Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Regarding that new statue...

I hand over to Rothbard to offer the libertarian critique of Reagan:

The presidency of Ronald Wilson Reagan has been a disaster for libertarianism in the United States, and might yet prove to be catastrophic for the human race. Reagan came to power in 1981 as the chief political spokesman for the Conservative Movement, a movement which took its essential modern form in 1955, with the founding of National Review. Reagan has been the main conservative politician since "The Speech," delivered over nationwide TV during the 1964 Goldwater campaign, established him as the "Great Communicator" of the right wing.

The Conservative Movement of modern times has had three basic, and mutually contradictory, tenets: (1) "Getting Big Government Off Our Backs" by rolling back statism and establishing a free market economy; (2) crushing civil liberties whenever crime, "national security," or "morality" are threatened, i.e. whenever civil liberties become important; and (3) seeking an all-out political and military confrontation with "atheistic world Communism," in particular its satanic headquarters in the Kremlin, up to and including a nuclear showdown.

It is starkly evident that (2) and (3) are, at the very least, inconsistent with (1). For one thing, how does one "Get Big Government Off Our Economic Backs," while at the same time spreading "Big Government" into our bedrooms, and into our private letters and phone calls? How does one secure the right to free trade and free enterprise while outlawing pornography and all commerce with the Soviet bloc? And how does one preserve the right to personal life and property while engaging in the mass murder of civilians required by modern warfare? Whenever the Conservative Movement has become aware of such inconsistencies (e.g. over free trade with sinners, or foreign aid for our "allies," or ever-greater military budgets), it has opted unhesitatingly for (2) and (3) over (1). For conservatives, the State as Theocrat and Moral Enforcer and the State as Mass Murderer have always taken precedence over the feeble goals of freedom and free markets.

Read the whole article at Lew Rockwell's


Angry Exile said...

Reagan always struck me as being undeserving of his almost idol status among some libertarians. Oh, there were a few good quotes, especially that line about being from the government and here to help being the scariest sentence in the English language, but by and large he just talked the talk without walking the walk. Still, credit where it's due, he was at least a less illiberal president than either the current or the last one.

Trooper Thompson said...

I can agree with that. The quote you mention is displayed prominently on this blog, as you may well have noticed.

It is necessary to separate the man, the rhetoric and the record. It is also important to see the continuity of agenda throughout the modern era, no matter what the President was saying.

Trooper Thompson said...

Mark Wadsworth reminds me of this other classic quote:

“Government’s view of the economy can be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it.”

Again, if only he had been able or willing to practice what he preached.

Angry Exile said...

I've got the first quote on mine somewhere too and I think I might add the second one. But yes, if only he'd lived up to it more. Quite a lot more.