Ronald Reagan Gets It Right On the Money

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In
the tradition of comparative presidential political economy, consider
the following:

"With
the idealism and fair play which are the core of our system and
our strength, we can have a strong and prosperous America at peace
with itself and the world."

Does
this sound like George II's administration?

No,
sadly, no.

America
"at peace with itself and the world" certainly sounds
like a very attractive notion this time of year. Mistletoe, ivy,
holly, frankincense, and myrrh etc.

However,
and again, sadly, the following certainly does ring true:

"These
United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great
proportions…our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes
the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens
to shatter the lives of millions of our people."

Better
actor than economist, Ronald Reagan, in his first inaugural address
on January 20th, 1981, presciently describes the world
as it is today. Sadly, Neither of the successors George could ever
fix the problems he describes. The poor Georges, always off on some
power trip abroad, ignoring trouble brewing at home.

I
wonder if that could be a pattern:

"Idle
industries have cast workers into unemployment, causing human misery
and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return
for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement
and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.

"But
great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending.
For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our
future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of
the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous
social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.

"You
and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means,
but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think
that collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?"

Indeed,
do people realize the extent of human misery and personal indignity
that those who do work suffer by penalizing successful achievement,
creativity, innovation and hindering productivity, quality, quantity,
and purchasing power?

Of
course, the tax burden still chokes business and individuals today.
"Deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's
future for the temporary convenience of the present." Amazingly
prescient. Short-sighted time preference in the hands of robbers,
butchers, and thieves sounds much like the dehumanizing modern democracy.

The
words are so familiar and so simply true. And yet, I continuously
have to argue with people, in similar terms, that "you and
I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but
for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that
collectively, as a nation, we are not bound by that same limitation?"
Why can't the current administration understand? It is not beyond
the grasp of even a child.

Yet,
I believe, Reagan errs here and there in a minor conclusion he draws:

"Now,
so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to
do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work, work with
us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government
can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity,
not stifle it."

Too
bad. Intentions, intentions. And yet, earlier in the speech, he
identifies the correct solution. Sending the people who live on
this land off with a brilliant vision to begin life anew:

"We
must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no
misunderstanding, we are going to begin to act, beginning today."

Providing
opportunity and fostering productivity can best be satisfied by
the enterprising individual with their own desired future state
in mind. Starting now, Reagan calls for a renewed and determined
spirit to combat the accountable:

"The
economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades.
They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go
away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity
now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done
to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom."

Amen.
Preserve and protect private property and individual liberty.

We,
as Americans, individually.

"Our
Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It
is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows
signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed."

I
could not agree more. Beyond the consent of the governed sounds
almost too polite. Reversing the growth of the government is exactly
why people have turned their states red on election day for the
past twenty years. And yet, it is precisely these republicans in
name only who have strayed so far from Reagan's wisdom. Those pour
souls completely out of touch with the resurgence of the Old Right.
All the while, adoring an airport, and a mountain with his name,
and screaming hysterically over nothing more than a useless television
program.

However,
Reagan gets even better, now whispering into the ears of the powerbrokers
in Washington as a warning:

"All
of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create
the States; the States created the Federal Government."

Time
to start lighting the fireworks. The Grand Ole Party is getting
a lesson in history.

November
7, 2003

Justin
Ptak [send him mail] is Managing
Editor of Aubrey Herbert's
Economic Education
.


        
        

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