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Telling the Story of America's Economic Success

by Christopher Chantrill
March 01, 2006 at 11:21 am

TODAY, TWENTY years after it became obvious that Ronald Reagan’s economic policy of hard money and low tax rates had succeeded and had dispelled the economic malaise of the 1970s, Democrats still turn their faces away from reality. They still talk about the Eighties as a lost decade of deficits and greed.

That is why conservatives and Republicans must hammer away at the truth, that 1980 represents a watershed for America. The Wall Street Journal edit page folks understand this, and so they put up a column every so often to ram home the point. This month they have Pete du Pont telling the story.

In the 1980 election the American people chose a new course. For the first time in half a century we retreated from the expanding-government philosophy established by Franklin D. Roosevelt and pretty much adhered to by every subsequent president through Jimmy Carter. Ronald Reagan's emphasis on individual opportunity--as opposed to the liberals' on government-created opportunity--was to have a substantial and positive impact on the prosperity of the American people.

Ever since, Democrats have resisted—to the last welfare recipient—the notion that Reaganomics is the basis of our current prosperity. Bill Clinton ran for president on the notion that 1992 was the worst economy in the last 50 years. Not exactly.

As Robert Samuelson recently noted in The Wall Street Journal, in the 13 years before 1981 there were four recessions lasting a total of 48 months. In the next 23 years--nearly twice as long--there were just two recessions, lasting 16 months.

Yes, Democrats. The 1990-91 recession was a mild one, caused partly by the Saving and Loan debacle (a New Deal era subsidy program going belly up), and deepened by the Democrat-inspired 1990 tax increase. (There’s political talent. A tax increase in a recession!)

Until the Democrats finally give up, conservatives and Republicans must keep hammering the lesson home. The economy can’t be sacrificed to interest group politics, subsidies, privileges, pensions, entitlements, and targeted tax cuts. It needs sound money, low tax rates, and solid property rights.

Chances are that we are still a couple of presidential elections away from the moment when Democrats “give up.”


Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.


Faith & Purpose

“When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.”
Finke, Stark, The Churching of America, 1776-1990

Mutual Aid

In 1911... at least nine million of the 12 million covered by national insurance were already members of voluntary sick pay schemes. A similar proportion were also eligible for medical care.
Green, Reinventing Civil Society


“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

Living Under Law

Law being too tenuous to rely upon in [Ulster and the Scottish borderlands], people developed patterns of settling differences by personal fighting and family feuds.
Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures

German Philosophy

The primary thing to keep in mind about German and Russian thought since 1800 is that it takes for granted that the Cartesian, Lockean or Humean scientific and philosophical conception of man and nature... has been shown by indisputable evidence to be inadequate. 
F.S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West


Inquiry does not start unless there is a problem... It is the problem and its characteristics revealed by analysis which guides one first to the relevant facts and then, once the relevant facts are known, to the relevant hypotheses.
F.S.C. Northrop, The Logic of the Sciences and the Humanities


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Living Law

The recognition and integration of extralegal property rights [in the Homestead Act] was a key element in the United States becoming the most important market economy and producer of capital in the world.
Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital

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©2007 Christopher Chantrill