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Ronald Reagan: The Model of Moderate Libertarianism

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This weekend marked Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. I’m not going to go all gushy and talk about how wonderful he was or what an inspiring figure he was. Plenty of people are already doing that. I wanted to focus on one aspect of his leadership which has personal relevance to those of us who are libertarians within the Republican Party. We remember and we cannot let others forget that although he was a conservative, Ronald Reagan was also self-admittedly a libertarian and saw those two perspectives as intimately linked.

One of the best ways to understand how Reagan thought is to read the 1975 interview with Reason Magazine in which he lays out his political philosophy and explains how true liberalism, contemporary conservatism and libertarianism are basically aspects of the same basic ideals. He said:

I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals – if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

In the general push to iconize Reagan as an abstract figure we often forget how truly smart and insightful he was. He had real principles yet he understood that those principles had to operate within the limitations of a flawed political system and that ideals had to be implemented incrementally, seizing opportunities where they presented themselves. This remains the strategy for libertarian Republicans to this day — to pursue a moderate course within the political process towards a libertarian ideal. As Reagan demonstrated, this strategy is one which works and which can produce substantial change in government, though looking backwards we could wish he had done more to pursue his ideals and that his efforts had been continued by his successors.

Reagan himself met with both success and failure in moving the government in a more positive direction. He was able to deal with one of the worst financial crises in our history using mostly free market solutions and without generating the same kind of massive debt. Yes, he had budget deficits and grew the national debt alarmingly, but he did not grow the government bureaucracy at anything like the level of his predecessors or successors and he produced concrete results from his spending in bringing an end to the cold war and putting the economy back on track. He lowered inflation from 12.5% to 5.5% and unemployment from 9.7% to 4.4%. He lowered interest rates, restored the failing housing market and grew GDP by 31% in 8 years.

These are all hallmarks of a successful presidency, but for my more left-leaning libertarian friends who take particular exception to the empire building efforts of recent administrations, one of the things about Reagan which stands out as unusual is that while he did build up the military and did oppose Russian imperialism, he did not engage in imperialism himself. He scrupulously avoided it. If your complaint about the Republican Party of George W. Bush is the expansionism of the neocons, a return to Reagan’s foreign policy of peace through strength ought to be appealing. Reagan engaged in no long term troop deployments. His primary use of the military was to directly defend US citizens and interests in very short applications of force for specific purposes.  Some may complain about the covert operations which took place during his time in office, but in cost and commitment they were minor and sometimes produced very positive results.

Reagan’s only major deployments of troops were the 1200 Marines sent to Lebanon for about a year in 1983 and the very brief invasion of Grenada with 7000 troops and a duration of less than 2 months. No long-term occupations aside from those he inherited and no efforts at expensive nation-building or endless peacekeeping operations. Yes, there were small and inexpensive covert operations and efforts to influence political developments in key nations, but Reagan clearly didn’t like the idea of an American empire any more than he liked the idea of a Soviet empire.

For a president who took America to the pinnacle of its military and economic power, this restraint and lack of ambition to exceed the proper limits of the Constitution and good government was in many ways Reagan’s most important — and perhaps most quickly forgotten – legacy. Reagan knew where to set the limits and was not seduced by the temptations of power. This is why libertarians flocked to join his administration and why so many of us look back to him as an example of the kind of leadership this nation needs but has not had for far too long. He lay the groundwork for further libertarian reform of government and built up political capital for that purpose which was then squandered by George H. W. Bush and Newt Gingrich and other lesser leaders.

I’m not going to start whining about “where is our new Reagan.” There may never be another Reagan. But we can keep his success in mind and remember that the values and ideals of libertarianism are most likely to be implemented quickly and effectively if we take the moderate and pragmatic approach which he practiced and use his example to win over less libertarian Republicans who may not fully understand or embrace our ideals, but still revere Reagan as an icon. With his strategy we can erase the errors of the last 25 years and pick up where he left off.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Ronald Reagan was a model of a president who was half asleep – just like his hero, Calvin Coolidge. But Reagan was spared (by Alzheimer’s) the sight of his country going down the drain – probably because of his good intentions and honest patriotism. Coolidge, by contrast, was not. He watched as everything he praised was spit on by a nation disgusted with the phony prosperity of the 1920’s he championed. And he died of depression. He had warned his family one was coming in 1928 – and depression killed him.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    You know my opinion of Reagan – he was one of our five best presidents ever…and this is due only to his victory in the Cold War while bringing our military back from its post-Vietnam malaise.

