In the course of the past twenty years, the Republican Party has fundamentally altered the basis of their ideological tenets, moving from a hands on, exceedingly progressive tax code under Eisenhower, to a laissez faire economic policy under contemporary Republicans. The party foundation suffered a paradigm shift so contradictory to the previous ideology, that there was a considerable exodus of moderate conservatives to the Democratic camp. This, in effect, produced an exceedingly radical and unyielding right wing, and a fractured left wing, with the liberals shifting their stance to the right in an effort to meet the Republicans in a compromise. This comprehensive shuffling of the political field has had a profound effect upon both the policies of our country, and the way in which foreign countries view us. Who, or what, caused this dynamic change in the political machinations of our countries highest power?
On a tempestuous winter afternoon, January 20th, 1981 to be exact, Ronald Wilson Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States of America. Over the course of the ensuing decade, this man, for better or worse, would be the most powerful human being on the face of the planet. He would preside over the cataclysmic fall of America’s arch-superpower, the Soviet Union, seemingly engineer a technological boom both grandiose and auspicious in manner, and usher in an era of unprecedented frivolous spending and excess waste in American government. All of this would inspire the languid political right into an ideological renaissance, and most would lionize Ronald Reagan as the catalyst of a revitalized political base. However, despite the specious connotation of current leaders and current progress, Ronald Reagan was the cause of none of the preceding things, save the inflated budget. The former second rate actor had found himself straddling a crossroads in human history, and did just enough to not squander his unique opportunities. He was the recipient of blind luck, nothing more.
Following the Nixon fiasco, conservatives were desperate for a leader who could energize the base and really touch people, all while, albeit seemingly, providing economic success. As if on cue, Reagan stepped into the fold with his aw shucks mentality and genuine Christian faith, and became a media doll overnight. He directly spoke to the people, with a semblance of emotion, and the conservative base loved him for it. Already madly in love, the conservative base mistook the fall of the Soviet Union and the technology lead economic boom as an affirmation of Reagan’s ridiculous doctrine of lowering taxes, intimidating foreign powers with cowboy antics, decimating regulation, and increasing spending, and adjusted ideology accordingly. Never mind the subsequent recession immediately following his presidency that even the technology boom could not counter. “Reaganomics” was spared the blame, and was unleashed again under George W. Bush’s administration, this time to predictable results. It seems that Reagan’s policy was not so much the cause of his supposed success as was happenstance. A look at Reagan’s track record should determine whether this is indeed the case.
First, let’s start with the fall of the Soviet Union. Many contemporary political analysts attribute the seemingly sudden fall of the superpower to an arms race facilitated by Ronald Reagan, and the Soviet leaderships’ supposed gullibility in being goaded into military spending they could not support. There are a few things wrong with this assumption. First of all, the Soviet Union practiced a communistic style of economic organization, and therefore was not subject to the typical capitalist dilemma of monetary inflation. Since the Soviet Union operated a closed system, with no major trading partners, it could print all of the useless money it desired, and fund its projects thousands of times over, with no detrimental effect to the economy. This was possible because the government was the source of all goods and purchases, and in light of the fact that the Ruble was not exchangeable on foreign markets, it could merely adjust prices, and inflation would be a non factor. The government would merely gather the excess funds it had previously distributed, and destroy it, calling the process “redenomination”. Never mind government spending, the establishment could merely seize the resources it needed to maintain production.
Also, in the late 1980’s, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet premier, instituted a period of glastnost, or a time for reflection and criticism on past policies, and a more progressive plan for the future. In order to do this, he revealed the plethora of heinous atrocities committed by Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, and Leonid Brezhnev over the course of Soviet history. The destitute populace, already ravaged by the abuses of corrupt dictatorship and economic poverty, finally bristled. The crimes of the past, previously unbeknownst to the general population, delegitimized the regime in the eyes of the people. Hence, they revolted, elected a new government, and ousted the Soviet system. Ronald Reagan had as much to do with the fall of the Soviet Union as a gnat does with the killing of an elephant.
Finally, we shall investigate the question of the economic prosperity and technological revolution during his presidency. This was not so much the result of a “Reaganomic” policy as it was the progress of humanity over the past thousand years. The progress of technology finally arrived at a point where it was possible, and profitable, to provide personal computers, cellular phones, and other forms of technology at a reasonable price. This revolutionized nearly every facet of the economy, and prevented the otherwise inevitable collapse from Reagan’s oppressive tax code, lax economic policy and habitual spending by providing a considerable boost to the securities markets. This positive economic news fostered financial investment, and the result was a productive economy with an expected burden on the poor. Once again, it seems it was not so much Reagan as it was outside initiative.
It is not often that a man who lacks most forms of discernible talent manages to find himself at the epitome of human civilization, yet that is most certainly the case here. In the end, Reagan was not the savior of the 20th century, as some of his more ludicrous supporters assert. He was not even the decent president many profess him to be. Yet, despite all of this, he was the catalyst of the political turnabout because of his supposed accomplishments, and for that I do give him credit.