Join 3,558 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Imagine there's no goverment
February 21, 2011 4:43 AM   Subscribe

Worse than Iraq: 253 days without a working goverment - a new world record, and no solution in sight.

Not even the proposed sex strike helped.

Who's to blame for this mess? Bart? Flanders? The bow tie guy?

Anyway, "The national budget deficit was less than predicted last year, partly because there was no national government to spend new money."
posted by iviken (49 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
There is a government, and the government is the civil service. Humphrey told me to tell you it is all running far more smoothly than normal.
posted by jaduncan at 4:48 AM on February 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


Tom Boonen for President, free beer and frites for all.
posted by fixedgear at 4:52 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Belgium is worse than Iraq?

I think that word "worse" doesn't mean what you think it means.
posted by chavenet at 4:57 AM on February 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I didnt know Somalia had a working government just 252 days ago...
posted by MNDZ at 4:59 AM on February 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Stupid sexy Flanders...
posted by SNWidget at 5:02 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Won't somebody think of the lambics!

and the tripels...
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:06 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


At least Belgium gets a new world record. Until now, the entire nation had been pinning its hopes on the 400 meter.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:06 AM on February 21, 2011


But struth, wouldn't there be anarchy without a government? How can this be?
posted by Ahab at 5:11 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sven Nys for President, free beer and waffles for all.
posted by the painkiller at 5:12 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didnt know Somalia had a working government just 252 days ago...

Somalia has a working goverment, but maybe it's not working very well.

Anyway, here's one of the brighter spots in recent Belgian history: Sandra Kim (age 13), winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1986. ♫ J'aime la vie. ♫
posted by iviken at 5:12 AM on February 21, 2011


A lack of government is not the same thing as a lack of a functioning civil service.

Or does the USA devolve into Bartertown whenever Congress goes on recess?
posted by PenDevil at 5:20 AM on February 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or does the USA devolve into Bartertown whenever Congress goes on recess?

Remember 1995?
posted by iviken at 5:31 AM on February 21, 2011


Apart from the fact that it indeed has the civil service still busy, Belgium is only missing the federal government. It still has the Flemish regional and cultural government, the Brussels regional government, the Walloon regional government, the Francophone and Germanophone cultural governments, and a whole lot of very powerful local governments and mayors.

In short: for a country of just 10 million, Belgium has so many governments, that it can lose one or two without anybody noticing.
posted by Skeptic at 5:34 AM on February 21, 2011 [40 favorites]


Keep in mind that in a parliamentary democracy government != Government.

The party in power is referred to as the government.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:42 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Apart from the fact that it indeed has the civil service still busy, Belgium is only missing the federal government. It still has the Flemish regional and cultural government, the Brussels regional government, the Walloon regional government, the Francophone and Germanophone cultural governments, and a whole lot of very powerful local governments and mayors.

In short: for a country of just 10 million, Belgium has so many governments, that it can lose one or two without anybody noticing.


Indeed. Here's a rather lovely and fun video that was posted on the blue recently which describes the various political structures.

And having just spent a great weekend in Brussels (beer, food, museums, beer, PJ Harvey gig), I have to say that everything seems to work hunky-dory.
posted by daveje at 5:46 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whenever someone on the street tries to forcibly copy memes into my head (free the celery! mandatory dimethylmercury injections for glaciers, Lyndon LaRouche will save the world, and/or general whatnot), I've taken to telling them as politely as possible "Belgium doesn't exist". I was doing this prior to this current fiasco.
posted by oonh at 5:52 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Belgium is worse than Iraq?

I think that word "worse" doesn't mean what you think it means.


Dude, my brother just got back from his second tour of Belgium. His unit was at Grooenplatz in Antwerp when the shit went down, and he has to live the rest of his life remembering how his friends got rude stares and even cold service in stores.

The other day we took the subway and he lost his shit at the Airport stop. First some little girl was eating french fries and my brother started sweating. I didn't know this, but the Belgians are so nasty that they use child soldiers-- the child offers you a frite or foil-wrapped chocolate and then when you go to take it, they pull it away and laugh.

