RIP: Ronald Reagan
I have always admired him for having the courage of his convictions, for not caring too much what others thought about him, and most of all, for maintaining his sense of humor and optimism about himself and the world around him.
Too many conservatives, and libertarians for that matter, are seen as, and some really are!, humorless or pessimistic (see Robert Bork for example). Reagan convinced many that it was possible to be a happy, optimistic, and funny conservative. That alone was probably responsible for a tremendous shift in the perception of conservativism in the US and the rise of the current generation of baby boom conservatives. He was also a man of ideas. He was much better read than people have given him credit for, and more important, he believed in the power of ideas. That sets him apart from every president since World War II, at least. The combination of idealism and optimism and humor was also important in getting things done despite significant opposition. He was, for better or for worse, a good model of leadership.
I have often used a quote that Reagan kept on his desk, although he didn't write it: "There's no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." Another fine model for leadership.
Love him or hate him, he changed the world, and he'll be the last man of ideas to run for president.
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Andre Zantonavitch - 6/5/2004
Ronald Reagean was really no different from Barry Goldwater, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, etc., He was a very pale, weak, lame, general ~semi~liberal at best. He was also very much the plaything and product of the intellectuals.
Ultimately, all these people -- to the extent they are good -- are the descendents of Von Mises, Hyack, Hazlett, Friedman, etc. -- and Rand, Branden, Peikoff, Kelley, etc. If these serious ~thinkers~ had been better than they were, the above trivial mere ~politicians~ would have been better as well.
Some will say that Reagan advanced world capitalism and helped defeat Big Government. But his achievements here were almost all rhetorical -- not real. "Thatcherism," lame as it was, actually bested "Reaganomics." The size of US federal government spending barely shrank (from 19.9% of GNP to 19.2% according to what I've heard) while the deficit rose dramatically. This, on balance, made him at most a ~mediocrity~ at taming Big Brother.
Others will say that Reagan won the Cold War. But this is wishful thinking and historical revisionism at best, and an immense historical fraud at worst. The fact is that quiet revolutonary Gorbachev ~surrendered~ in the Cold War. And he was far and away the dominant figure of the era leading to the great revolutions of 1989. Gorbachev promoted "glasnost" (openness) and "peristroika" (restructuring), but eventually and mainly he promoted "universal values" i.e. liberal values. Gorbachev was half-way a secret ~libertarian~ -- along with being a semi-sincere communist "reformer" -- and this is what won the Cold War for the West.
Reagan did indeed have a kind of "tall in the saddle" dignity and shallow personal greatness, coupled with a kind of sunny, "can-do" optimism redolent of the best of America and California. But ultimately he was a product of the up-beat, confident, hopeful, amibitious world of the first Age of Reason in Greece and Rome. And of their rebirth in Enlightenment liberal Western Europe and America. And of their rerebirth in Austrian economics in the early 1900s and Objectivism/libertarianism in the late 1900s.
Reagan was more a symbol, crystilization, and ~derivative~ in this new Ascent of Man than any kind of driving agent. He'll be remembered historically as a kind of small signpost on the road to today's nascent Second Renaissance or Reenlightenment, which is ever-so-slowly defeating the current Dark Age. But the progress toward a world of pure reason -- to what I call a clean, pure, perfect, absolute cultural liberalism -- very easily continues without him, even tho' there's still a long way to go. President Reagan was a noticeably better man and statesman than Bush, Clinton, and Bush Jr. -- and was even slightly heroic in mein and stauture. But minor incidental mere politicos don't make the world. Major cultural analysts, philosophers, intellectuals, and thinkers do.