What is a Government Shutdown?

In the United States, a government shutdown can occur if there is a disagreement on budgets.

Definition of Government Shutdown

A government shutdown refers to the partial shutdown of some services of the government. In United States politics, if a president fails to pass a law, the executive branch must enter into the process to fund government agencies and operations. In most cases, the term government shutdown refers to shutdowns at the federal level. However, there have been occurrences of shutdowns at both the local and the state levels of government.

When Do Government Shutdowns Occur?

The main basis of a government shutdown is the disagreement on budgets. Government operations rely heavily on budget implementation and if there are gaps in the budget funding, government shutdown can be a result. For example, in the United States, after the enacting of the current budget and appropriations in 1976, the number of gaps in budget funding sum up to 18. Seven of them resulted in the furloughing of federal employees, a situation that corresponds with government shutdown.

During the Reagan administration, there were three funding gaps and a one-day government shutdown. Under the administration of George H. W. Bush, a weekend shutdown occurred in 1990. The longest government shutdown occurred in 1995 and 1996 under the Clinton administration. It lasted for 21 days.

Effects of Government Shutdowns

One of the consequences of government shutdowns is the furloughing of federal employees. In the occurrence of a government shutdown, furloughed employees of the government would be restricted from checking their emails from their homes. The prohibition results from the requirement by several agencies that employees must return any electronic devices that they had obtained from the government.

Government shutdowns cause economic inconveniences due to loss of confidence in the job market and damage to the GDP. For example, during the United States government shutdown of 2013, there were delayed payments for 1.3 million workers. The confidence in the job market decreased for a month before recovering. Other effects of government shutdowns include lack of investments, destruction of scientific studies, and deferred costs of maintenance. The primary basis of these results is the lack of government support that the effected sectors require to be successful.


Government shutdowns correspond with the failure of the federal or local governments exercising the appropriate authorities in the provision of services to their subjects. Government shutdowns are an economic challenge and negatively impact the country. The period of government might be short, but the effects they can bring can be more severe than expected. Therefore, the government needs to be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the country's budget to prevent the occurrence of government shutdowns.

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