Sunday, February 06, 2011

Reagan as Republican

Stan Collender asks: Is Ronald Reagan Really as Much of a Model for Today's GOP as It Wants Us to Believe?  Framed in that way, the question answers itself: of course not.  In a way this is not surprising.  Political/social icons almost always have about as much relation to reality as the plaster statue in the Corpus Christi parade bears to the Virgin Mary.  The tendency to canonize may be stronger in some groups than others; I suspect that unreconstructed New Dealers are more realistic about Roosevelt than Reaganites are about their hero--but this may be no more than a reflection of the effectiveness of the steady right-wing drumbeat to denigrate the man who led us through the Depression and  a World War.

What might be interesting might be to carry the inquiry beyond Reagan and inquire into what other right-wing icons also are not what they are cracked up to be.  One candidate for deconstruction: Friedrich Hayek who wrote "Why I am Not a Conservative"--a perfectly coherent account of how commitment to a dynamic market is fundamentally inconsistent with real conservatism.  Hayek appears also appears to have had no aptitude for religion, except in its instrumental role as a kind of social glue.

Hayek also maintained a relationship with Keynes marked by a kind of civility that has almost vanished from the world of his successors; cf link.   They certainly found plenty to disagree about, and I surmise it bugged Hayek that Keynes got so much more recognition than he did--but then, Hayek outlived Keynes by nearly 50 years and so had plenty of time for catchup.  But in the end, as Bruce Bartlett has so shrewdly shown (cf. link), Keynes was far more conservative than the current mythology gives him credit for.  Maybe that is what Hayek disliked about him.

There's a good summary of the real Reagan in Will Bunch, Tear Down the Myth, where he Gipper comes across as at once more and less than we remember him to be. 

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