Academic Conversation of the Day

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ACADEMIC CONVERSATION OF THE DAY….When did the liberal expansion of the state that began in the early sixties end? When Reagan was elected? Paul Pierson says that’s not quite right:

When does it stop? It doesn’t stop in 1981. Roughly, it stops in 1978. The defeat of key domestic initiatives like industrial relations reform and health care reform; the passage of a completely different kind of tax bill, much more oriented towards business and the affluent than the tax bills that had come previously, but a tax bill that would look very familiar to more recent discussions in American politics. You see also the beginnings of a deregulatory push that would eventually remake government and the connection between government and the economy. And all this comes after the huge Democratic electoral victory of 1974, and the recapture of the White House in 1976.

I think Paul is exactly right. The 30-year-old (and counting) tax revolt started with Proposition 13 in California in 1978, and it was Jimmy Carter who very clearly initiated a lot of the political themes that are now associated with the 80s (deregulation, tax cutting, military buildups, human rights attacks on the Soviets, covert operations in Afghanistan, etc.). Henry Farrell draws a conclusion for today:

This makes it quite clear that a Democratic victory on its own, doesn’t mean much, unless there is a consequent or simultaneous shift in basic assumptions about government and the role of policy….If Obama wins, as seems very likely, do we [] face a substantial increase in the role of the state, and in the willingness of politicians to use political power to redress economic and social inequalities? Or should we expect a more cautious managerialism? The kinds of factors that Paul highlights suggest that the answer will depend both on the willingness of external groups to push for serious ideological changes, and on the willingness (or lack of same) of Obama and the people around him to use the current crisis as a way to remake basic understandings about the role of government in American society.

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