The year of Reagan’s centennial is a year when politicians in the EU are trying to deal with the consequences of the economic crisis. They all celebrate Reagan, but they are tackling the crisis in a manner against which Reagan warned. They wrongly assume that the crisis was primarily a market failure, and that any future crises can be prevented by greater government intervention in the economy. The exact opposite is true. They are trying to cure the illness by prescribing what caused it in the first place. Reagan said: “The more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.”
Reagan addressing British Parliament, London, United Kingdom.
Instead of abolishing useless restrictions and repealing thousands of pages of regulations and directives which stand in the way of the economic growth, they are trying to come up with new ones. The impacts of the crisis will not be minimized by greater amounts of redistribution, and the budgetary discipline of some eurozone countries will not be improved like this either.
On the contrary, it will motivate some eurozone members to make irresponsible decisions and to rely on help from others, instead of taking responsibility for their own decisions. It is equally bad to increase taxes instead of cutting public spending. Reagan cut taxes because he knew that it would enable people to spend, invest and save more money: tax cuts help to revive the economy.
Hatred for Colonel Gaddafi
This year is also the year of the war in Libya. Ronald Reagan detested Colonel Gaddafi and he considered him “one of the worst terrorists in the world.” He did not hesitate to make it clear that is unacceptable for Libya to break international law. He wrote the following words in his memoirs: “I sensed that we must do something with that clown in Tripoli. We had a range of plans, but realized that no matter what we were to do, we had to bear in mind that there were more than a thousand American workers in the oil industry in Libya. Gaddafi would certainly not hesitate and make them the victims of his anger.”
Reagan, however, was not among those who shook hands with Gaddafi or had their pictures taken with him in a friendly hug, only to call for his resignation four months later and send fighter jets against his troops. Reagan was not among those who shook hands with Gaddafi only to call for his resignation four months later and send fighter jets against his troops.
His dislike for Gaddafi, especially after the assassination of the Egyptian president Sadat, did not come from some momentous attempt to divert attention from domestic problems, or from an attempt to make himself more visible before an election campaign. For some politicians in Europe today, the war in Libya is a substitute topic. It does not originate in their contempt and long-term denouncements of Colonel Gaddafi. It originates in a feeling they did not have four months previously.
They present themselves as messengers and importers of the good. They decide about someone without him, just like the unelected officials in Brussels who do not have — and do not want to have — a program which they would have to defend before the electorate. They are not accountable to the people, but they are convinced that they know what is best for them and they use the greatest efforts and financial means for media campaigns to try to convince citizens that this is the case.
“Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always ‘against’ things, never ‘for’ anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn’t so,” Reagan said.
According to his former advisor, Peggy Noonan, “The biggest misunderstanding about Reagan’s political life is that he was inevitable. He was not. He had to fight for every inch; he had to make it happen.” He did not believe in a destiny that will come about no matter what we do. He believed instead in a fate that will befall us if we do nothing. Today’s world is no less complicated than Reagan’s era. The difference is that there is so little of Reagan in it. There are plenty of short-sighted politicians and too few statesmen who have the backbone, ideals, long-term vision and sense of direction which were Ronald Reagan’s finest qualities.
Jiří Brodský is Deputy Director of the Foreign Affairs Department in the Office of the President of the Czech Republic.