What will a shutdown of the federal government ultimately look like?

One well-known scenario suggests that roaming bands of survivalists will be plundering stockpiles of abandoned weapons; the last vials of deadly diseases are cracking under the unsupervised mechanisms at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and all communications and travel are frozen — airports shut down, highways unpatrolled, bridges collapsing.

No, wait…that’s The Walking Dead. A zombie menace has shut down any federal authority, and local groups form nomadic associations to survive.

In another scenario, self-appointed militias are in control, and rebellion is brewing. Cities have been abandoned. There is no federal authority. Communities are isolated and terrified.

No wait..that’s Revolution. The electrical grid has mysteriously gone down, and is unrecoverable. People are desperate to adapt to a post-electric civilization that leaves them atomized. A new world order establishes itself — lawless and brutal.

Over the past few seasons, millions of television viewers have already seen a collective vision of an America that has come to a standstill. Television series like The Walking Dead, Revolution and Falling Skies all posit worlds in which there is no national government. Leadership is achingly local; laws are created on an ad hoc basis; almost anything is permissible in the name of survival.