    If it weren’t for that, then he’d be one of our worst ever, for Reaganomics is to this very day still tearing away at our economy, at the middle class that made our economy so great. It was Reagan and nobody else who started us down the path of huge deficits…and see where we’re at now. He set our nation on the path of having wild budget deficits, and – except for two years under Clinton – none of our presidents have been able to turn back the inertia of fiscal irresponsibility that was the economic hallmark of the Reagan years.

    Giving us victory in the Cold War is one of the greatest achievements of any president…but let us not forget what he did wrong.

  • Boeke

    This article articulates, inadvertently, the problems of Libertarians in defining their goals and principles. They get caught in an endless cycle of “it’s this, but it’s not this”, and “it’s that but it’s not that”. You can’t really blame outsiders for not knowing what a libertarian is.

    The founders of this country were not really anti-government, they WERE against bad government and had a vision of good government. Their arguments and arbitrations were not about eliminating all government but, rather, how to form a good government that can proceed with the legitimate goals of government without unduly restricting the rights of citizens and enshrining it’s own survival as primary.

    I don’t see anywhere that RR grappled with the intellectual problems of government.

    But he was a good salesman, which came from his acting experience, I suppose, or maybe he just kissed the old Blarney Stone.

  • El Bicho

    Didn’t realize the Cold War was only fought during the 1980s.

  • I don’t agree with your assessment, Dave, still it’s one of the best things you have ever written. You are an idealist. Good luck.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    El B –

    No, but the Cold War was WON during the 1980’s. That much is without question.

  • Baronius

    “It was Reagan and nobody else who started us down the path of huge deficits”

    That’s not true. See this chart. We’d been running deficits for a long time. You can detect an underlying trend line from 1946-1992. You can even see Gramm-Rudman bringing down the deficit before Bush Sr.’s budget-busting compromise (intended to reduce the budget).

    It’s actually an interesting chart. After 1992 you can see four straight lines: the Clinton-Gingrich decline, the war buildup, the Bush decline, and the Bush/Obama explosion.

  • Jim

    Interesting how some conservatives rush to tell Libertarians to be moderate i.e. shut up. That this is written by the leader of a purportedly Libertarian outreach group is bizarre.

    My recollection is Reagan was an adviser of the Libertarian International. Many of us knew the man, and while he did not push a full Libertarian agenda, he was quite ‘radical’ in what he did push, and was denounced by many right-wing pseudo-Libertarian hucksters like Mr. Nalle at the time for being so.

  • Baronius

    Jim – What? I don’t know why you heard “shut up”, but it wasn’t what Dave said.

    One great thing about the Reagan era was that the conservative coalition didn’t get overly territorial and defensive with each other. One reason was that we were all happy; another was the 11th Commandment. But you can’t discount the fact that no one could out-conservative Reagan. People who tried to looked foolish. The moral of the story is that a rising conservative tide lifts all factions’ boats.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    You need to read the numbers a bit more carefully. The following is taken directly from YOUR reference:

    Year—-GDP——-Deficit as % of GDP

    1972—-1237.9—-1.89 Nixon reelected
    1974—-1499.5—-0.41 Nixon resigns
    1976—-1824.6—-4.04 Carter elected
    1977—-2030.1—-2.64 Last budget submitted by Ford
    1978—-2293.8—-2.58 First budget submitted by Carter – notice the DROP?
    1980—-2788.1—-2.65 Reagan elected
    1981—-3126.8—-2.53 Last budget submitted by Carter
    1982—-3253.2—-3.93 First budget submitted by Reagan – notice the 64% percent deficit JUMP?
    1988—-5100.4—-3.04 Bush 41 elected
    1989—-5482.1—-2.78 last budget submitted by Reagan…NEVER ONCE as low as Carter’s last budget.
    1992—-6342.3—-4.58 Clinton elected
    1993—-6667.4—-3.83 last budget submitted by Bush 41
    1994—-7085.2—-2.87 First budget submitted by Clinton – notice the 26% deficit DROP?
    2000—-9951.5____-2.37 Bush 43 elected
    2001—-10286.2___-1.25 last budget submitted by Clinton
    2002—-10642.3—1.48 first budget submitted by Bush 43 – notice the difference?
    2008—-14441.4—3.18 Obama elected, Great Recession begins
    2009—-14258.2—9.91 last budget submitted by Bush 43
    2010—-14623.9—10.64 first budget submitted by Obama…which, for your information included not only the stimulus, but the hundreds of billions of dollars of INTEREST that we have to pay every year thanks to Reaganomics and Bush 43’s wild spending spree…

    …and one more thing: 2010 was the FIRST time since Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded that the cost of these wars were included in the Federal Budget.

    What does that mean? It MEANS, Baronius, that the figures you see from Dubya’s years are FALSE, because they don’t include the cost of the wars, whereas Obama’s DOES.

    And THAT means, sir, that if anything, once the cost of the wars is figured in, Obama probably CUT the deficit even though it included the stimulus!

    Yeah, Baronius, it really is better to dig into the numbers instead of just looking at a little graph.

  • Boeke

    Russian hawks were happy that Reagans saber rattling kept them in business for a couple years after the Russian civilian government wanted to Fold It Up.

  • Baronius

    As far as I know, historical budget data includes supplemental appropriations. I mean, we do have to pay for them. The Bush Administration put off the appropriations for the War on Terror until after the budget projections were completed, but that should only affect the projections at the time, not the historical data. At least that’s my understanding. It’s something like the teenager who needs extra money over and above his allowance every week, because he didn’t anticipate needing money for the weekend.

    Can someone back me up on this either way? Supplemental appropriations aren’t off-budget, are they? The only things which are off-budget are the Post Office and Social Security.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius –

    I provided proof that’s not the case. If you can provide proof other than your “understanding”, then please do so.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    AND Baronius –

    After perusing the data I got from YOUR source, are you still eager to claim that Reagan (and Bush and Bush) were good for the economy, that it was the Democrats who were bad for the deficit?

  • I lived Reganomics. Just when people like me were getting off our butts and deciding to join the mainstream and go to school and get real jobs what did he do? Cut the programs that allowed mothers to have free daycare and preschool. Now guess who gets the free daycare and preschool? Illegal aliens whose kids can’t speak English that’s who.

    I liked Reagan but he emptied the nut houses and the day care centers at the same time. This country has never recovered from either one IMO. Now the middle class have to pay tens of thousands a year for child care before kids go to public school. And the proliferation of drug addicts who can’t get help because of mental illness and the homeless who are mentally ill has made many once-beautiful cities unlivable.

    But we welcomed illegals and filled our prisons with brown people and now we have a deficit and a screwed up job market that has been farmed out to China.

    All the damn presidents are to blame, i.e., since Johnson for the shape we are in today and no point in blaming Reagan he was making it up as he went along…just like the rest of em.

  • Did Reagan rid the world of evil commie scum? Throughout the celebrations of the weekend, questions arose on both sides of the isle about Reagan’s legacy. Check out my portrait of him on my artist’s blog and let me know what you think of The Gipper!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Ah, is no one now going to stand up and say how good Reaganomics has been for the deficit, and how bad the Dems have been for it?

  • “Reaganomics” worked for me, but I was in the military at the time. As I remember it my pay went up during those years. And I know I stood taller in my uniform when Ronnie became president!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Andy –

    That’s why I gave Reagan credit for pulling the military out of its post-Vietnam malaise – he was my commander-in-chief for my first seven years in the Navy, and yes, we loved him.

    BUT now that the years have passed and I’ve had a chance to look back at what he did right and what he did wrong, I stand by what I posted above – that his victory in the Cold War (and his restoration of our military) puts him in the first rank of ALL presidents…but Reaganomics put us on the path to hideous deficits as I showed above.

    It’s a lot like corporate inertia – once a major corporation is set on a particular path, it’s very hard to change the direction of that corporation. So it is with the government – Reagan opened the floodgates of deficit spending (much of it for the military), and it’s been VERY hard to stop that particular habit.

    “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” – Dick Cheney said that…and the numbers prove that’s exactly what they believed.

  • Boeke

    One could argue that Reagans ‘restoration’ of the US military just created the bellicose monster that would do anything to open a war in the middle east, with Iraq, for example.

    Also, one could argue, as some soviet memoirists have, that his sabre-rattling threats prolonged the reign of soviet hawks long after civilians were willing to change the system.

  • I guess it’s kinda like…my pop really sucks with money, and so do I! All he ever did was teach me how to spend it and man was it fun! Deficits don’t seem to matter to him either! Thank god I got married, or I’d be in a ditch somewhere! But I’d still have health care!!!!! hehehe

    Glenn – 1 correction to your comment 19, the very last word you typed in past tense and I BELIEVE that should be present tense…just sayin’

  • Boeke

    “#6 – Glenn Contrarian
    Feb 07, 2011 at 7:01 am

    No, but the Cold War was WON during the 1980’s. That much is without question.”

    I can’t let this go by without dissent.

    The soviets started to wind down the cold war in 1953 after Stalin died, and even more when Krushchev denounced Stalin and started de-stalinization.

    It was the USA that kept the cold war warm. How many Soviets died in Korea? How many soviets died in Vietnam (it was 4, in contrast to 58,000 Americans)?

    WE were the principle antagonists!

    WHY? IMO, to prop up some Sunset Military companies (cf. Eisenhowers military/industrial complex) and to keep the US citizenship cowed under the threat of nuclear war, and thus compliant to the US rulers.

    When Reagan took office the soviet Civilian leaders were looking for the escape route so they could dominate the military hawks (who, after all, almost pulled the nuclear trigger in Kennedys Cuba showdown; and, after all, it was the Soviet civilian leadership that pulled the missiles out).

    The soviet civilian leadership sought and were eager to enter arms limitation and nuclear weapons treaties with any willing US administration.

    Here’s a better writeup:


    June 7, 2004
    The Myth of the Gipper
    Reagan Didn’t End the Cold War


    Ronald Reagan’s biggest crimes were the bloody military actions to suppress social and political change in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Afghanistan, but I’d like to deal here with the media’s gushing about Reagan’s supposed role in ending the cold war. In actuality, he prolonged it. Here is something I wrote for my book Killing Hope.

    It has become conventional wisdom that it was the relentlessly tough anti-communist policies of the Reagan Administration, with its heated-up arms race, that led to the collapse and reformation of the Soviet Union and its satellites. American history books may have already begun to chisel this thesis into marble. The Tories in Great Britain say that Margaret Thatcher and her unflinching policies contributed to the miracle as well. The East Germans were believers too.

    … Long the leading Soviet expert on the United States, Georgi Arbatov, head of the Moscow-based Institute for the Study of the U.S.A. and Canada, wrote his memoirs in 1992. A Los Angeles Times book review by Robert Scheer summed up a portion of it:

    Arbatov understood all too well the failings of Soviet totalitarianism in comparison to the economy and politics of the West. It is clear from this candid and nuanced memoir that the movement for change had been developing steadily inside the highest corridors of power ever since the death of Stalin. Arbatov not only provides considerable evidence for the controversial notion that this change would have come about without foreign pressure, he insists that the U.S. military buildup during the Reagan years actually impeded this development.

    George F. Kennan agrees. The former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, and father of the theory of “containment” of the same country, asserts that “the suggestion that any United States administration had the power to influence decisively the course of a tremendous domestic political upheaval in another great country on another side of the globe is simply childish.” He contends that the extreme militarization of American policy strengthened hard-liners in the Soviet Union. “Thus the general effect of Cold War extremism was to delay rather than hasten the great change that overtook the Soviet Union.”