Then some guy wearing a hat got on with luggage. My bro thought it was an Orthodox Jew carrying a suitcase full of diamonds and we had to leave the train and go get a cab. This how he lives every day. The military hasn't been following through on their promises to help him either.

This is all fucking Bush's fault, too. The administration falsified all that "evidence" about Belgium's threat to the US and the god damn Times fed it to the public. We all know that the war was about a limited resource that the United States is desperate for-- Trappist Ale.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:08 AM on February 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


Eddy Merckx run Bartertown!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:12 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


"About 20 supporters of the far-right Flemish independence party Vlaams Belang, whose slogan is "Belgium, Die!", showed up at the Ghent party where they were outnumbered by several thousand people in the city square."

"Belgium, Die" as in "Belgium, The"?
posted by iviken at 6:26 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a Belgian e-quaintance and we joke about which is worse, Rick Perry's Texas or no government at all. It seems to be an open question.
posted by immlass at 6:39 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lack of government is not the same thing as a lack of a functioning civil service.

So how long can the civil service keep getting paid without new appropriations from the Belgian government? Do they have a yearly budget process or is it longer than that?
posted by octothorpe at 6:42 AM on February 21, 2011


iviken The actual slogan of Vlaams Belang in Flemish is "België Barst!", which is more accurately translated as "Belgium, Burst!". Regardless of the overall harmlessness of the rest of Belgian politics, this particular party is not nice at all (serious neo-Nazi connections).
posted by Skeptic at 6:43 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or does the USA devolve into Bartertown whenever Congress goes on recess?
That would be Ron and Rand's preference.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:44 AM on February 21, 2011


octothorpe So how long can the civil service keep getting paid without new appropriations from the Belgian government? Do they have a yearly budget process or is it longer than that?

Actually that's one of the current subjects of discussion. The interim government has simply rolled over the previous year's budget, but the Belgian constitution (which is about as elastic as Belgian politicians' consciences, that is, quite a lot) isn't very specific about whether it's actually allowed to do that...
posted by Skeptic at 6:46 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've taken to telling them as politely as possible "Belgium doesn't exist"

I've driven through Belgium twice - without getting out of the car either time. Belgium may or may not be an illusion, I certainly have no concrete proof that it really exists.
posted by sonika at 6:51 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since no one's annexed it yet, I take it Belgium isn't worth invading then?
posted by yeti at 7:01 AM on February 21, 2011


Worse than Iraq, you say?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:12 AM on February 21, 2011


I'd just like to go on record as saying that I really like Belgium. The food is fantastic, the beer is amazing. I've only spent time in the Flemish part (and Brussels) and I've had a great time every time I've been there. I love the fact that they've embraced their disfunction with humour and as a point of national pride -at this point it's so endemic it might as well be.
posted by ob at 7:13 AM on February 21, 2011


I'd just like to go on record as saying that I really like Belgium.

Everyone who's visited more than just Brussels really likes it, I think. That's why people enjoy making jokes about it. Kind of how a lot of people in the Northeast US love to rag on Canada even though a great many of us strongly admire it. Fairly happy people in pretty surroundings-- only really perverted misanthropes actually dislike that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:35 AM on February 21, 2011


Meh. This has been going on off and on for years and it doesn't seem to have caused much harm as the system has just adapted. It really is Humphrey's dream come true. Skeptic also forgot the EU, which is a government in and of itself.
posted by zachlipton at 7:56 AM on February 21, 2011


If you rent the DVD of In Bruges, don't miss the extra feature which is the twilight canal boat tour, it's really swell.
posted by ovvl at 8:23 AM on February 21, 2011


But then, Belgium's system of government is like a cat, it still has five more lives going on.
posted by Laotic at 8:35 AM on February 21, 2011


Actually they have a caretaker government. headlines like this are big news in the U.S. because "government" means something different in a parlementary system. We use the term "government" essentially to mean "the state" so the U.S. without a government would be like anarchy or disillusion of the United States. That's not what's happening here at all. They have a caretaker government.
posted by delmoi at 8:39 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember a typically Belgian joke circulating in the '80s:

"Why are there 39 ministers in Belgium?...Because if there was one more, King Baldwin (Baudoin/Boudewijn) would be called Ali Baba!"

