Reagan was the first, and so far the only, politician who I have ever found inspiring. I came of political age during the Reagan years when I was a high school student in Canada. In political science class we learned that the essence of the Canadian philosophy of government could be remembered with the mnemonic POGG – peace, order, and good government. I preferred life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and hearing Reagan speak was always a thrill for me.
The record, of course, is never as glorious as the rhetoric but a number of important accomplishments occured under Reagan’s watch. In the economic sphere, the reduction in marginal tax rates was a great and lasting achievement. It’s hard to believe today that top marginal rates used to approach 70%.
Reagan also deserves great credit for standing up to the air traffic controllers thereby sending a strong signal that the country would not be taken hostage by the labor unions as had happened and continues to happen in much of Europe.
Inflation was also brought under control under Reagan – the 1982 recession was second only to that of the Great Depression but it’s hard to see how that pain could have been avoided. Reagan had the fortitude to take the political heat of the downturn and stay the course thereby laying the groundwork for growth in the following decades.
Deregulation began under Carter but continued under Reagan, leading to innovation in previously moribund industries.
In foreign policy of course, Reagan saw further than anyone else. Only Reagan predicted that communism would end up on the dustbin of history and at critical moments he took the actions necessary to make it happen.
Not all was positive of course but the rest can wait for another day.