Friday, February 19, 2016

Doctored photos, 1950-2016

My latest post appears here.

1 comment:

Bruce Wilder said...

Your column on the photos triggered an interesting thought for me about the rhythms of American history.

I am sure you are familiar with the 72-year cycle that seems to mark out the inflection points of American political anacyclosis. 72 years between 1788 and 1860, 1860 and 1932, and so on -- a regularity in policy regime change driven by generational change, and made more precisely regular by the Presidential election cycle.

I don't know why, but it just suddenly occurred to me that FDR set into motion two regime change cycles: one from 1932-6 and the other from 1945. One for domestic economic and social policy and the other for international economic policy, if you like. The first saw its 36 year inflection point in 1968-72, when peak oil took away the basis for suburbanization and Nixon abandoned the pseudo-gold-standard FDR had fashioned in 1933-5, and altered farm subsidy policy. 1969 was the year the auto and steel unions went too far in their wage demands, a time when auto quality became a big issue.

The 36 year inflection point for 1945 was in 1981. The U.S. embarked on a deregulatory and free trade regime designed to undermine the Teamsters, the airline unions, the auto and steel unions and gradually shift the country from manufacturing to finance.

2004-8 was the echo of 1933-37, and well-anticipated by Strauss–Howe. We are now living thru the second echo, the echo of 1945 and 1981.

I don't know why I hadn't seen that earlier -- it is kind of obvious, but it helped me to see things a bit differently, to see the Sanders/Trump phenomena as something different from a late attempt to correct the lost opportunity of 2008.

In important ways, the generational bunching that occurred when so many careers, especially among politicians, started in 1946, makes the current inflection point more profound. (That bunching of career starts was critically important in the antebellum period, too, as the War of 1812 meant that a whole generation of leading politicians passed away in 1850-2, and to the Progressive Era, as a whole generation of Civil War veteran politicians passed from the scene around 1900.)

But, I suppose I am also implicitly arguing that the policy regimes themselves have a kind of expiration date or inherent lifetime: they must be renewed and reproduced on schedule, because they decay at predictable rates. And, the international economic and political order put in place by the U.S. near the end of Second World War has played out into a fatal decadence: it is at an end. Free-trade has evolved from the managed regime put in place by the New Dealers to avoid beggar-thy-neighbor and the problems of the gold standard and drive employment and income enhancing trade to the corporate-gilded predation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, for example. The Manichaeism of the Cold War has given way to the utter confusion of loyalties and purpose of Syria.

Anyway, I'm probably just being manic with an idea, and I apologize if sharing my enthusiasm is annoying to you. I really appreciate the insights you have shared on your blog.