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Swidden Conservatism

Talking about the different metanarratives that have been applied to George W. Bush, Matthew Yglesias says:

Then there was a lot of Bush-as-Reagan -- rejecting his father's moderation, Bush offers us bold, slash-and-burn conservatism.

My guess is that by "slash-and-burn" he means something like "gung-ho and destructive," by analogy to the actual slashing and burning element of slash-and-burn agriculture. But there may be something to a comparison between Reagan/GW Bush conservatism and swidden agriculture. Reagan comes into office and hacks away at liberal governance (like high taxes), clearing the ground for the growth of conservative crops. But after eight years, the country can no longer sustain the Reagan system, so we elect the anti-Reaganomics moderate GHW Bush. Under Bush and Clinton, liberalism grows back. With the budget recovered after the Clinton years, GW Bush comes along and hacks away liberalism and replants conservative stuff.


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