Reaganomics, the Reagan doctrine, the Reagan revolution

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jun 10, 2004 12:00 AM

If you weren't around in 1980, or you were insufficiently sensitized to key world realities, you cannot know how bad things really were - hence the extent to which the nation required, the world required, a catalytic change artist like Ronald Reagan.

Regarding Reagan, this is an hour of self-serving hagiography, of transmogrifying anthropomorphism - and comically by many in the press who spent seemingly their every waking hour ripping him and detesting everything he tried. Reagan was not a saint or a god in human form. Nor was he the Lucifer of leftist desire. He was merely a man - yet a common man with a vision and uncommon success in accomplishing change.

They already have named buildings and airports after him - and schools and roads and all the standard stuff. They'll certainly name too many more. Some even are agitating to add his face to the nation's money - and on that, why not let his visage replace on the dime that of his presidential predecessor he most admired? Yet relating to three of his most notable achievements, his name already is in the vernacular.

What are they?

Reaganomics.

Also known as supply-side economics, it's a doctrine of fundamental free enterprise, aka capitalism. Reaganomics derived perhaps more than anything from Nobel economist Milton Friedman's three-part formula, "Cut taxes. Cut taxes. Cut taxes." Corollaries are: Cut government spending where possible, and cut government regulation as necessary. Let the market work unfettered.

Reaganomics became the name for common-sense economics. It deconstructed an adulterated Keynesianism articulated by smug academics that regarded the citizenry as too dumb to understand it. Inflation and unemployment plunged - and with them the Misery Index. The economy revived. A boom set in that lasted until 2001, with the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The stock market bull romped and roared as never before. Economically, times were tops.

The Reagan Doctrine.

Reagan replaced the foreign policy of "containment" - postulated in the late 1940s by George Kennan to "contain" communism where it was - with a forward, even preemptive, strategy that would mean communism's end. It worked. The incumbent administration's policy of preemption against Islamofascism is a direct outgrowth.

As the vice-chairman of Reagan's National Intelligence Council recently noted, "Every other Western leader (had) wanted to not lose the Cold War. Reagan was the first Western leader whose explicit objective was to win it." In mourning Reagan's death, Britain's Margaret Thatcher was correct in saying that among the many who will miss him are the "millions of men and women who live in freedom today because of the policies he pursued."

The Berlin Wall came down, the Soviet Union imploded, and communism withered almost to nothingness. The reasons: a reinvigorated U.S. military infused with big dollars and a rollicking U.S. economy that made possible technology with which a terror-based system such as communism could not compete. Significantly, among the meanest responses to Reagan's death were two: (1) Islamofascist Web sites expressing hatred for Reagan, and (2) Cuba's Radio Reloj, which (a) said Reagan should "never have been born" and (b) lambasted precisely the Reagan "Star Wars" anti-missile program Soviets themselves have credited with bringing down their system.

The Reagan Revolution.

The revolution incorporated Reaganomics and the Reagan Doctrine, but went greatly farther.

Reagan completed what Barry Goldwater began. As perhaps no politician before him - and contrary to the arrogant prattling of a leftist press - Reagan understood the abiding conservatism of the American electorate (today, polls find self-identified conservatives outnumbering self-identified liberals by generally better than 2-1). Reagan skillfully translated conservative philosophy into practical language. And he demonstrated, in the words of his Attorney General Ed Meese, that "conservative political figures could win. ... In the 1970s, no political candidate advertised as a 'conservative,' whereas (now) nobody runs as a 'liberal.' " Talk about revolution and sea-change.

Reagan spoke with the conviction of a true believer. Fundamentally an optimist, he did believe - in the primacy of liberty, in self-reliance (as opposed to governmental welfarism), in the abiding virtue of America and its founding ideals. Despite belligerent deprecation by his ideological enemies, Reagan persevered with his vision for the country, and prevailed. In his re-election he carried 59 percent of the vote and 49 states.

Today even the press landscape has changed - not so much the Establishment Media that opposed him fang and talon, but in small yet revolutionary ways: talk radio, cable (especially cable news, where Fox's viewership leaves CNN in the dust), and book publishing (where conservatives now need not confine themselves to remote houses).

Without Ronald Reagan we still might have stagflation, The Wall, the Soviet Union, the Cold War, rampant pessimism described memorably by Jimmy Carter as "malaise," and the federal yoke curving the back in a servile arc. We likely would not have either an ebbing leftist tide or a nearly even split as reflected in the 2000 presidential election. Who can say whether it all will continue, whether the gains will last? But they began when Ronald Reagan saddled up. And he gave us a magnificent ride.