A personal tribute to Reagan and Libertarianism

After many BUCF members came together yesterday for a fantastic night to celebrate the 21st birthday of our president, today also brings a special birthday for another great leader which should not go unmentioned.

100 years ago today, a man was born who would go on to become, in my opinion, the very greatest contemporary President of the United States; a true world statesman, moved by the most honourable values and conviction of perhaps any world leader in the past century.

In his 8 year tenure as the 40th US President spanning the best part of the 1980s, much like his counterpart across the pond in Downing Street, he transformed a country reeling  from the political instability and economic turmoil of the 1970s into the powerful, dynamic, resilient nation that would be the America the world knew and admired for nearly three decades. He told us that in times of economic crisis, government is not the solution to the problem, but that ‘government is the problem’, a philosophy which led to lower inflation, higher employment, and stronger growth than America had seen since the post-war boom.

This triumph of Reaganomics was far from his only great achievement. His passionate pursuit of libertarianism rolled back the frontiers of the federal government unlike under any other administration, cutting wasteful spending and heavy handed regulation to allow business to flourish and personal freedoms to thrive, all under a blanket of lower taxes for almost every citizen.

In his second term in office, from 1985-1989, however it was his foreign policy brilliance that shone most brightly. By opening the lines of communication with Gorbachev from the middle of the decade, he paved a new way for America and the Soviet Union to climb down from the Cold War without ever needing to concede any kind of victory to Communism, encouraging oppressed citizens behind the Iron Curtain to continue yearning for freedom, and urging the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall. By 1988, the INF treaty had been signed, bilateral arms reduction was well underway, and Gorbachev was withdrawing Soviet troops from Eastern Europe and Afghanistan. The Cold War that had left the world minutes from potential annihilation for nearly 40 years,was finally coming to an end.

Of course, his statesmanship on the world stage came with the support of undoubtedly the closest ‘special relationship’ between the US and Britain of any administration. The common ideology, purpose, and dynamism shared between Thatcher and Reagan allowed our two countries to grow together for the better, as both leaders battled the common foes of Socialism and the economic chaos it brings. It was a relationship that even Bush and Blair could only partly aspire to emulate, and which Obama tragically seems bent on obliterating, given recent events.

The legacy of Ronald Reagan is one of a triumph of liberty over tyranny, of freedom over big government, of Libertarianism over Socialism, of the importance of close allies, and the power of free enterprise. These are all lessons Obama would do well to learn, as more spending brings more debt, more unemployment, and more economic misery. I believe there’s hope for the future though; After all, it takes a Carter to get a Reagan.

Long may his memory live on.

Owen Williams

BUCF Publicity Officer

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About vwozone

BUCF Publicity Officer 2010-11, re-elected in new role of Publicity and Media Officer for 2011-12, and BUCF Vice President since May 2012. Conservative Party candidate for Selly Oak ward in Birmingham City Council elections 2011.

11 thoughts on “A personal tribute to Reagan and Libertarianism

  1. “This triumph of Reaganomics was far from his only great achievement. ”

    Amazing that you make that claim without reference to any numbers.

    Average annual Federal spending increase (adjusted for inflation):

    Reagen: 2.63%
    Clinton: 1.54%
    Bush: 3.81%

    And looking at changes in national debt by presidential term:

    Carter: -3.3%
    Reagen: +11.3%
    Reagen: +9.3%
    Bush: +15.0%
    Clinton:-0.7%
    Clinton:-9.0%
    Bush: +7.1%
    Bush: +20.0%

    Reading articles like this is getting really boring. Do you really find facts so intimidating? We’re only talking about basic research here. It’s not difficult. It’s just depressing that people worship leaders like Reagan when they know almost nothing about them.

      • Jack, if you don’t enjoy reading this blog… then I’m sure none of us would mind if you stopped. In fact, your rude approach to political debate is something that none of us would miss.

      • It benefits the blog to have facts and logic included. Unfortunately that wouldn’t happen if it just comprised articles like the above.

        I notice that you haven’t responded to any of the facts I have drawn your attention to. I don’t blame you for that at all because I’m sure you would really like to… but you can’t.

  2. hladavies, I’m sorry if you feel bruised by what I said, but I have always met your flippancy with coherent arguments, even if they were crassly presented. It’s perfectly reasonable to point out that an article has been written without any serious research.

    There are many on both forums who have been as ‘rude’ as I have. You pick me up on it because you have nothing to say about the issue and confronted with cold hard facts, complaints about my conduct become your only line of escape. (Complaints about my grammar and spelling have been other approaches in the past.) I’m always happy to be persuaded and I listen to what others have to say more than people realise.

  3. I only didn’t mention the facts because I didn’t read them…

    I was simply supporting vwozone.

    “I don’t blame you for that at all because I’m sure you would really like to… but you can’t.” – what on Earth are you suggesting? If you are implying that I am not able to comment because of a lack of intellect than you and me will have some serious words.

  4. Jack, I didn’t reply specifically to the data you provided because I’m not really sure what point it is you’re actually trying to make with it; I don’t believe I actually said that debt or overall spending fell under Reagan, so i’m not really clear where you’re trying to set me straight. Have I missed the point?

