Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Age Of Reagan: The fall of the old liberal order, Steven Hayward

I'm an unabashed Power Line blog, and especially Steven Hayward fan. Steve has written a number of books, this one, "The Age Of Reagan" covers the period from 1964 to 1980. 

Being born in '56, this covers my childhood since I entered Kindergarten in the fall of 1960 at the age of 4 (turning 5 in October). I've been behind my age cohort ever since. 

The book is 717 pages long, but Hayward is an interesting writer. While Reagan is often the focus, the book is really the tale of how LBJ and Jimmy Carter crippled both the country and the Democrat "liberal" order, thus creating the Reagan presidency and significant change in US foreign and domestic policy that consigned the USSR to "the ash heap of history", and ignited a US and world economic boom that lasted until Obama in 2008. Trump was able to create a bit of a "boomlet" from 2017-Covid, and then Biden in a "It's deja vu all over again" trip back to '70s stagflation, sinking stocks, global military peril, and "leadership" you can cry over. 

On page 52, there is discussion about how Johnson used the CIA, FBI, etc to spy on the Goldwater campaign. E Howard Hunt of the CIA would reprise the role in the '72 Nixon campaign. Then, as we see now with the Russia Hoax, Hunter Biden Laptop, etc the use of the "justice" department for political purposes is a very old strategy for the Democrat party, as in Watergate. Republicans have attempted to engage in it as well, but the Deep State is an enemy of Republicans, because no matter how ineffective they are at reigning in the Administrative State, they have tried, which makes them "dangerous to democracy",  which from the POV of Democrats and their allies in the Administrative State, is "dangerous to single party rule" (their version of "democracy") 

Nixon's 2nd term, and the election of Trump to a 2nd term were "existential threats" to the Deep/Administrative State, so all means were of attack were justified. If the ironclad hold of the Deep/Administrative State was loosened a bit, their powers might not be total anymore, and Americans might see some actual truth about what has been happening for a long time. That MUST be prevented!

on page 123, there is a great "adventures in irony" tale. Ernesto Miranda, the defendant in the famous case was stabbed to death in an Arizona bar. The police detained a solid suspect, who stating his "Miranda Rights" refused questioning and was released. The case was never solved. 

Johnson never really cared about Vietnam, and he assiduously avoided calling it a "war", to not offend China or the USSR. You can LOSE a war, but "Peacekeeping" and  Nation Building" are just nice moral actions which may kill 10's of thousands of American troops, and many times that number of "allies" and "enemies", but at least you didn't start a "war" or "lose". Afghanistan is another great example, and our panicked exit was a duplicate of our embarrassment in Vietnam. 

What he cared about was his massive spending to "finish FDR's work"  by a massive Administrative State welfare program called "The Great Society". The government engaged in "The War On Poverty". As with many leftist ideas, it's promises were grand, it's results were disaster. Both the poor and the American taxpayer lost, and continue to lose that war as well. 

On page 293,  a statistic that explains a lot of things is revealed. The total cost of the decade long moon landing project was less than three months of federal social program spending in 1969! Mondale especially hated the "waste" of money in the Apollo program, but loved the "Great Society". 

The sad joke of the Carter presidency is sadly documented. One of the items that presages where we are now was Carter's appointment of Andrew Young to be Ambassador to the UN. Young was on record saying that the destruction of Western civilization was required for the world to emerge as a "free. and brotherly society". He would ramble on about all the racist US leaders. When asked if that would include Abraham Lincoln, he responded "especially Lincoln". 

Page 572 brought back memories of some of the frigid weather of the 1970's. In '75, the NAS made an almost unanimous report that we were headed quickly for an ice age! Anyone that did not believe the science was of course beyond stupid. I was in my 2nd year of college, and given the glacial effects in N Wisconsin, Lake Superior, and the observed tens of thousands of years cycles of ice ages  ... it DID seem quite likely, and frankly still does. Just not in the next few hundred years. 

Being in college and joining IBM during the "Great Malaise" of the Carter years made me a Republican after a youth where everyone I knew was a Democrat because "Republicans were the party of the rich" ... we certainly were not rich, so the choice was obvious. Carter was the last Democrat I voted for ... I was "mugged by reality", and Reagan cemented my choice of becoming reality vs narrative based.  

The combination of the "War on Poverty" and "The War In Vietnam", was essentially a "War on the United States" which many of the left then, and still today thought to be very good idea. On page 193, 

"...what happens when the financial system is backed by a central bank promising redeem deposits in gold? If a crisis of confidence occurs, then you have run on the banks, but a run on the whole countries currency and gold reserves. This is what happened in 1968. The episode brought to an abrupt halt to the lofty promise of "growth liberalism" or "the new economics", and set the stage for rising inflation and economic instability that took 20 years to remedy." 

Carter, Obama and Biden prove that ideologues never learn. When you believe that more government and more spending are the answer to whatever seems to be the problem, that is what you do. Democrat spending is like bloodletting, a standard practice for 3000 years. It was a major tool in the medical box, and if it failed,  doctors were suspicious it was not administered soon enough or extensively enough. Democrats look at spending, especially the deficit brand, the same way. 

I loved both books because they brought back a lot of memories of my life from kindergarten to kids. If you have either and open or moderately conservative mind (or both) and are not afraid of thick books, highly recommended. If you are a confirmed leftist, this is history you want to erase so you can smugly keep on repeating it! 


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