Someone has asked me my opinion about the US government shutdown.
Well, I have opinions, for what they are worth, about several aspects of this lamentable situation.
1. Trump is not without justification. He campaigned on the issue of the wall. It was one of his most publicised policies and he won, so one would think that he should be able to implement it. He has come under huge pressure to change just about everything that he campaigned for and so I can understand him digging his heels in.
2. At the same time, dividing the world's people up with walls, whether physical or bureaucratic, is something I abhor. I would never have voted for it myself. I believe in freedom of movement for myself and for others.
3. Behind these immediate opinions there are deeper demographic issues. Trump is probably right to think that Hispanic immigration represents an existential threat to the USA. The day is in sight when several states bordering Mexico will be majority Spanish speaking. Once this is the case it will become much more difficult to keep the USA as a single political unit. This has nothing to do with Hispaqnics being good or bad people, it is simply that a country so culturally divided becomes difficult to govern and may actually split.
4. But so what? I would not mind if California, say, did become an independent country. Why shouldn't it? It would have an economy bigger than those of most other countries in the world and would be quite capable. This would reduce the overall power of the USA slightly, but that would not be a bad thing either.
5. On an even bigger scale, demographic studies show us that if people are not allowed to move and mix then economic disparities between one part of the world and another will be greater than if they are so allowed. This will mean that the world human population will peak at a higher level - perhaps an extra trillion people - than if there is greater movement and levelling out. This excess of mouths to feed will substantially worsen the already highly threatening ecological problems that we know about - and probably many more that we don't yet know about.
6. On another tack, the Trump stand-off brings to light substantial problems in the supposedly democratic constitution of the USA. "Checks and balances" can, as in this case, become bitter divisions. Courts, which are supposed to be halls of justice, become arenas of politics. Parties, which are supposed to present positive programmes, become means of obstruction. As long as there is a consensus among the governing class, it kind of works, but when somebody comes along who really thinks differently chaos soon breaks out. There is no perfect political system.
7. The advent of Trump in America reflects a trend across the world. One might count Brexit as another example and that vote occurred before Trump came to power. It would be a mistake to think that if one could just get rid of Donald everything will go back to how it was before. It won't. There are bigger forces at work. These are mostly to do with the way that the world trading and economic system works. This is not just about capitalism vs socialism, since neither has an adequate answer - but then, so far, nor does anybody else, it seems.
8. The shutdown might last a long time or might be solved tomorrow, but it is just one headline in the on-going story of how America and the world are being forced to confront the fact that the settlement that was partly explicitly and partly implicitly arrived at in the aftermath of World War II is no longer working as originally intended. The rich get richer, the poor poorer, achievements do not meet expectations, greed, envy and hatred are proliferating. This would historically have led to World War III by now, but the presence of weapons of mass destruction means we have to find another way. So far, nobody has a credible solution and so the signs of breakdown and outbreaks of chaos are likely to go on multiplying.