Is all this primary date switching business a recent phenomenon or is it just in the news more? What do you see as the eventual outcome? Will states continue to jockey for position every cycle? Or will we get some agreement to a new structure, such as a rotating schedule? Does Iowa really deserve some sort of protected status as "first in the nation"?The jockeying for position started...you know, I don't really know if there was any of it in the pre-reform days (1912-1968) when there were only a handful of primaries. But once the reformed system made primaries and caucuses the way that delegates were selected, the states had an incentive to frontload, and they've been doing it ever since, and it's been a big deal since at least the 1980s.
I think we're somewhat more likely to stabilize under current rules than to shift to a centrally structured system. That could be wishful thinking on my part, since what I'd like to see is stability around the current basic structure: a string of four early states, followed by a long sequence of election days, with (as we'll get this time) a not-too-big Super Tuesday.
I like that system because I think it promotes open parties and party control of nominations. The early small states have the relatively dubious virtue of forcing retail campaigning on the candidates (I suppose I like it, but I can't really recite any evidence that it does any good), but it also encourages activism, which I like a lot. I very much like the sequential system compared to the likely alternative of a national primary, which I very much fear could produce weird and random results. Put it this way: I'm pretty confident that Republican Party actors this cycle are okay with choosing between Romney and Perry and I'm very confident that the current system allows them to narrow to one of those two choices, but I think there's a real possibility that a national primary could produce a Cain or Bachmann or Palin or Trump.
As far as which of the small states get to go first...I'm fine with it being Iowa. Yeah, it's atypical, but they're all atypical. The current Iowa-NH-Nevada-South Carolina intended schedule seems as good as any to me.
Of course, for the details about what's actually happening and historical context and all you'll want to go to Josh Putnam's invaluable Frontloading HQ.