It’s from The Nation, so it’s too rosy about Democratic/Progressives, and too un-understanding about Republican/Conservatives for my taste. Nonetheless, I found it insightful.
Skowronek argues that there are long cycles in presidential politics.*
He claims all of presidential history follows a distinct pattern: “Reconstructive” presidents like Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan (to take only the last two cycles) transform American politics in their own image, clearing the field of viable competition and setting the terms of political debate. They are followed by hand-picked successors (Harry S. Truman and George H.W. Bush) who continue their predecessors’ policies and do little more than articulate an updated version of their ideas. They are usually succeeded in turn by presidents whom Skowronek calls “pre-emptive”—Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bill Clinton—who represent the opposite party but adopt the basic framework of the reigning orthodoxy. Next comes another faithful servant of that orthodoxy (John F. Kennedy/Lyndon Johnson; George W. Bush), followed by another preemptive opposition leader (Richard Nixon, Barack Obama) who again fails to overturn it. The final step in the sequence is a “disjunctive” president—usually somebody with little allegiance to the orthodoxy who is unable to hold it together in the face of the escalating crises it created and to which it has no response. The last disjunctive president, in Skowronek’s schema, was Jimmy Carter.
Like I said, it’s The Nation. So the implicit vision here is that Trump will screw things up so badly (like Carter), that the electorate will shoo-in a reconstructive progressive president who will define American politics until after I’m dead and gone:
The obvious answer would be somebody like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.
In his defense, he hedges:
But I’m not so sure. If the opportunity is not simply to oppose conservatism but to build something different and new, then something much broader than the current left alternative—something that mixes things up—might be more attractive.
I’m all for Trump going down in flames, but I’m not sure I like that alternative.
* As soon as you see long cycles in a discussion, you should be very suspicious. Think about two points. How do we know there are cycles? Because we return back to where we started. How do we know there are long cycles? Because we have a huge amount of data. Skowronek’s theory is based on observing 2, maybe 3, long cycles. At the absolute limit, possibly six. Solid scientists are exceptionally skeptical of that sort of argument.
I first came across Nat Hentoff in 1981 when I bought my first Bob Dylan albums — all used, and some from before my birth.
Later I would read his columns in various place and think “is he still alive”. That was a young man’s thought: for all I know he could’ve been 20 years older than me given the timing of his Dylan liner notes (it’s actually almost 40 years older).
Even later I’d read his reviews in The Wall Street Journal, and love the eclecticsim of them. And I think it was Terry Teachout who pointed me to some of his older Jazz thinking, which was cool too.
I suspect that some readers are unclear on what I mean by a thinking liberal.
As an example, I do not know, but I think maybe Hentoff would agree with how appalled I am at the Obama administration’s delineation of rights.
To be specific, their policy has been that the Bill of Rights applies to those within our borders rather than to our citizens. So, if you’re a foreign terrorist, but you’re in the U.S., you have civil rights. But, if you’re an American citizen (and perhaps a very bad perpetrator too) who is outside our borders, you have no civil rights when they send a drone to blow you to smithereens.
That’s f***ed up, and I’d like to think Nat would agree.
… To a group of people who feel completely ignored and disrespected by their government, it makes sense for them to say I oppose a policy that tells me what I have to do with my money.
It’s just a different, very different way of seeing it. But it’s not being hoodwinked.
That’s such a wonderful example. I think it really shows that people are pretty self-aware. They aren’t ignorant of Obamacare’s benefits. But they also recognize the costs. And to them, the costs — to their freedom, for instance — feel like they outweigh the benefits.
Exactly. Part of the cost is not just the money, right? It’s the cost of having this additional burden put on them by this very distant force that, in their minds, has shown them no regard.
To an economist, this is hugely insightful. We talk all the time about how not all benefits and costs are monetary. Personally, I emphasize to students that monetary benefits and costs are just an easier way to keep score. I don’t ignore the non-monetary stuff, but students often do.
So what I draw out of this part of the interview is that Obamacare supporters my be limiting themselves by thinking about monetary costs and benefits.
There’s more to it than that. Obviously, right?
The thing is, the motivation for restricting your thinking to just the monetary part may well be that they’re perfectly aware of the non-monetary part, and don’t care to admit how significant it is.
If that’s true, it adds support to the idea that the Democrats believed their own BS, or drank the Kool-aid, or whatever metaphor you prefer for this year.
* In my case, I freely admit to being biased and simply not thinking very seriously about anything Trump has said.
… The result is a position that is subjectively sincere, earnest and well-meaning — and objectively racist. … demonstrating, once again, that with the possible exception of handguns and tequila, the most dangerous combination on Earth is passion and ignorance.
The mechanism is an easy one for economists to understand. There’s two dimensions working at cross purposes here.
Condoms do contribute to safety. No one is arguing that point.
But there’s a second point we suppress at our peril: condoms make potential users feel flush/rich with safety. So they’re more likely to undertake risky behaviors.
Economists call these substitution and income effects. Everything we see is a combination of both. Usually the substitution effect is dominant. But the income effect can either enhance or reduce and perhaps even overwhelm the substitition effect. When weird outcomes, like the one with condoms occur, economists look to strong income effects as the expanation.
But, income effects are tough to spot without training. And the casual policy analyst is far too likely to assume that the substitution effect is always dominant.
Oooh, now this is interesting (emphasis is original):
… You mentioned many of your subjects liked Obama because they saw him as an agent of change. Looking at this past election, it was stunning to see how many counties flipped from Obama to Trump. It really does seem that some people voted for Obama and for Trump. I think they saw in both of them, maybe, a potential to shake things up in Washington.
That’s absolutely spot-on. I remember going around to some groups [in rural Wisconsin] right after the Iowa caucuses in 2008, and asking people, “Were you surprised at the outcome?” And many groups would say, Actually, I can see a black president or a woman president. It’s about time we had something different in there! I heard that in a lot of places. Not universally, but in a lot of places. They really did see the possibility that the first African American president could offer something different.
It’s not surprising to me that people would vote for both Obama and Trump — they both promised some kind of change. It just goes to show, too, just why Hillary Clinton was so distasteful to so many people.
The Trump administration is shaping up to look like an immensely qualified group of adjunct professors — the kind of leaders most parents would want their children to learn from.
Wha wha what?
It’s actually a serious point that I hadn’t considered before. Here goes:
As a rule, the Obama administration is staffed by the crème de la crème of academically trained policy and legal scholars. … Law schools and schools of public administration are the majority. A vast … portion of the current administration’s work experience has been in politics and government. In other words, they are professional bureaucrats, trained by academics in the process of government.
The Trump administration is virtually the opposite. Military, medical, and business backgrounds are the norm. These individuals went to school all over the country … the type of people you would see as adjunct professors — the ones who come into a classroom to help bridge the gap between theory and the real world.
I’m still dubious about how this is going to turn out.
Even so, I’d like to see what would happen to my employer if all our administrators were replaced by adjuncts from outside our academic cocoon.
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