Monday, January 21, 2008

Historical Narratives Matter

Debunking the Reagan Myth - New York Times

I'm sorry to say that in this case Paul Krugman just doesn't get it.

There is a lot more to history than conservative or liberal narratives. In fact there is an American narrative that both progressives and conservatives tap into. Alexis De Tocqville noted, “The American learns to know the laws by participating in the act of legislation; and he takes a lesson in the forms of government from governing. The great work of society is ever going on before his eyes and, as it were, under his hands.” A sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship are deeply embedded in the American view of ourselves and the world.

The citizen of the United States is taught from infancy to rely upon his own exertions in order to resist the evils and the difficulties of life; he looks upon the social authority with an eye of mistrust and anxiety, and he claims its assistance only when he is unable to do without it.

Reagan's failures had more to do with the limits of the tools his conservative ideology allowed him to use, than the goals he championed. We are not required to disbelieve in the sovereignty of the people because Reagan believed in it. Believing that the least government necessary to accomplish the popular will is best, doesn't make us less progressive. It was the unwillingness to admit that too little government can harm as well as too much, the refusal to recognise that markets don't solve all problems, the refusal to pay the nations bills as they come due, while raising working peoples taxes and mortgaging their future, that divides the progressive from the failures of his agenda.

THE most natural privilege of man, next to the right of acting for himself, is that of combining his exertions with those of his fellow creatures and of acting in common with them. The right of association therefore appears to me almost as inalienable in its nature as the right of personal liberty.
American voters want to be enabled, not taken care of. Empowered, not tracked, channeled,or directed. They want to be the ultimate deciders. Reagan offered these things, while his opponents offered to tweak the system. He failed to deliver these things because his ideology's tools, tax cuts and deregulation weren't appropriate to the task.
con·cept: Historical Narratives Matter