Please, Think of the Pandas!

One of the most visible casualties of the government shutdown that began yesterday is the National Zoo’s popular live webcam of its baby pandas. The government has temporarily ceased funding the zoo, forcing the camera to also be shut down.

Panda enthusiasts would be happy to learn that the Zoo Atlanta is still airing its panda cam online. The San Diego Zoo is also airing its own panda webcam online.

Why are these two zoos still able to air these webcams when the federal government is shut down? Both of these zoos are privately funded. Zoo Atlanta and San Diego Zoo both receive funding through donations from corporations like Ford Motor Company and McDonalds, among other sources.

It appears the market has already noticed the rising demand for cute panda webcams and provided alternative sources for viewing. It’s yet another example of markets providing services better than governments.

The panda cam shutdown itself is an example of  the Washington Monument effect. The idea is that government shuts down services that are not necessarily essential, but are highly visible and popular to the public. This will generate an outcry by citizens to keep these precious services, and the agencies that provide them, funded.

That the government could even have services it considers non-essential is ludicrous. It is a blatant display of an oversized government, with excessive programs.

If these programs really are non-essential, then we should consider allowing them to remain shut down beyond this impasse in congress. The market has already shown it can handle providing these services; let it continue to do so without government’s help.