But this raises a puzzle. If Doctor Who were to give me a choice of going to today’s inauguration or that of, say, Warren Harding in 1921, I’d take the latter.
Whereas today’s politicians seem quotidian and mundane, yesterday’s - even the clunkers such as Harding - have a mystique and glamour. It’s not just in the US that this is so. Gladstone and Disraeli seem much more romantic figures than their more recent counterparts, even though Disraeli was as duplicitous and unprincipled as Wilson and Gladstone a pompous bore.
The thing is, I’m not alone in having this illogical instinctive contradiction. In taking the train into Washington, thus inviting comparisons with Lincoln, Obama was appealing to precisely this impulse, inviting us to believe he is more than a mere chief executive. He was using history as a legitimating device, cloaking the dull day-to-day manoeuvrings of politics as a priest dons a chasuble; the religious analogy is, I think, just.
This just raises questions though. Why do so many of us have this (irrational?) attraction to the historical? I don't think it's merely that unfamiliar times and places have a glamour; I suspect historians of the 1920s would share my preference.
And why is it that politicians - not just Obama of course, though he does it so well - feel the need to play upon this, to present themselves as more than mere managers - even though that’s what they are?
A plug: If you want my writings on economics, a lot of them are here.