Monday, April 08, 2013

Because it's not 1979 anymore


On the occasion of Margaret Thatcher's death, Matt Yglesias has a very insightful post today.

Thatcher and Reagan both enjoyed great policy success -- as did LBJ domestically -- but it's not 1979 anymore. Times change.
Thatcher, like Ronald Reagan...became what [LBJ] never was—more than an influential politician but a generation-defining icon. And yet while the policies of the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions have been largely successful, the political legacy seems to me to be quite mixed. Listening to contemporary conservatives, you often get the sense that they want to just rerun the policy agenda of the late 1970s and early 1980s. But today the leading global problem is climate change, not Communism. That's not because Communism isn't bad, it's because the Cold War is over. Privatizing state-run industrial companies won't jump-start growth. That's not because state-ownership of industrial firms is a good idea, it's because we don't have any. Reducing the power of labor unions to curb cost-push inflation doesn't fix anything because labor unions aren't powerful anymore. When you triumph, you triumph. But history doesn't end, new issues come to the front of the stack. We have a crisis of inadequate demand. We have the problem of providing health care to an aging population. Trying to apply the "lessons of Munich" to Vietnam was a disaster. Trying to apply the economic policy solutions of a generation ago to the problems of today is equally inappropriate.
Trying to apply the lessons Munich to Iraq also didn't work out so well. I really don't understand the Republican/conservative insistence in looking backward and trying to go backward. I suppose that's what makes them conservatives, but it doesn't take a visionary to see the obvious: Success in the future requires actually moving forward into the future and building a majority with the citizens of the country as they exist today, and not as they existed in 1980 on that August day in Philadelphia Mississippi where Ronald Reagan launched is general election campaign.

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