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Bad news, everyone: the panda cam at Washington zoo has fallen victim to the US government shutdown.

Where before, US taxpayers (everyone else too: thanks US taxpayers!) were free any time of day or night to watch the pandas do exciting things like pacing around, sleeping and chewing bamboo on special government-funded spy cameras, now all they see is a black screen and an error message.

Sad, isn’t it?

But I don’t mean sad as in "Oh no you can’t see the pandas." I mean sad that Western civilization has reached such a pitch of decadence that we consider it normal, acceptable even, for the government to confiscate our earnings through the tax system and squander it on fripperies like panda-viewing web cams.

Or, indeed, on policing nudity or illegal banana-slug-eating in America’s National Parks. There’s another area on which the US government seems to think it has an unalienable right to splurge taxpayers’ tax dollar whether they like it or not.

You or I might think one of the main points of sequestering a wilderness zone like Yellowstone Park would be so visitors could get more intimate with nature by skinny-dipping in a cooling stream, perhaps under the influence of alcoholic beverages. But the park rules say no – and there’s a whole army of uniformed government employees just itching to enforce them.

Is this really what government is for? Really?

The Founding Fathers certainly wouldn’t have thought so:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.-That
to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving
their just powers from the consent of the governed…"

Where, exactly, does the prevention of slug-eating, or nude-bathing – or controlling admittance to the Lincoln Memorial and the Statue of Liberty, come into that?

And by what token, pray, is it a wise and proper and measured act of government to threaten World War II veterans trying to visit the national war memorial with arrest? An open air monument which requires no policing: this isn’t in the public interest, these are the petulance and bully-boy tactics we’ve come to expect from the Obama administration.

Don’t get me wrong: if I were on a trip to DC or Wyoming or New York right now, I would be absolutely livid at finding most of their star attractions closed because of the government shutdown.

My ire, however, would be directed at a system so sclerotic and statist that leisure zones such as monuments and national parks and zoos are still run by government employees when they should have been contracted out to the private sector long ago.

What does the US think it is – the Soviet Union? If it does, I could certainly see the logic: culture is good for the people, therefore it is the job of a benign, nurturing Motherland to edify and educate her children by running museums, galleries, parks and zoos as if they were government departments.

But if it still thinks of itself as the Land of the Free then, really, this latest shutdown should give it pause.

One thing it might have noticed, for example, is that it finds itself enacting a curious inversion of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

In Atlas Shrugged, you’ll recall, the private sector shuts down and the entire US economy collapses.

But in the revised Obama version, what happens is that the public sector shuts down and what the US begins to realize is how amazingly well it can survive without the meddling of, say, the looters of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Think of how Ayn Rand would love that….

British writer James Delingpole is the author of such "fantastically entertaining" books as 365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy, and Welcome To Obamaland: I’ve Seen Your Future And It Doesn’t Work.