November 16, 2010
But in the long run, that was only a blip. Margaret Thatcher used to complain of the “ratchet effect.” When the left is in power, they turn socialism’s wheel forward a few clicks. When the right is in power, they slam down a brake so the wheel can”t go forward for a while. It never goes backward, though.
That’s an oversimplification: Pre-Thatcher Britain had a nationalized auto industry, a thing Thatcher got rid of that has never come back…well, not in Britain. Generally though, Margaret Thatcher was correct. The welfare state of 1979 was puny compared with its equivalent today. Those of us who like to find numerical patterns in things might note that from WWII’s end to the 1979-80 Thatcher-Reagan victories was 34-35 years, about the time it takes a generation to come up to full maturity. Another cycle of that size gets you to 2013-2015.
And here we are, with 2013 right over the horizon. The Boomer Economy is no longer tenable, and thoughtful people all know it. Many countries have acted on the knowledge, including some surprising cases. Did you know that in Sweden, of all places, government spending as a proportion of GDP has shrunk by ten percent since 1993? Sweden! In France they are raising the retirement age; in Britain they are slashing social-welfare spending; in Ireland they are cutting everything in a desperate effort to avoid a Greek-style national humiliation.
That’s history at work; and here’s Barack Obama, standing athwart history yelling, “Stop!” As the need for a comprehensive divorce with the Boomer Economy becomes ever more plain, here is Obama renewing his vows to it. As our debts and obligations soar into the tens of trillions, here is the President of the United States promising more, spending more, and guaranteeing more.
It was astonishing that we elected this man when we did; and it is tragic that his predecessor, who had the political support to address the coming crisis, did less than nothing. They were both boomers, and I suppose you could defend Bush by pointing out that as an early boomer, his commitment to the boomer mentality was more forgivable than that of Obama, a late boomer.
The future will decide whether Obama is the last of the boomer presidents. We can be sure, though, that either he or his successor”depending on how long before the dam gives way”will be the last to preside over a Boomer Economy. You can shout, “Stop!” all you like, but history will have its way.