Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Reagan Difference

Love him or hate him, Ronald Reagan's presidency was a major turning point in the twentieth century. He - along with Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa, and a few others - ended the Cold War with a decisive economic victory which caused the Soviet Union to collapse. His revolutionary ideas about lowering taxes instead of raising them created jobs for millions of workers and raised their wages steadily. But how can we accurately define the ideas that made him different than most other politicians of his era? Professor Thomas Woods (Harvard and Columbia) writes:

Ever since the New Deal, no successful American presidential candidate had run on an anti-government, pro-freedom platform; certainly none had governed that way. This was true even of the Republicans of the postwar period: Eisenhower had been a moderate in domestic policy, and Nixon, who seriously considered establishing a minimum income for all Americans, bordered on liberal.

Reagan saw his task as freeing the individual and society from excessive government interference: individuals should be free to make their own choices, even if they take risks and occasionally pay the price for a bad decision, because freedom, in the long run, is not only more empowering to the individual, but the rewards outweigh the risks and the good outcomes and consequences outnumber the bad ones; societies should be free from government interference, reminding us that both John Locke and Thomas Paine had set the founding tone for this country by pointing out that government and society are not the same thing.