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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6598/the-reagan-myth/

The Reagan Myth

May 6, 2007 by

Michael Tanner, reviewing the Republican debates the other night, just assumes without question that Reagan is the standard bearer, even though his submitted budgets were always higher than what a Democratic Congress would approve and his welfare spending set records that were bested only by his successors. Most annoying is Tanner’s dismissal of Ron Paul: “one had to go all 5the way down to Rep. Ron Paul’s quixotic campaign before someone reflected Reagan’s commitment to limited government.”

Quixotic, I suppose, means not approved by the political establishment.

More on the Reagan Myth here and here.


Dennis May 6, 2007 at 7:39 pm

In an important way, Reagan is the standard bearer of the Republican Party: he is a solid neoconservative. His domestic and military spending were severely bloated, and his foreign policy was an aggressive continuation of the United States’ 20th century interventionism and imperialism. Reagan firmly supported and contributed to the growth of the entitlement/warfare state.

Mr. Tanner’s comment is yet another stark example of how intellectually bankrupt the Republican Party is. And while a few of the details may be modestly different, the Democrats are just as awful. Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate from either party and, for that matter, only menber of Congress who honestly desires to decrease the size and power of government.

RogerM May 6, 2007 at 8:57 pm

As much as I like Ron Paul’s integrity and his libertarian position, he has a snow ball’s chance in hell of getting nominated, let alone elected. Reagan had views similar to Paul’s, but politics involves compromises; he would take half a loaf rather than starve. Reagan had to fight with a Congress dominated by Marxists mascarading as Democrats. In order to get what he wanted, he had to give on some issues. Ron Paul is an excellent spokeman for libertarianism, but what has he actually accomplished? Name one president, or congressman, who has done as much to rein in government than Reagan.

Bruce May 6, 2007 at 9:08 pm


I believe Ron Paul knows that he cannot change the course of government by himself. Rather, I believe that he wants at least someone who dissents on the issues if only that history will record that there was at least one person in the establishment who stood for what is right.

You’re quite right about Dr. Paul’s actually changing anything. If any meaningful change is to occur, it has to come from without, not within the government. In many ways, I think this is already occurring.

Paul May 6, 2007 at 9:11 pm

The whole debate was like a seance.

RogerM May 6, 2007 at 9:38 pm

Bruce, I want to be clear that I’m not criticizing Ron Paul. I think he’s a great man and I admire his courage. I believe Paul and Reagan had similar beliefs about government. Paul has chosen to be the outspoken critic whom the majority pushes to the side. Reagan chose to compromise on some positions in order to further others. We need both. Paul is the conscience; Reagan was the doer. If anyone has failed, it’s us, the libertarians who have failed to persuade our neighbors of the righteousness of libertarianism.

I hate to see libertarianism assassinate all fellow libertarians who don’t live up to an unrealistic code of conduct.

Dave May 6, 2007 at 11:27 pm

“Name one president, or congressman, who has done as much to rein in government than Reagan.”

How about Andrew Jackson?

Of course he had “The Trail of Tears” but other than that, I would nominate him as the president who did the most to eliminate government. Heck, he got rid of the Second “BUS”. I doubt Reagan would have removed the Federal Reserve, even if he been presented with a chance to do so.

Anyway, just a thought.



Christopher Hettinger May 7, 2007 at 1:32 am

Dave, do not be foolish. Jackson started the Spoils system and forwarded universal suffrage… He literally opened the door for corruption!

Libby May 7, 2007 at 2:19 am

There are many things about our great leaders that get exaggerated. Honest Abe, “I cannot tell a lie” by Washington, etc. In the current context, the actual record of Reagan is irrelevant. What many Republicans want, myself included, is a smaller, more limited government. By invoking Reagan, the speaker saves time because everyone knows what he means, lower taxes, less government spending, cuts to social programs, and a more efficient government with less waste. This is what Reagan’s legacy has become. What’s important is that Republicans want their candidate to emulate Reagan the Legend, and have made this clear. What Reagan actually did is irrelevant to the discussion.

