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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.”

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


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Action

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


Chappies

“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


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Churches

[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


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Conversion

“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


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


Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


Education

“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


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©2007 Christopher Chantrill