Wednesday, June 29, 2016

POPULISM: Swinging Back in USA and Britain (PS Nov. 30, 2016)

Merton's John Jewkes
The New York Times today has a news analysis by Eduardo Porter that speculates whether the populist trends in America and Britain spell the end of the Capitalist anti-regulatory era that had its heyday when President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took on the unions and the government bureaucracy.

If so, the two countries are both going home with the country that brung them. Origins of the intellectual ferment that led to the libertarian triumphs in the 1980s can be found both at the University of Chicago and at Oxford.

Martin Feldstein, for example, came to Nuffield College, Oxford with the idea of bringing back the National Health Service formula to the United States and instead was reoriented to a Laissez-Faire outlook by the libertarians at Oxford like Merton's Prof. John Jewkes, author of The Sources of Invention.

Similarly, Oxford's current Chancellor, born Christopher Francis (Chris) Patten, now Lord Patten of Barnes, when a new graduate of Oxford, went to New York to study at the feet of progressive Republican John Lindsay. Instead was shocked by the depth of resentment against Washington that he found in his touring of the south. Similarly, in New York City he found the same feelings stirred up by Bill Buckley in the primary campaign for mayor against Lindsay–Buckley sensed deep hostility to Big Government by discontented workers, notably Irish Americans. When he went back to London, Patten used his experience to help design the campaign strategy for the Conservative Party that swept Thatcher to victory.

The reforms introduced by Reagan and Thatcher were embraced by their more liberal successors, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Postscript, Nov. 30, 2016

In the United States, Donald Trump's transition seems to be pointing toward more privatization and deregulation – in education, health care, and the environment. The populism of the right has won out over the populism of the left. Bernie Sanders intended to keep up the pressure on President Hillary Clinton. It's now clear now how that is going to work.

The Trump Transition reminds me of the late 1960s, when the Nader Raiders and the incoming Nixon administration were in wide agreement over the failures of the regulatory agencies like the FTC and ICC. But the Nader conclusion was to reform the regulation and make it work better. The Nixon deregulatory hawks favored terminating the agencies or the offending regulations–but it was under Nixon that the EPA was started, headed by Bill Ruckelshaus. The Trump appointees seem to be bent on the same deregulatory goals as Nixon, including reducing the powers and commitments of the EPA.

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