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November 2, 2008
David Warsh, Proprietor


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History, Swinging On Its Hinge

Readers, if they are diligent, plow through a couple thousand words each week to extract Economic Principals’ message – or not, depending on whether the topic seems interesting to them. Why that length?  The form evolved, and now seems natural to the function.

 

Not this week.

 

I’ve been reading The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath: The Past and Future of American Affluence, by Robert J. Samuelson, of Newsweek and The Washington Post; Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement From the New Deal to Reagan, by Kim Phillips-Fein, of New York University’s Gallatin School; and “Why America Needs an Economic Strategy”  by Michael Porter, of Harvard Business School, in the November10 issue of Business Week.  Each sheds light on choices facing the next president.

 

But mostly I’ve been waiting expectantly for the results of Tuesday’s election. Heart-on-sleeve, EP wrote last December,

It seems likely – yes, likely – that Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination during the lightning-fast caucuses and primaries of the next two months. As polished and experienced as is Sen. Clinton, this is almost certainly a more desirable outcome, given all that has happened these last sixteen years. Unlike Clinton, Obama would be free to form his own identity in domestic politics, and to devise an agenda capable of commanding broad support. In all likelihood, he would do a better job of repairing the United States’ reputation around the world.

Here’s hoping.

 

Meanwhile, though, a salute to the coalition of the late 1970s that, until it dissipated, delivered the United States from a paralysis born of too much faith in expert opinion, and restored its sense of confidence — in markets, in self-reliance and in its moral compass. Obama himself put it this way late last year:

I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America, in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating…. He just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, “We want clarity, we want optimism.”

Same thing again, only different. 

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