Nick Bradley May 7, 2007 at 7:42 am

I think most Reaganites espouse more fondness for Reagan’s pre-1981 rhetoric. His 1964 Stump Speech “A Time For Choosing”, for example, is a eloquent defense of limited government and the concept of “freedom from government”.

“This is the issue of this election. Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

He was more Goldwater than Reagan back thne, however.


Steven Smith May 7, 2007 at 10:00 am

In the teeth of what was common knowledge about Ronald Reagan before his alleged conversion to arch conservative anti-communism & ever since the attempts by Myron Fagan, Kent Steffgen, Alan Stang & Charlotte Iserbyt to re-mind people of this once common knowledge as well as the fact Reagan’s actions ALWAYS belied his professions to the benefit of subversion I am appalled & dismayed the name of the greatest living American Ron Paul is cited together with Reagan’s at all.

Ronald Reagan was a life long communist who coddled & aided communists & communism when ever, wherever & how ever he could: joining the notorious communist front organization the American Veterans’ Committee after the second world war & still being a member of its board of trustees as late as 1959, a full decade after his dubious forswearing of leftism; being a very early member of Americans for Democratic Action, a vile pinko group of dis-proportionally large influence; being implored in 1950 NOT to stump for the unmistakably communist Helen Gahagan Douglas’ federal senate campaign; as president of the Screen Actors’ Guild covering up for numerous communist film actors, specially his second wife Nancy Davis who significantly played the leading lady in the 1953 science fiction film Donovan’s Brain whose screen play was written by the author of the novel of the same title, the notorious German ex-patriate communist screen writer Curt Siodmak; being a life member of the United World Federalists, a gaggle of globalists & inter-nationalists explicitly resolved to realization of a world state to America’s detriment & at America’s expence; as governor of California cynically pushing state income tax with-holding after being elected on a platform condemning it; being such a bad governor the California Republican Assembly, the most consistent arch conservative state Republican party organization in California, in early 1975 issued a special report excoriating his gubernatorial conduct to the point of declaring him unfit for president; welcoming into his 1980 campaign members of the Council on Foreign Relations & Tri-Lateral Commission, elite groups notorious for haughtily pooh poohing the communist menace, after specifically promising not to do exactly that; his first official act as president being a formal request to the congress to hike the federal debt limit; hypocritically stating shortly thereafter he would as president not seek absolute federal spending cuts but notional cuts in the projected rising rate of federal spending; acceding in 1985 to a treasonous federal education department program to merge the Soviet & American public schooling systems & too many other sins to list here.

In contrast Ron Paul has ever hewed to principle & kept faith with the republic, strict constitutionalism, state rights, laisser faire capitalism, national independence–though I meanly prefer the crass term ISOLATIONISM–the gold specie system, federal income tax repeal by the proposed liberty amendment & all sorts of other things Ronald Reagan would not have been caught dead genuinely backing. Though Ron Paul can not safely blast Reagan as I do I refuse to believe I am the only supporter of the Ludwig von Mises Institute to know all this about Reagan; maybe I am the only one willing to use this forum who thinks it MATTERS.

Nick Bradley May 7, 2007 at 11:45 am

Wow Steve. Nice tin-foil hat diatribe. Very impressive. I think you listed every conspiracy theory in the book.

Michael Hargett May 7, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Ron Paul the “conscience” vs. Ron Reagan the “doer” sounds similar to something I’ve read recently.

Oh, now I remember, Hayek!

When he states that those with good intentions need the “strong man” to bring together the unwilling and unite them for the common good, Reagan did that very well …

…and then ushered in a new age of government dependence and decadence culminating in his appointment of Greenspan to the Fed.

Boss May 7, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Remember that Reagan was elected with substantial
support from the libertarian minded segment.

