Friday, June 11, 2004

First Drafts of History

I am listening to Lady Margaret Thatcher's beautiful eulogy to Ronald Reagan as I post this.

A claim made for the Reagan legacy in recent weeks has been that he inspired resistors in the East bloc to stand up against Soviet power. This morning's column by Lech Walesa corroborates this important point: "Poles fought for their freedom for so many years that they hold in special esteem those who backed them in their struggle. Support was the test of friendship. President Reagan was such a friend. His policy of aiding democratic movements in Central and Eastern Europe in the dark days meant a lot to us. We knew he believed in a few simple principles such as human rights, democracy and civil society. He was convinced that the citizen is not the state but vice-versa, and that freedom is an innate right." This was supposed to be U.S. message all along but it was, apparently, a much more believable message during the Reagan years.

On the same page of the WSJ, Milton Friedman (who else?) does the obvious, correcting the pundits, who liked to point out that Reagan never did shrink the size of government, as he had promised. Separate defense spending from the rest and the federal government did shrink after 1984. There are two good reasons for making this simple point: i) extra defense spending in those years paid off handsomely; and ii) it is actually mandated by the Constitution, unlike much of the rest.