  5. Jack statistics only tell half the story. A politician should not just be judged on what they do in office- although obviously that is important – but they should be judged by their overall impact on the political debate and the state of their respective countries AFTER they leave office and whether their legacies are sustainable.

    It is almost unquestionable that Ronald Reagan, like Thatcher in Britain, completely transformed the political debate. Thatcher and Reagans free market economics STILL dominates our political and economic discourse and their impact on their opponents cannot be understated. Thatchers triumph transformed the Labour Party in to something almost unrecognisable. Many in the Democratic Party in the states still refer to themselves as Reagan Democrats. Why is that?

    Owen is absolutely right to say Reaganomics triumped in the states in the same way it is right to say Thatcherism triumphed in the UK. It triumphed not because of how much they did or didnt borrow or because of the average change in ‘federal spending’ but because of how their ideas and policies dominated, and in many ways continues to dominate, the debate long after they left office.

  6. “i’m not really clear where you’re trying to set me straight”.

    “His passionate pursuit of libertarianism rolled back the frontiers of the federal government unlike under any other administration…”

    Massive military expansion is hardly a rolling back of the frontiers of the state. You have to understand that despite their agreements on foreign policy and their personal chemistry, Thatcher and Reagan were very different. To be fair to her, Thatcher was determined to make real progress on the deficit and become a tax-raising politician. Reagan however simply borrowed his way to growth and cut taxes to the extent that Bush had to clean up the mess a few years later. (“Read my lips” and all that) And yes that’s what he left America with in 1989.

    Unemployment was higher on average under Reagan than under his three predecessors. Productivity growth and private business investment slowed under Reagan, while the savings rate collapsed.

    Real wages actually fell. Thatcher believed that the rich getting much richer was not a problem while the poor were still benefiting. (‘Trickle down’)

    But with Reagan the bottom 20% saw the average family income fall by 3.4% between 1979 and 1989. The next 20% saw their income contract by 1.2% over the same period while the middle 20% saw growth of only 2%. In the recession that followed all of these groups except the top 10% of the population saw their incomes fall; in the case of the middle income group, by 6.1% over just 5 years. This is a disservice to your own politics as I think that most conservatives in the UK rightly or wrongly, but genuinely, believe that laissez faire economic ideas can lead to overall prosperity.

    And Dan:

    “…their ideas and policies dominated, and in many ways continues to dominate, the debate long after they left office.”

    As a result of these economic problems and Reagan’s insistence on ‘dreaming big dreams’ instead of dealing with big debts, taxes had to rise under Bush, and by the end of the century the US federal tax burden was higher than it had been in 1980. Dreaming is fine, and you are right to point out that people do tend to worship Reagan the myth. But I would like to present reality. And I would hope that people in BUCF would have the courage to challenge the Reaganomics instead of just watching a good speech and running with a few sound-bites.

    He even failed by his own measure:

    “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.”

    Never has such a weak president summed himself up so perfectly.

  7. Jack with all due respect you are playing fast and loose with the facts and not properly analysing them. It is true at certain points during Reagans presidency unemployment did hit considerable highs HOWEVER I think you should judge his record on the country he inherited and the country he left behind rather than just one or two features;

    RATE OF INHERITED’80 LEFT ’88

    1 Unemployment 7.1% 5.5%

    2 GDP growth -0.4 4.1%

    3 Inflation 13.5% 4.1%

    4 Top tax rate 70% 28%

    5 People below 12.5% 13%
    poverty level

    6 National debt $997bn $2.85tr

    You are right to say that Reagans economic record, like Thatchers, was a mixed bag but he enacted some very significant changes in American economic policy marking a clear departure from past practices. Policies which in those days were radical and ‘experimental’ and which these days are now accepted around the world as standard practice and common sense.

    Yes STATISTICALLY his record is mixed. But statistics only tell half the story. That extra debt and extra government spending was in no small way partly attributable to the “arms race” which ultimately ended the Cold War. Reagan outspent the commies which contributed to their economic collapse. So yes domestic policy is important but sometimes you have to make “domestic sacrifices” to achieve wider global goals which will bear economic and political fruit in the future.

    Similarly the increase in the number of people living below the poverty line is negligable when you take it to account people living longer, growth in population etc that occured over his presidency. So it was no worse or no better under him. Tax receipts actually increased despite cutting the top rate of tax. Unemployment, whilst it had its peaks and troughs, was lower than when he came in. Millions more jobs were created. Inflation was considerably reduced. GDP growth was considerably increased. So no he was not an average President, by anyones standard he was a good if not great one. Flawless? Of course not noone ever has or ever will be but he was a preference shaper who moulded the political debate in his image.

    Reagan and Thatcher unquestionably changed the world like few leaders before them. The great threat of communism was crushed and they came round to our way of thinking. Free market economics took root all over the world and provided unprecedented prosperity and even their political opponents, Labour and the Democrats, under Blair and Clinton largely capitulated and embraced their reforms.

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