The so-called conservative legacy of Reagan and a defense of Lew Rockwell Jr.
History will be the judge of Reagan’s Presidency, both the good and bad. Again it will be 30 years from now before a more fair and balanced assessment can be made about his Presidency, 50 years or more after it ended. It’s critically important now though to engage some of the myths and legends being perpetuated about Reagan.
Why the U.S.S.R. collapsed is more complex than just saying or alluding to that Reagan was the cause, as if he was the sole and only cause of its collapse. There were many factors, which include the following: an over-extension of their foreign policy (i.e. Afghanistan), Pope John Paul II, a sustained multi-decade U.S. foreign policy against Communism, a deeply flawed internal economic and political system, and an ideology which collapsed in on itself. All of these factors and many others help to bring an end to the Soviet Union. Did Reagan help the Soviets to reach their culminating point? Yes. He gave them one of the final pushes over the edge of the cliff before their collapse. He deserves at best partial or minimal credit for its demise.
One can argue that the economic successes that Reagan achieved could be largely credited to the Fed. Chairman, Paul Volcker, who was appointed by President Carter. Many justify the irresponsibility and lack of discipline in Reagan’s fiscal policies by stating that this was necessary because of the need to win the Cold War. Fair enough. Reagan was a war hawk. No one will debate you here about that. What you must admit though is that spending money you don’t have is not “conservative.” Putting that burden of large deficits and debt which quadrupled under his administration on future Presidents (i.e. Clinton) and future generations of Americans is not being a fully responsible or prudent. Reagan was no fiscal hawk. He simply was not fiscally conservative.
In the comments of a previous post I briefly talked about Reagan’s decline of health after he was shot. Allow me to clarify and expand on that point. Reagan entered the Presidency late in life. In fact he was oldest person to ever enter the Oval Office in the entire history of the U.S. Presidency. The stresses of that job ages even the best of men who enter at a much younger age. After he was shot his health began to noticeably decline. Over his tenure he went through several surgeries to remove cancer cells, enlarge prostrate, etc. Consider his age. His body was beginning to fall apart. The humor and grit though that he showed throughout all these operations was amazing, but what before was a more engaged and vibrant leader became less so as time progressed. Many of the problems of his administration could have been possibly prevented or stopped had Reagan been more actively engaged and not managed by others. The very serious decline of his health due to Alzheimer’s disease became more well known after he left the Presidency. The love Nancy showed for her husband was an amazing witness to the world. That’s why I consider Nancy to be a saint.
Many of the Supreme Court Justices that Reagan appointed were/are highly questionable. Look at the Pro-Abortion and Pro-Gay Right Justices that he appointed ~ Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy. Refer to another of his nominees, the pot smoking Douglas Ginsburg. Were any of these folks conservative? If they were why did Reagan receive such blow-back from conservatives regarding them? Bork and Scalia are good men so at best his Judiciary record is mixed.
As JFK proved to the world in his debate against Nixon, you must be a “show-man” in the modern Presidency. Reagan was a natural. He used wit and humor to lift folks up and demolish others. He was a great motivator, a great coach, and a great communicator. In an era when there a general funk overhanging people’s heads, he help to lift or dissipate that fog. Perception is reality. He must be given credit where credit is due.
In a previous post I called William F. Buckley a neoconservative. This was improper or at least not entirely accurate. He did not support the Iraq war. I stand corrected. My confusion lies in the fact that some columnists at the National Review did strongly support the war, i.e. Victor Davis Hanson, etc. I should spend some time in studying the thought and writings of the man himself. Maybe he’s not so bad of a fellow.