However, according to Laotic's link the current tally is 47...
posted by Skeptic at 8:43 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Somalia's government is in name only. The official government only controls a sliver of the capital and a small chunk of the rest of the country.

Of course, comparing the domestic situation in Belgium to Iraq or Somalia is ridiculous. But we all know that.
posted by Nelson at 8:53 AM on February 21, 2011


I think we need to call in Kabouter Wesley to sort ’em out.
posted by Es ist Zeit, dass es Zeit wird! at 8:56 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


When the US government shuts down in a couple weeks somehow I doubt our lack of government will be so orderly.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:18 AM on February 21, 2011


Belgium is a Kingdom, so as long as the King is alive, there is a government. As delmoi says, the king has appointed a caretaker government.

The same thing basically happens every time there's an election - same here in the Netherlands. When a government "falls", that is, loses the support from parliament, the PM offer their resignation to the King, who calls for elections and asks the current PM to run a caretaker government. That usually means "business as usual" except for "controversial" subjects, for which no laws are offered to parliament. Parliament basically decides which subjects are "controversial", but basic business, including budget, continues.

The biggest problem in Belgium is that the budget cannot include bug cuts (required thanks to the financial crisis) since any big cuts are likely to be declared controversial.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:05 AM on February 21, 2011


Bug cuts == big cuts, obviously.
posted by DreamerFi at 10:13 AM on February 21, 2011


Actually, DreamerFi in Belgium the king does not have the power to appoint such a caretaker government. Instead, the incumbent government stays in place until a new government is negotiated which can get the support of a parliamentary majority. To conduct these negotiations, the king appoints an "informer" first, and then a "former". But this time the warrying parties have already burned through half a dozen "informers", "formers" and the odd "explorer".
posted by Skeptic at 11:08 AM on February 21, 2011


I have fantasized for years about this in the U.S. Convene a Congress, which does pretty much nothing except keep the place tidy. By place, I mean, literally, the Capitol Building. Pick up the Doritos bags and sweep the place. If you have a party, clean up afterwards, and we don't want your friends sleeping on the couches - well, not on a regular basis.

Ah, sweet, sweet, fantasy.
posted by Xoebe at 11:10 AM on February 21, 2011


No, it's Luxembourg that is worse than Iraq.
posted by quarsan at 11:14 AM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tom Boonen for President, free beer and frites for all.

A Belgian rider, riding a Belgian bike, for a Belgian team...in Belgium!
posted by jimmythefish at 12:37 PM on February 21, 2011


Agreeing. A "government" in this usage is simply a parliamentary majority formed through coalition and a prime minister appearing. It does not mean the post offices and street cleaners and television detector vans have shut down.

Also, miserable fat Belgian bastards.
posted by gjc at 12:41 PM on February 21, 2011


I bet the Libyans would be okay with their "government" being absent for 153 days right about now.
posted by dry white toast at 1:08 PM on February 21, 2011


Hercule Poirot: "In Belgium, Hastings, it is considered quite bad form to read another person's newspaper cuttings."
posted by clavdivs at 4:08 PM on February 21, 2011


'If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:42 PM on February 21, 2011


That was great, Mayor Curley!
posted by mono blanco at 12:11 AM on February 22, 2011


Mayor Curley: We all know that the war was about a limited resource that the United States is desperate for-- Trappist Ale.

Right around the same time you were posting this, I was drinking a Westvleteren.
posted by paisley henosis at 5:30 AM on February 22, 2011


« Older Various ways of killing porcelain vases....  |  Posemaniacs is a site offering... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments