Ronald Reagan and the Europe of today

Foreign Affairs
Guest Writer | 01.07.2011
Lesson for the Eurozone

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.

Reagan at the Berlin Wall with Helmut Kohl

“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.

  

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Democracy in the western world is gravely threatened

Thank you Mr. Brodsky for a summary of some of Ronald Reagan's main contributions to political thought. His contributions were truly an overwhealming force for good and prosperity in the 20th century. Unfortunately we are now in the 21st century and nobody is emerging to assume a similar role. Because I believe that democracy in the western world is gravely threatened, I venture to say that similar leadership is needed now as much, if not more, than in Ronald Reagan's time. Seeing the strength and momentum of the direction in which our freedoms and economic policy (specifically fiscal and monetary policy) is going, I have serious doubt whether what is right will eventually triumph. The root causes of our current problems are so brutally self evident and yet our political elite do nothing that would truly begin to solve the problems, that even Ronald Reagan, were he alive today, might be less optimistic than he was, perhaps finding that at least when it comes to our political leaders, he could no longer agree with his statement that “there are no limits to the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder”.

Based upon fairly compelling evidence, I feel that the problem may be far worse than that 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. I am sad and disheartened to conclude that, with too few exceptions that don't make a difference, most politicians on a global level, are morally corrupt and driven by self-interest at the expense of values that have positively contributed to western civilization. As long as this will be true, the real systemic risk in our economic systems, and therefore also the health of our frail democracy, is simply and ultimately the government. Ronald Reagan said “There are no easy answers' but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”

The Gipper

 

Reagan has a legacy so distorted by the Conservative idolization of him that we may never have a clear picture of the real man behind the television.  Did he rid the world of commie scum?  Check out my portrait of The Gipper in commemoration of his 100th birthday at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/02/happy-100th-gipper.htmlReagan has a legacy so distorted by the Conservative idolization of him that we may never have a clear picture of the real man behind the television.  Did he rid the world of commie scum?  Check out my portrait of The Gipper in commemoration of his 100th birthday at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/02/happy-100th-gipper.html

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