Brian Domitrovic: How Historians Boot the Reagan Revolution

Roundup: Historians' Take

Brian Domitrovic is chairman of the Department of History at Sam Houston State University.

In 2007, writing in the wake of a slew of books that had just come out on the end of the Cold War, historian and author Steven F. Hayward noted the following: “With these works, the literature on Reagan’s foreign policy is more or less complete—until additional classified documents are released or new Soviet sources are revealed. By contrast, the story of Reagan’s domestic policy remains clouded and obscure, in part because we are still wrestling with many of the same issues today—tax cuts, trade and budget deficits, globalization, affirmative action, and the rest of the culture war.”

Not much has changed. We are still waiting for our massive academic establishment to produce histories of Reagan’s domestic policy – particularly his economic policy – commensurate with its significance. What I wrote in 2009 in my own book on the history of supply-side economics, Econoclasts, is applicable today: “There does not appear to be one scholarly book or article, in the discipline of history, on the topic of supply-side economics that has called on and analyzed the relevant complement of primary sources. Not one.”

So what is passing for scholarly opinion on Reaganomics these days? Comments such as this, which appeared two weeks ago in the New York Times, care of Rutgers history professor James Livingston: “The architects of the Reagan revolution tried to reverse…trends as a cure for the stagflation of the 1970s, but couldn’t.”

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