Related to correcting some of the Neoconservatism which finds a home on the pages of the National Review I previously recommended two books and I received some blow-back on them. I recognize the decision to go to war and conduct war is a matter of prudence. I recognize the autonomy of the temporal order. This decision rests with the President and his Joint Chiefs of Staff. Reading Neo-conned and Neo-conned Again helps to flesh out the Just War Theory in a contemporary setting. Many of the contributors are rock-solid Catholics whose opinions matter. These books will challenge the preconceptions and assumptions of many conservatives, especially the war hawks or neoconservatives. As lay Catholics though we need to better understand how to apply the Just War Theory, therefore I consider these books mandatory reading for any Catholics who take their faith and their role of the laity seriously, especially those that have an interest in national security, foreign affairs and international relations.
Some on this website have questioned Murray Rothbard’s and other Libertarians’ position(s) on Life. This questioning and concern is valid. This is a question I have been asking for a while. Is Libertarian ethics compatible with Catholic social ethics? Refer to the links of videos and articles that I put on Joe’s post related to this matter.
To totally discount the thought of Rothbard is an over reaction though. For example, his writings on the economic history of the late Scholastics is good work. Refer here to get just a small sampling.
Criticism against Justin Raimondo has also been given in the comments on this website. Is Justin Raimondo a perfect person? No. His active and practicing homosexual lifestyle should bring concern to all of us. More importantly his leaving the faith is of deep and grave concern. Let us pray for him. But he’s a conservative and a frequent contributor to both Chronicles Magazine and TakiMag which are both well respected conservative publications. I would argue ISI is the premier conservative organization in the country today. Their re-printing of his Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement should be taken as a serious and credible endorsement of this book by the finest conservative organization in existence today.
It’s important to engage the charges that Lew Rockwell Jr. is a neo-Confederate or anti-Semite. Let us analyze these charges. First, I would simply ask folks who make this charge for their evidence. Show me. Without first seeing your evidence first I will say this though.
The government derives its power from the governed, at least in the American experiment. If a person, a group of people, or an entire region elects to succeed this is their right. As it is to nullify unjust and unfair infringements of their rights as well. Refer to Dr. Tom Wood’s new book on this topic. I suspect folks make this neo-Confederate rant because of the thought of Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo who is promoted on LewRockwell.com. He’s a scholarly critic of Abraham Lincoln and of the common history most folks learn in public school, as is Dr. Tom Woods as well. Many people are happy to be steeped in ignorance and choose not to dig deeper into topics. Dr. DiLorenzo forces people, scholars and non-scholars alike, to wake up out of their slumber. I applaud his work and you should as well.
We live in a fallen world. Too often people create idols which are either people or things. Here in America folks many times try to turn certain Presidents into semi-gods, demiurges. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan come to mind. It’s more than just a healthy respect, but something deeper. One could call it idol worship or secular paganism. As Catholics we should reject this common American custom.
The charge of anyone being anti-Semitic is a much overused term today. It should simply mean folks who are being racist against the Jews. It does not mean folks who disagree with the hyper aggressive policies and practices of the nation-state of Israel. I will cite one example to consider, the USS Liberty incident, which has been covered on LewRockwell.com.
Watch what Rabbi Daniel Lapin has to say about Lew Rockwell Jr., Murray Rothbard and the Mises Inst. His complete talk is one well worth listening to or watching in its entirety.
Lew Rockwell Jr. is a conservative, maybe best described as a paleo-libertarian, but a conservative never the less. His conservative credentials goes decades long. He worked at Hillsdale College for many years before he helped to co-found the Mises Inst. Hillsdale College is the premier conservative college in existence today. It is the home, the mother-ship, of conservatism. To begin to understand the history and complexities of him refer to the links below.
Granted, Lew is not a Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or William Kristol conservative, but their pro-war positions put their so-called conservatism into question as well. Refer no farther than the thought of Russell Kirk himself.
I think the greatest lessons learned in this dialog which occurs at The American Catholic are the following ones. Friends should provide correction when necessary. Friends should also challenge us to see more of reality. Many times its hard to break-out of our preconceived notions or beliefs about various matters. Friends help us to go deeper into reality. Christ is who makes our friendship possible. It is in Him we are united.