From a 30,000-foot vantage, a government shutdown doesn’t cost much. S&P Global estimates that the border-wall impasse—the longest in history, unresolved at press time—shaved only $3.6 billion off the U.S. economy over its first three weeks. But other barometers, including rising airport delays and a screeching halt in IPOs, remind us how much our commerce depends on a well-functioning state. And a recent tumble in consumer confidence points to the ripple effects of an erosion of faith in a system that routinely stops public servants from serving the public. That’s a cost that could become incalculably high.
A version of this article appears in the February 2019 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline, “Closing Costs.”
SOURCES: CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE; NEWS REPORTS
NOTE: Dates shown here are the calendar year in which each shutdown started.