Skip to main content

Thirty Year Cycles

Image result for cycles of the moon

I used to believe there was an enduring 30 year cycle in the history of the US which became especially evident in presidential politics. Four years ago I abandoned that belief in the face of what seemed clear Popperian falsification.

Now I'm wondering if I have to go home again, in a conceptual sense.

The 30 year idea included the view that there is a general drift of reform in our history in which each train of reform runs out of steam as its central figures age, get tired, and fall out into competing factions. When that train has lost forward momentum, there is a strong counter-reform move. I don't remember what the term for this is. Let's call it the Rightward Shove for now.

The second election of Grover Cleveland to the Presidency, in 1892, was such a shove. Never mind now just in what respects. The next Rightward Shove after that came in 1920, bringing in Harding and bringing an end to the Progressive Era. The next Shove after that ... 1952, Eisenhower and the end of the New Deal era. The next one after that ... Reagan in 1980, pushing back on the reform wave that had begun life as the New Frontier. You see that these elections each came either 32 or 28 years after the one before -- 30 itself is not divisible by four. And each came after a 20 year period of leftward movement (however exactly one wants to define that!).

I abandoned my adherence to this cyclical theory not too long ago because I had confidently predicted on its basis the election of a Rightward Shove dispensing Republican in either 2008 or 2012, either 28 or 32 years after Reagan's victory, 16 or 20 years after Bill Clinton's. But no such shove came. Instead, Barack Obama won both times.

But now I think I may have abandoned this view too soon. Maybe the 30 year cycle is real, grounded in the fact of human aging and the factional (fracturing) nature of large political parties or movements. Obama preserved an old wave, so to speak, beyond its "buy by" date.  He preserved and continued Bill Clinton's reform push. But what we've seen is that he stretched the rubber band without breaking it, and that the rubber band has snapped back on us at last.

So these Rightward Shove's can bear lots of metaphors. We might understand the theory as still viable allowing for a little variation, and contemplating Donald Trump as the administrator of this shove.

I blame Popper.


Popular posts from this blog

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…