How to sum up the life of former US president Ronald Reagan, lifeguard, actor, labor union president, television personality, governor and lecturer? His long goodbye as Alzheimer's dimmed his memory cannot obscure his role as one of freedom's most optimistic advocates.
With capitalism ascendent and communism defunct, we easily forget the world 40 years ago, when Reagan entered politics. Free enterprise seemed to be operating on borrowed time, "saved" only by former president Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal." The Soviet Union was supposedly making economic strides; newly independent states were choosing autarkic collectivism. Communism prevailed in much of Southeast Asia despite the more than 50,000 American lives lost there.
America's political agenda was set by the liberals. New regulations and bureaucracies multiplied even when Republicans held office. Reagan's sparkling speech on behalf of 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was overshadowed by the latter's overwhelming defeat by former president Lyndon Johnson, architect of the Great Society.
Who could be optimistic in such a world? Reagan. In 1966 he ran for California governor, upending a Democratic incumbent in a massive upset. His 1968 presidential campaign was abortive, but he easily won re-election as governor in 1970. In 1976 came the narrow loss to incumbent Gerald Ford, who went on to be defeated by Jimmy Carter.
The world further darkened. President Carter disclaimed responsibility, spoke of malaise and warned of tougher times. Again Reagan challenged the odds, which seemed long when I signed onto his campaign just out
of law school in 1979. Yet Reagan won easily in 1980, confounding critics horrified by the candidacy of a
supposedly ignorant cowboy.
Reagan's policy achievements were vitally important but ultimately mixed in their outcomes. Still, he infused Americans with his optimistic outlook while confronting America's enemies abroad. He unashamedly extolled the virtues of liberty. He reminded Americans that they had always achieved the seemingly impossible. He called the Soviet Union an evil empire. He challenged then Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev to make good on his professed humanitarian vision by banning nuclear weapons and tearing down the Berlin Wall.
Reagan's vision, so often derided as simplistic, became reality. The US now dominates the world. Where else but America do other peoples look for leadership? Communism -- the Soviet Union, its ragged gaggle of conscript allies and of Third World impersonators -- has disappeared into history's dustbin. The Berlin Wall, perhaps the most dramatic symbol of oppression, is gone. The US and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals and Washington is preparing to deploy missile defenses.
We are truly living in Reagan's world. The challenges facing America are immense, but few doubt that the US will meet those challenges. The world fusses about US arrogance and hegemony, but no other state combines such ambition, commitment, competence, energy and optimism.
The 21st century is beginning like the last one ended, as the American century. The US remains the shining city on the hill. Moreover, America's prime animating force comes from private people in industry and charity. The 20th century was, in historian Paul Johnson's words, the age of politics. The politicians used their opportunity to inflict mass poverty, oppression and murder. There has been no more disastrous social experiment in history.
Now inventors and
doctors, businessmen and engineers, clerics and hackers, and artists and philanthropists are getting their turn. They are developing new medicines, finding new sources of energy, inventing new processes to protect the environment, and creating new ways to communicate.
Our technological vistas have never seemed wider. The 21st century looks to be the age of entrepreneurship, when civil society regains its dominance over the politicians. Get out of people's way, Reagan long demanded of government. When it refuses to do so, people now push it out of the way. Of course, there is more than the material to life, and Reagan worried about the larger moral environment within which we live. But he understood that virtue was not possible without freedom.
How to remember Reagan? He was friendly and engaging, warm and concerned about even young staffers such as myself. He was bright, focused on the big picture rather than policy minutiae. He was passionate about achieving a free society, and convinced that a free society was the best way to achieve a just and prosperous one as well. Finally, he was an optimist. He believed in himself and America, and the ability of free people the world over to work together to better themselves and those around them. Reagan died without knowing how right he had been. We know.
Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He served as an assistant to Reagan.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has a good reason to avoid a split vote against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in next month’s presidential election. It has been here before and last time things did not go well. Taiwan had its second direct presidential election in 2000 and the nation’s first ever transition of political power, with the KMT in opposition for the first time. Former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was ushered in with less than 40 percent of the vote, only marginally ahead of James Soong (宋楚瑜), the candidate of the then-newly formed People First Party (PFP), who got almost 37
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) has called on his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) counterpart, William Lai (賴清德), to abandon his party’s Taiwanese independence platform. Hou’s remarks follow an article published in the Nov. 30 issue of Foreign Affairs by three US-China relations academics: Bonnie Glaser, Jessica Chen Weiss and Thomas Christensen. They suggested that the US emphasize opposition to any unilateral changes in the “status quo” across the Taiwan Strait, and that if Lai wins the election, he should consider freezing the Taiwanese independence clause. The concept of de jure independence was first
Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman and presidential candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Thursday reiterated that he is “deep-green at heart” and that he would mostly continue President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) national defense and foreign policies if elected. However, he was still seriously considering forming a “blue-white” electoral alliance with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) less than a month ago, telling students he “hates the KMT, but loathes the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) even more,” while constantly criticizing Tsai’s foreign policy these past few years. Many critics have said that Ko’s latest remarks were aimed at attracting green-leaning swing voters, as recent polls
Taiwan’s Ministry of Labor and India’s Ministry of External Affairs have confirmed that the two countries plan to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) this month on recruiting Indians to work in Taiwan. While this marks another step in deepening ties between the two nations, it has also stirred debate, as misunderstandings and disinformation about the plan abound. Taiwan is grappling with a shortage of workers due to a low birthrate and a society that is projected to turn super-aged by 2025. Official statistics show that Taiwan has a labor shortfall of at least 60,000 to 80,000, which is expected