Two Makes a Trend

John Quiggin makes an interesting observation here that is less, I think, about the long-run trends in Anglosphere public policy than simply about the human tendency to see patterns where there isn’t necessarily anything happening. “When Blair took office, he was generally seen as offering Thatcherism with a human face,” he observes, while “Ten years later, the picture is quite different, superficially at least. Brown seems much more Old Labour than Blair, and Cameron is eager to be seen as anything but Thatcherite.”

Similarly, in the US I recall having heard Bill Clinton referred to as the “conservator of the Reagan Revolution,” which made a certain amount of sense circa 1999 or 2001. But Clinton’s successor was, though a Republican, substantially less anti-statist in his approach to economics than Reagan. And if Bush is succeeded by a Democrat who stands to Clinton’s left on economic matters (which seems reasonably likely), then suddenly Reagan starts to look like an outlier, and Clinton the guy who got the ball rolling down the hill again. On the other hand, if Bush is followed up by a Republican who follows through on promises to return to small government orthodoxy, then even Bush’s deviations will probably vanish from sight.