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Unless You're a Very Healthy Rich Person Who Lives in a Cave, the Government Shutdown Affects You

And it should make you mad.

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Basically, you are a very rich, very healthy person that lives in a cave. If you are not, then the shutdown affects you.

And this produces the one aspect of the shutdown I'm almost cynical enough to enjoy myself: far from producing proof dispositive that government is a burdensome hindrance to personal freedom, they've simply proven how little personal freedom we can enjoy if government breaks down. If this sounds familiar, it's because that reasoning has been the cornerstone of modern civilization. Or you watched "Lost".

It's not that Americans don't want government in their lives, it's that they'd like it to be an unobtrusive part of their lives. The National Security Agency might be just a little too unobtrusive, it's true. If capitalism is governed by an invisible hand, then a well-functioning government is an invisible safety net – not just for those getting obviously slapped around by capitalism, but also for anyone whose well-being depends on the free market not taking too many whiplash turns. We want the government to help the least of us, we also want it to keep planes from falling out of the sky and our food from making us sick.

This goes on long enough, and a lot that we take for granted will go away – and the thing about an invisible safety net is that you only notice it's gone once you fall.

Ana Marie Cox is political columnist for the Guardian US.