There's been a lot of speculation about a government shutdown during the upcoming 112th Congress (or even earlier), or a default caused by a failure to raise the debt ceiling. I've contributed to that speculation, so I figured I should point out something in partial defense of the House Republicans.
To actually go through with a shutdown (or default) would be both awful policy and awful politics. To threaten a shutdown as part of bargaining over specific proposals is basically normal budget politics, something that both parties have employed during budget negotiations for decades. I suppose in an ideal world no party would ever use an impending deadline that spelled doom for both sides as a negotiating tool, but in the real world of budget politics, there's nothing especially terrible about it.
I think some of the confusion about this stems back to 1995. It's true that some crazed conservatives that year believed that it would actually strengthen their hand if the government shut down, because in their ideologically blinded opinion no one would notice or care. I rarely say anything nice about Newt Gingrich's grasp of reality, but as far as I know he wasn't guilty of that. Newt's mistake, from everything I've read, was that he honestly though that Bill Clinton was a weak person who would blink first rather than risk confrontation. Newt was wrong about Clinton, and he was more basically wrong about the importance of personality in those situations compared to the importance of institutional factors, but as far as I know he did not actually want to shut down the government as a goal.
Of course, the institutional factors that made shutdown a disaster for Republicans in 1995-1996 are still there today. Those include the media advantages a president holds against anyone in Congress; the tendency of Americans to hate Congress; and the negotiating advantages the single president has against the Speaker who needs to keep a 250 or so Member conference on board.
At any rate, what I really wanted to say was: there's nothing abnormally unethical or problematic about GOP threats to shut down the government or require concessions in order to get votes on a debt ceiling increase. That's business as usual, as long as it's just threats and posturing.