Tuesday, April 5, 2016

No, Piketty, Sanders' popularity is not the "end of the Reagan cycle" in US politics

Thomas Piketty, the far left economist (in?)famous for his groundbreaking book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," wrote an article in the French magazine Le Monde back on Valentines Day in which he predicts that Bernie Sanders' electoral success thus far is a harbinger of doom for the small-government "politico-ideological cycle" started by Ronald Reagan.  The article made me a bit sad, but not because I found it convincing; rather, because it reminded me of when I used to be so excitable.

Four years ago, I was a devoted Paulbot - under no illusions that Ron Paul could win the election in 2012, but fully committed to the idea that his ideology was the next big thing.  Two years ago, Reason Magazine was predicting the birth of a “libertarian era”, because Rand Paul seemed like a legitimately electable frontrunner and all the young conservatives leaned libertarian in the polls.  I confess, I was still drinking the Kool Aid on that: “majorities say they are socially tolerant and fiscally conservative!” I’d point out. “Americans are libertarian, they just don’t’ know it yet!” 

Then ISIS happened, they all got scared, and POOF – restrained foreign policy is uncool again.  Today, the Presidential candidates are popular in inverse relation to how libertarian they are.

The point is that sometimes our ideological biases, combined with the echo chamber of self-selected news sources and social media audiences, beguile us into thinking our ideas are catching on a little quicker than they are.  Piketty’s article is another example, and part of a long tradition of lefties whose political prognostications are as wishful as their economic thinking.

Take E.J. Dionnne, for instance.  In 1997, following an embarrassing government shutdown debacle in November of 1996, he confidently asserted that “the era of bashing government is over.” For a while, he was right - until the ineptness of the Bush administration made it return.  In 2006, that same columnist promised that “the libertarian moment was over."  I have no clue what remotely libertarian trend he was referencing back in 2006, but suffice to say that was not the movement's peak.  On Nov. 5, 2008, the day after Obama’s historic victory and the Democrats’ sweep of the House and Senate, Dionne proclaimed that “the country put a definitive end to a conservative era.”  In 2010, he said the Tea Party was a fringe fad that wouldn’t sway that fall’s election. He was wrong again. And in 2013, he once again declared “The era of the Tea Party is over” in a televised interview.  The NSA leak outcry, IRS scandal, and 2014 congressional elections indicated otherwise.

Each time the left tries to marginalize small-government sentiment, big-government’s own inadequacies only cause that sentiment to resurface stronger than ever.

No matter what ideology you hold, widespread and deeply entrenched political opposition to your ideas will not just conveniently dissipate in the face of an elderly congressional ideologue with a young cult following.  No matter who wins in 2016, it's at least as likely that the resulting train-wreck will only disillusion a generation to the efficacy of government solutions (as well as their legitimacy, should another Clinton take the White House).  In any case, Reagan’s ideas aren’t going anywhere.

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