“Withered” Washington through Russian Eyes by Lydia Razran Stone

During the government shutdown, our hometown paper, The Washington Post, is, of course filled with stories describing various reactions to the situation. My favorite so far describes the reaction of a delegation of Russian educators, scientists and journalists brought over this week through a program “set up by Congress to show off the US government.” Unfortunately they are seeing only the outside of Federal buildings and hearing lectures in rented function rooms. Their reactions seem to be twofold. First, it is “inconceivable” that any legislators could be so “fractious” as to shut down the Federal Government (at least by means not physically violent LRS). Second, they were highly impressed that the city remained so peaceful and orderly, with “clean streets and open shops.” One delegation member joked that this shutdown was not really a manifestation of capitalist democracy but instead the predicted final stage of socialism in which the state has “withered away” but people are able to “manage well without it.” This particular Russian is evidently, during the second stage of his tour, going to be sent to San Antonio (!) to study local government.  Too bad he is not going to be there next month: we could have invited him to our banquet and given him an earful about additional paradoxes of life and government in the United States.