17.1.17

THE IRREGULAR RHYMES OF HISTORY.

Dave "Voluntary Xchange" Tufte picks up a Nation interview with Yale political scientist Stephen Skowronek looking for regularities in the Black Swan event we call the Trumpening.  We'll start with the political economy of cycles, particularly cycles that are long relative to the frame of reference.
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.
Yes, that's the fundamental flaw with cycles-of-history arguments, including those involving Fourth Turnings.  Wherever there is a pattern, there are opportunities to exploit the pattern and throw the cycle off.

What's interesting, though, is Professor Skowronek's indictment of the Cult of the Presidency.
Look, the 20th-century Progressives really screwed up the presidency in the sense that they envisioned every president as a transformative leader. So they instituted primary elections, which gave us these idiosyncratic presidential parties not beholden to any collective. Instead, they are personal organizations which feed this idea of transformational leadership. But at the same time, the Progressives rebuilt the government to create this enormous management apparatus we call the executive office of the president. So now we also expect the president to be a rational coordinator of institutions and actions throughout this massive federal government.

The problem is that those two functions don’t necessarily go together very well. How can you promise to shake the system up, to extricate the special interests and transform politics, while also being a responsible manager of the state? In the 2016 election, we saw a choice between candidates who were essentially caricatures of those two views. Hillary Clinton was all about competence and management and rational decision-making, while Trump was all about popular mobilization and disruption.
Put not excessive faith in Chief Magistrates.

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