The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Feb 102010

Good piece from last month in the Washington Post.  This guy really gets the whole principal of seasonality within the saeculum.  The very political coalitions that tend to prosper during a Second Turning (Awakening)and Third Turning (Unraveling)—those which win by outbidding the others on how much they can distribute pleasure, borrow from the future, and undermine institutional barriers—guarantee that the whole system has to be smashed to smithereens before it can be rebuilt.  Right now, we have politicians in power whose entire political careers have been built around the wrong logic for a Fourth Turning (Crisis).

One important way in which the federal problem is much worse than the California problem is that states have natural circuit breakers: Most of them have constitutional prohibitions of general-interest deficit-financing, and even if those can be circumvented, state governments can’t print money.  The federal government has no circuit breaker, so the national problem can grow to economically catastrophic proportions without any of us feeling anything.  This is another interesting aspect of policymaking in the 2T  and 4rd Turning eras: The deliberate removal of circuit breakers, like getting rid of fixed exchange rates to foster cross-border investment or getting rid economic regulation to maximize the productivity of labor and capital.  The old regime forced people to come to terms with imbalances before they become dangerous precisely because they introduced inefficient kinks or bottlenecks into the system.  Alarm bells went off that people would have to deal with.  Today, we’ve removed all the speed bumps.

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  • ChicagoH

    “…atop a successful strategy of relentless and effective obstructionism, Congress has been virtually incapable of doing anything difficult because the minority party will either block it or run against it, or both. And make no mistake: Congress will need to do hard things, and soon.”

    THAT is why Massachusetts voters elected Scott Brown, not (as the pundits will have us believe) as a moratorium against Obama and the Democratic party overall. The current mindset of Americans is to elect whomever convinces them they will FIX WHAT'S WRONG. No one cares what political party the person belongs to (well, outside of Boomers, who still do).

    They want obstructionism on both sides to end. They want “politics” as we currently know it to end, and for elected officials to just solve the problems that make their everyday lives miserable. That's why more people say they're Independents. That's why each new poll shows that people are more likely to vote Republican, or why they think this-person-or-that-person is more electable than Obama.

    People want solutions that encompass all points of view, not just the Progressives, or the Tea Partiers, or the Democrats or the Republicans. It's just typical early 4T behavior.

  • C. Kennedy

    No matter whom we elect, obstructionism on either side will continue as politicians vie for power while striving to keep system that elected them going. Sadly, it will be a painful readjustment for all of us when that system breaks down.

  • ChicagoH

    Further evidence Americans want “politics” as we know it to end:

    A CBS News-New York Times poll this week found 80% of Americans believe members of Congress are more interested in serving special interests than the people they represent. 81% say lawmakers up for re-election should not be re-elected. Full story and results available via Bloomberg News.

  • ssgconway

    Michigan is getting ready to have a generational power shift in state government as an early-retirement offer with strong negative incentives for those who decline it will clear out most Boomers from the civil service. Michigan's crisis predates the nation's by several years, and now a new genration will literally take over the levers of power in state government.