while vehicle barriers exist where those make more sense. And then there are entirely wild and empty places where the natural terrain is already a fierce impediment to migrants.

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