Of course, he let them down…

The “candidates” on the “debate” could not even
live up to the Reagan rhetoric, no matter how many
times they mentioned his name.

If only it was Mr. Paul as the teacher in a room
of spoiled, misbehaving brats… Unfortunately
we are not so lucky. Instead the stage was
littered with power hungry despots while
Mr. Paul spoke the truth with no need (or reason) to mention Ronald the Great once.

Steven Smith May 8, 2007 at 4:44 am

Well, my dear Bradley, one can lead a horse to water but he can not make it drink; you perfectly validate what I have long believed: that so far from ignorance of what I & seemingly so few others know, multitudes know exactly what I do but the difference between them & myself is my sense of self preservation is strong enough to constrain me to BELIEVE. Ever hear the adage better safe than sorry? Even IF Reagan were uttlerly innocent of any of the odious claims I make re him it is still HIS OWN fault for having SEEMED to be up to some thing; this is elementary McCarthyism, I am hardly alone in holding this sweeping view of human nature but I must admit I am the only person I know to expound it so baldly & comprehensively. Like FDR Reagan, given his high popularity & well established respectability, is an ideal hate object of a frustrate reactionary populist type struggling with chronic downward mobility-economic marginality such as myself. That all these ugly allegations about Reagan are demonstrably true is just a nice bonus so far as I am concerned.

Mathieu Bédard May 8, 2007 at 8:40 am

I saw a few days ago in a french newspaper an article which read (from memory..);

“Rudy” Giuliani follows the Reaganian, pro-government tradition, which is to give more power to the state, while John McCain goes back to the roots of the conservative movement, with as few state intervention as possible.

That’s obviously a typo, but, you know, in the end I’m not sure they’re really wrong..

Michael Hargett May 8, 2007 at 9:59 am


What amuses more is that the world actually believes that the “free market” candidate won the election in France.

D. Saul Weiner May 8, 2007 at 1:51 pm

“As much as I like Ron Paul’s integrity and his libertarian position, he has a snow ball’s chance in hell of getting nominated, let alone elected. Reagan had views similar to Paul’s, but politics involves compromises; he would take half a loaf rather than starve. Reagan had to fight with a Congress dominated by Marxists mascarading as Democrats. In order to get what he wanted, he had to give on some issues. Ron Paul is an excellent spokeman for libertarianism, but what has he actually accomplished? Name one president, or congressman, who has done as much to rein in government than Reagan.”

Based on the response to the 1st debate, it is quite possible that Ron Paul could influence the positions that other candidates take, even if he doesn’t get the nomination (much less get elected). Look at how the other candidates backtracked on the national ID after he slammed it. Other candidates are also bound to notice that there is a solid contingency out there who takes Paul’s non-interventionism to heart. And that is a position that Reagan never took and, in fact contradicted in Lebanon, Nicaragua, Grenada, and I am sure elsewhere. Whether this leads to significant changes remains to be seen. Certainly Paul has been altogether ignored in Congress up until now, though the MSM is having difficulty dismissing him at the moment.

D. Saul Weiner May 8, 2007 at 2:34 pm

Tanner also believed that the so-called social security trust fund was earning interest. That was one of the premises for the failed so-called privatization plan, that private investments could earn a higher return than the SS trust fund could. So I would take his economic commentary with a grain of salt.

Mathieu Bédard May 9, 2007 at 7:44 am


Yes! In the end he really had the same program as the socialist candidate. Maybe with rounder edges, maybe a little more reasonable on a few issues, but they agreed on almost everything.

Anyway, I believe The Economist probably has something to do with the medias proclaiming Sarkozy as free-market…

David Coulter September 12, 2009 at 3:48 pm

faiklure of banks & savings & loans–attendant bankruptacies—insider trading on wall street–
golden parachutes—all happened under reagan presidency. sure stopped inflation , but at high cost –especially to the citizen least able to cope

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