Sunday, June 06, 2004

My 2 ¢ on Reagan:

Reagan, at times, called himself a “libertarian.” No I don’t think we should co-opt him into the philosophy; some of his views and actions were decidedly un-libertarian. Still many libertarians backed Reagan making him the embodiment of Frank Meyer’s idea of fusionism (a conservative philosophy that attempts to gain the support of both libertarians and traditionalists).

To the extent that Reagan furthered libertarian ideas, he deserved praise. He did Yeoman’s work in reforming the tax code and otherwise pushing the economic ideas of the great Milton Friedman. “Reaganomics” stimulated the economy so much that revenues increased as taxes were lowered. However, this “Laffer-Curve” economics led to a “we can eat our cake and have it too,” philosophy. And we can’t. Yes, revenues increased, but not as much as did federal spending. Reagan left government bigger leaving office than when he began, a lot bigger. Still the Reaganites blame that one on the Democrats in Congress.

Reagan talked a good game about all of those federal departments that we could do without, and got rid of none of them. To be fair, all Presidents, whether “liberal Democrat,” or “conservative Republican” leave government bigger after exiting the White House than entering it. But this is no excuse. In fact, to me, it is a Crisis in modern politics. This is why, even though the Libertarian Candidate for office certainly has his “issues,” my conscience demands that I vote for their candidate because he will be the only game in town (unlike Bush or Kerry) who, if elected, would have a fighting chance of leaving the office with a smaller federal government. And what an accomplishment that would be!

Although Reagan did much that libertarians could appreciate, his administration definitely had its non-libertarian side. Men like Ed Meese, Gary Bauer, Alan Keyes, Bill Bennett, and others, represented the administration’s “authoritarian” wing. Under the guidance of these men, the administration furthered Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs,” and even gave us a “War on Pornography.”

These "authoritarians" also adopted more or less a “gag-rule” on the newly emerging AIDS crisis. One of my favorite moments from the administration was when Surgeon General C. Everett Coop, himself a Protestant fundamentalist, bucked that convention with his candor about AIDS and protecting oneself with condoms. And then to see the hysterical reaction of the Christian right, reacting as if he had betrayed them. Koop will forever have my appreciation for his conduct on that issue.

For me, the bottom line on the administration is that I couldn't endorse it because of its authoritarian elements.

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