December 10, 2017A Man Called Ove
December 10, 2017What if I didn't favor NGDP targeting?
December 8, 2017My Excerpt in The Atlantic
December 7, 2017Cutting Corporate Tax Rates in 2018 or 2019: It Matters
December 7, 2017What's my core message?
December 7, 2017The Shining City on a Hill: Commentary on Reagan
December 6, 2017Average Federal Tax Rates by Income Quintile
December 6, 2017Why Addicts' Deaths Are Not a Social Cost of Opioid Consumption
December 6, 2017The Unbearable Arbitrariness of Deploring
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Frequently Asked Questions
While wrapping up my graphic novel, I wound up reading Ronald Reagan's famous Farewell Address - his "Shining City on a Hill" speech. Given my broader views, I obviously have some objections. But I was amazed to read an actual presidential speech where I agreed with entire paragraphs. Here's the abridged speech, with my commentary. Reagan's in blockquotes, I'm not.
Notice that Reagan is reflexively pro-refugee. He doesn't wonder if the
refugee is a Communist spy, warn that he's likely to go on welfare, or fret about a "clash of civilizations."
If you're inclined to treat Reagan's praise of "freedom" as platitudinous, read on.
On the economy: It's always good to see the "This time, the recession is permanent" crowd served a good helping of crow.
On foreign policy: Growing up in the 80s, many people took Reagan's warmonger status for granted. But it's striking how few people the U.S. military killed on his watch. Perhaps he moved the world a lot closer to nuclear war, but got lucky with Gorbachev; I honestly don't know.
Reagan conveniently overlooks the general fact that U.S. recessions always end, whether taxes happen to be high or low. At the time, many economists lamented his betrayal of free trade principles for the auto industry, but perhaps Reagan's general picture is still accurate.
What common sense really says is that military buildups are a big gamble. Maybe you'll scare your enemies into submission. Maybe you're provoke them into war. But later in the speech, Reagan seems to admit that he got really lucky.
Long-run Economic Freedom of the World scores bear Reagan out on economic freedom. I'm pretty sure the same goes for global free speech, but I can't readily find measures that go back to the 80s.
Reagan indulges in the standard American conflation of freedom and democracy, but he errs in the right direction, slighting democracy to the profit of freedom.
Notice that Reagan doesn't even claim that he somehow induced the Soviets to put a reformer in charge. They just happened to do so on Reagan's watch. And once Gorbachev was in power, what difference did Reagan's military buildup really make? Indeed, one of the few things that might have stalled Gorbachev's reforms is if Reagan failed to gamble on peace.
I'm tempted to say, "America's children clearly failed." But from all the data I've seen, Reagan was just romanticizing earlier generations of Americans. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of enterprise have long enjoyed widespread lip service. But the more specific the question, the more statist Americans look.
Bad though poetic example. In fact, the Pilgrims established a brutal theocracy in Plymouth Colony: "There were several crimes that carried the death penalty: treason, murder, witchcraft, arson, sodomy, rape, bestiality, adultery, and cursing or smiting one's parents."
Amazingly, this passage all but demands open borders. "And if there had to be city walls..." strongly suggest a longing for no walls at all. Doors "open to anyone with the will and heart to get here" is hard to interpret as anything but support for migrational laissez-faire. And the phrase "teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace" reveals tremendous optimism about the likely effects of even extreme cultural and ethnic diversity.
Or in modern parlance, #RefugeesWelcome.
P.S. Reagan's Farewell Address was written by Peggy Noonan, whom I've criticized elsewhere.