Anne Applebaum gets a bit carried away:

The cost of shutting down the federal government, for a few days or even a few weeks, pales in comparison to the damage done to the credibility of the United States abroad — and the credibility of democracy itself.

Warning about the danger of lost “credibility” is a fairly easy thing to do, but it is also very difficult to prove that these warnings have come true. “Credibility” is mostly intangible and immeasurable, which makes it hard to know how much “credibility” has been lost as a result of any particular action or failure to act. It is possible that the current shutdown means that the U.S. will be perceived as less credible when government officials talk about the need for political reform in other countries, but it is more likely that other nations will see the mess here as an easily avoidable political impasse that shouldn’t be imitated. Warnings about lost “credibility” are typically vague, because specific examples of what lost “credibility” mean are usually so implausible that they become self-refuting.

If citizens of other democratic countries are confused or bemused by the spectacle of the shutdown, that suggests that the broader “credibility of democracy” is not at stake, since there are numerous other examples of how democratic governments can and do operate. Other nations won’t look at the U.S. and conclude that representative, democratic government is undesirable, but they might take the recent American experience as an object lesson in what not to do. The trouble here is not so much that the U.S. is in danger of losing “credibility” abroad, but that its legislative branch has reached a point where it cannot function normally when addressing domestic issues.