There was an interesting discussion of the problems facing the incoming Obama administration on PBS’s The McLaughlin Group a while back. As usual, the group was in the midst of a shouting match - this time about whether or not the proposals Obama was making had any chance of working and how badly the Democrats would suffer in the next election if they didn’t. That’s when Pat Buchanan drew a comparison between the current situation and that faced by the incoming Reagan administration.
He pointed out how Reagan’s plans took over three years to start bearing fruit and how the Republicans got soundly thrashed two years after his election (a year before any positive changes in the economy were seen). This got me to thinking about my own thoughts and feelings during those times. You see, I was inspired by Reagan’s candidacy like I hadn’t been since Johnson (who reminded me of my dad) and Bobby Kennedy. I was too young to vote during the 60’s, let alone understand what the real issues were all about, but I was certainly primed for the polls in 1980. Besides, Reagan was the only politician ever mentioned, let alone given praise, by Ayn Rand.
Regardless of how he is painted by the politicians of today, I still believe that Reagan’s attempt to get government out of the way of way of free enterprise was the morally correct thing to do. Unfortunately, what he apparently didn’t realize (I know I didn’t) was that those who passed themselves off as Capitalists had been so corrupted by years of having to work around government interference that they no longer had the decency required to be actual Capitalists. Even Alan Greenspan, who not only was praised by Ayn Rand but contributed an essay or two to her books, was fooled into thinking that the profit motive would be enough to keep those clowns in line. A casual look at any news program today will reveal how well that turned out.
Now before you start thinking that maybe Ayn Rand just didn’t know what she was talking about, I should point out how she railed against the so-called ’defenders of Capitalism’ - the Republicans. Don’t get me wrong. She certainly had no great love for the Democrats, but at least they didn’t hide their liberal agendas. The Republicans, on the other hand, pretended then and now to be all in favor of freedom and free enterprise and yet consistently voted in ways that violated everything they preached. They’re the ones who consistently vote against the rights of women, gays, sexual freedoms, the content of our children’s education, and those who seek ’alternative’ lifestyles. And I’ll bet that the way they treated women was particularly annoying to Ms. Rand, one of the greatest minds the world has ever known.
What does any of that have to do with free enterprise? It’s simple really. Free enterprise only works in an environment that encourages freedom of thought! When looked at that way, the Republicans have acted for decades as the greatest hindrance to freedom this country has ever faced. Maybe if Reagan and Greenspan had paid more attention to what Rand was saying, they would have realized that their plans needed some serious checks and balances placed on their own party.
As for President Obama, I’m almost afraid to hope that he is as level-headed as he seems. If I could give him one little piece of advice, it would be to suggest that he push his evolving party to become what the Republicans should have been for Reagan. After all, Bill Clinton did a lot of good by stealing ideas from the conservatives. Genuine free market Capitalism is not only the way for Obama to take control of both sides of the political landscape, it’s the only true path out of the economic mess we’ve stepped in.
I want ice water.