Thoughts on economics and liberty

The 100th anniversary of a great classical liberal – Ronald Reagan

Today is Reagan's 100th birth anniversary, an occasion for ignorant people like me to discover more about this great man. I wasn't aware that Regan was a truly great classical liberal. Today has been a discovery, thanks to Surya (I'll talk about that shortly, below). Reagan was President of USA from 1981-1989, a period when I had joined the IAS and was starting to learn about public policy. Indrajit Barua, a prominent classical liberal from Assam and a good friend, introduced me to Rose and Milton Friedman's The Tyranny of the Status Quo (1984) – he lent me his personal copy, a book that had apparently influenced Reagan. But today I find that even by 1964 – a full TWENTY years prior to that book – Reagan had formed his own very clear views on liberty. Please bear with me while I digress a bit…

What's my excuse for my ignorance about Reagan?

Why did I not know much about Reagan's classical liberal views earlier? What's my excuse? Well, here's one. Below is a 1965 picture of me, in Shillong. This makes it clearer why I don't know too much about Reagan's 1964 speech. Of course, I should have known much more about his work in the 1980s, but I didn't pay too much attention to such things then. I was more involved in learning about computers (I used to work till midnight many days on my office computer in DRDA Dhubri – the first such gadget in a district office in Assam, learning about things like DOS and UNIX), dealing with illegal immigration from Bangladesh as SDO and DC, fighting terrorism as DC in Barpeta, and the lot. My mistake: I should have found time to read a lot more.

Now for the brilliant 1964 speech of Ronald Reagan

Let me thank Surya Sankar for putting out a link to this video on Facebook a few hours ago. With each passing minute, as I watched this video, I was astounded at Reagan's outstanding oratory (!), and even more so with his deep personal understanding of the concept of liberty. This man was truly in the tradition of the great founders of USA. I was reading that the Tea Party movement loves this man even today. Now I can understand why. Do listen to this speech in full! It is brilliant!

Addendum

Distorting Regan's record

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11 thoughts on “The 100th anniversary of a great classical liberal – Ronald Reagan
  1. Surya

    Thanks for sharing this post sir. Reagan is not very popular in India. But as a nation we love great orators and am sure Reagan will be loved if his speeches are popularised.
    War and turmoil often produce great leaders. That is why the first half of the twentieth century saw some outstanding orators and strategists. Churchill, Gandhi, Roosevelt, Hitler, Lenin – all of these men had widely differing ideologies, but had one thing in common- they held their respective countries in thrall. During their peak, they were elevated to the status of Gods. The latter two leaders abused this trust and inflicted misery on their people. Churchill failed to rise above his image as a great war time commander. Roosevelt though widely admired, used this trust to further his own political agenda and brought America dangerously close to Socialism. It was only Gandhi who was committed to human freedom. He was the only one who was not drunk with power. He was the only one who did not put himself up as a ruler. But sadly his ascetic nature also meant that he did not pay proper attention to policy making.
    I say all this because, in all of history, there are very few leaders who have used their strategic acumen and oratorical skills to advance the cause of liberty. Reagan was the only one in recent history. And he was no sudden leader like many present day heroes ( Obama for example ).Even before this 64 speech, he had already had a lot of political experience. Ironically for a conservative icon, he started his political career leading an union of screen actors. I believe that it was this background that gave him such a popular appeal. He was not like some libertarians who have their heads in the clouds. He knew that liberty was no easy task and whatever little one achieves is worthy in itself. A lot of libertarians find fault with Reagan for not doing enough in office. But politics is the art of the possible and I am sure Reagan did whatever was possible to give liberty a chance.

     
  2. Surya

    Thanks for sharing this post sir. Reagan is not very popular in India. But as a nation we love great orators and am sure Reagan will be loved if his speeches are popularised.
    War and turmoil often produce great leaders. That is why the first half of the twentieth century saw some outstanding orators and strategists. Churchill, Gandhi, Roosevelt, Hitler, Lenin – all of these men had widely differing ideologies, but had one thing in common- they held their respective countries in thrall. During their peak, they were elevated to the status of Gods. The latter two leaders abused this trust and inflicted misery on their people. Churchill failed to rise above his image as a great war time commander. Roosevelt though widely admired, used this trust to further his own political agenda and brought America dangerously close to Socialism. It was only Gandhi who was committed to human freedom. He was the only one who was not drunk with power. He was the only one who did not put himself up as a ruler. But sadly his ascetic nature also meant that he did not pay proper attention to policy making.
    I say all this because, in all of history, there are very few leaders who have used their strategic acumen and oratorical skills to advance the cause of liberty. Reagan was the only one in recent history. And he was no sudden leader like many present day heroes ( Obama for example ).Even before this 64 speech, he had already had a lot of political experience. Ironically for a conservative icon, he started his political career leading an union of screen actors. I believe that it was this background that gave him such a popular appeal. He was not like some libertarians who have their heads in the clouds. He knew that liberty was no easy task and whatever little one achieves is worthy in itself. A lot of libertarians find fault with Reagan for not doing enough in office. But politics is the art of the possible and I am sure Reagan did whatever was possible to give liberty a chance.

     
  3. raj

    While he may be a great orator and even his take on big government is superbly right, his actions were very different. He supported bailouts, increased spending by almost 150%. it was during his term the U.S started it’s suicide of spending like there is no tmrw and is continuing to this day.  I am not very aware of him, but I do know that he is a darling of the Tea Party.
    I will continue to read more about him.

     
  4. raj

    While he may be a great orator and even his take on big government is superbly right, his actions were very different. He supported bailouts, increased spending by almost 150%. it was during his term the U.S started it’s suicide of spending like there is no tmrw and is continuing to this day.  I am not very aware of him, but I do know that he is a darling of the Tea Party.
    I will continue to read more about him.

     
  5. dalmatian7

    Perhaps you could do this great man the honor of spelling his name correctly. It’s Reagan, not “Regan”.

     
  6. dalmatian7

    Perhaps you could do this great man the honor of spelling his name correctly. It’s Reagan, not “Regan”.

     
  7. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. Btw, greatness has nothing to do with the correct spelling of someone’s name. His greatness is not reduced because someone who has not been paying sufficient attention, doesn’t spell a name correctly. Reagan still ranks equally high whether as Regan or Reagan (I still prefer Regan, I find: why that ‘a’?)

    I do hope that people will also spell my name correctly – 80% of the people, including in India, have always misspelled my name (e.g. see http://sabhlokcity.com/who-am-i/common-misspellings-of-my-name/), and yet I do continue to survive!

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. Btw, greatness has nothing to do with the correct spelling of someone’s name. His greatness is not reduced because someone who has not been paying sufficient attention, doesn’t spell a name correctly. Reagan still ranks equally high whether as Regan or Reagan (I still prefer Regan, I find: why that ‘a’?)

    I do hope that people will also spell my name correctly – 80% of the people, including in India, have always misspelled my name (e.g. see http://sabhlokcity.com/who-am-i/common-misspellings-of-my-name/), and yet I do continue to survive!

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  9. Aditya Singh

    I love Reagan. Over the past year, i have realised a lot. It was Reagan who turned America into “The Land of Opportunities”. Some socialists in India will hate all that in the name of compassion and then go and line up for green-card.

     
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