Jonah Goldberg had a column this morning that had such an elegant lead that it reminded me of English literary historians:
When Rome was “falling,” did it feel like it? When all of the tasty, leafy fronds started vanishing, did the dinosaurs say, “So this is what extinction looks like”? When British troops signed up for a quick war in 1914, they expected to be “home by Christmas.” They certainly didn’t say “goodbye to all that” – in the words of Robert Graves – until long after they realized “all that” had in fact disappeared.
Lord Macaulay, call your office.
Another interesting thing about the column is that it is an optimistic bookend to a pessimistic column today by Charles Krauthammer. Goldberg proposes that something odd has happened and that the rules have, unbeknownst to most of us changed:
For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters – and scares over alleged ones – help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it. According to the rules, populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less. According to the rules, Americans don’t care about the deficit during a recession.
However, Americans are now sourer about big government, entitlements, and deficit spending than at any time before in our history. Krauthammer proposes that those who would like to turn back big government spending may be thwarted by an ambitious and politically astute young president, who will be more formidable in 2012 than many now believe, will, if reelected, do in his second 500 days as much to fundamentally transform the country as he has done in his first.