When I first read Charles Krauthammer’s “In praise of the rotation of power,” I was impressed. He argued:
The rotation of power is the finest political instrument ever invented for the consolidation of what were once radical and deeply divisive policies. The classic example is the New Deal. Republicans railed against it for 20 years. Then Dwight Eisenhower came to power, wisely left it intact, and no serious leader since has called for its repeal.
Similarly, Bill Clinton consolidated Reaganism, just as Tony Blair consolidated Thatcherism. In both cases, moderate leaders brought their center-left party to accept their predecessors’ highly successful conservative reforms.
A similar consolidation has happened with many of the Bush anti-terror policies. In opposition, the Democrats decried warrantless wiretaps, rendition and detention without trial. But now that they are charged with protecting us from the bad guys, they’ve come to view these as indispensable national security measures.
Leaving aside his argument for the New Deal, I can agree with his premise that the rotation of power has the effect of giving legitimacy to once controversial policies, but is it always good?
The practice of limited government encourages a goodly circle of social virtue, as people find that they must serve their fellow men and women in economic goods and services to gain prosperity and distinction. The practice of big government encourages a vicious cycle of rent-seeking, as people find that the only way to get on is to support a politician and agitate for a subsidy or a bailout.
The argument is that it’s much more difficult to reverse a bad governmental decision than to prevent it. Rotation of power, then, is just as likely to preserve bad governmental actions as it to preserve good ones.
What do you think?
If you’re a blogger, do you agree with Krauthammer? Why or why not? Send me a link by 11:59 EDT Monday and, if I like it, I’ll include it in a roundup. All I ask is that you link back to the roundup.