    Though the arms-race spending undoubtedly damaged the fabric of the Soviet civilian economy and society even more than it did in the United States, this had been going on for 40 years by the time Mikhail Gorbachev came to power without the slightest hint of impending doom. Gorbachev’s close adviser, Aleksandr Yakovlev, when asked whether the Reagan administration’s higher military spending, combined with its “Evil Empire” rhetoric, forced the Soviet Union into a more conciliatory position, responded:

    It played no role. None. I can tell you that with the fullest responsibility. Gorbachev and I were ready for changes in our policy regardless of whether the American president was Reagan, or Kennedy, or someone even more liberal. It was clear that our military spending was enormous and we had to reduce it.

    Understandably, some Russians might be reluctant to admit that they were forced to make revolutionary changes by their arch enemy, to admit that they lost the Cold War. However, on this question we don’t have to rely on the opinion of any individual, Russian or American. We merely have to look at the historical facts. From the late 1940s to around the mid-1960s, it was an American policy objective to instigate the downfall of the Soviet government as well as several Eastern European regimes. Many hundreds of Russian exiles were organized, trained and equipped by the CIA, then sneaked back into their homeland to set up espionage rings, to stir up armed political struggle, and to carry out acts of assassination and sabotage, such as derailing trains, wrecking bridges, damaging arms factories and power plants, and so on.

    The Soviet government, which captured many of these men, was of course fully aware of who was behind all this. Compared to this policy, that of the Reagan administration could be categorized as one of virtual capitulation.

    Yet what were the fruits of this ultra-tough anti-communist policy? Repeated serious confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union in Berlin, Cuba and elsewhere, the Soviet interventions into Hungary and Czechoslovakia, creation of the Warsaw Pact (in direct reaction to NATO), no glasnost, no perestroika, only pervasive suspicion, cynicism and hostility on both sides.

    It turned out that the Russians were human after all — they responded to toughness with toughness. And the corollary: there was for many years a close correlation between the amicability of US-Soviet relations and the number of Jews allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union. Softness produced softness. If there’s anyone to attribute the changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to, both the beneficial ones and those questionable, it is of course Mikhail Gorbachev and the activists he inspired.

    It should be remembered that Reagan was in office for over four years before Gorbachev came to power, and Thatcher for six years, but in that period of time nothing of any significance in the way of Soviet reform took place despite Reagan’s and Thatcher’s unremitting malice toward the communist state.

  • El Bicho

    Thanks for posting, Boeke. However don’t expect it to do any good with Glenn. I previously pointed out to him how Lech Walesa gave credit for the fall of the Iron Curtain to Pope John Paul II and Solidarity labor movement but Glenn refuses to give anyone else credit than Reagan.

  • Not to mention Gorbachev. But old loyalties never die. It’s indeed a lost cause, but what else is new?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Boeke –

    This is a LONG comment, but please read it through.

    I understand very, very well what you’re saying, but I doubt that ANY of you really understand where I’m coming from.

    I’m retired Navy…which means I do know a thing or two about leadership. Perhaps the biggest thing we learn about leadership is that the leader gets all the blame and all the kudos. A wise leader will keep all the blame for himself and pass all the kudos down to the lower ranks.

    When a ship runs aground, it’s almost NEVER directly the captain’s fault. He’s almost NEVER the one at the conn, and certainly never has his hand directly on the wheel steering the ship. BUT when he goes up before the Board of Inquiry (or whatever they call it these days), the captain WILL always state that he had the conn, even though this is a complete fabrication.

    Now why is this? I don’t expect y’all will understand because you’re not Navy men – but you might. But the reason is that he states he was at the conn even though he had nothing to do with steering the ship at that time is that he has everything to do with steering the ship, all the time.

    The captain is the one responsible for ensuring that the navigators and quartermasters are trained, that they are properly qualified, that their equipment is up to date and functioning, and that they do their job as they’re supposed to do. Any failure of the men and/or equipment on that captain’s ship is the captain’s fault alone.

    Do you understand what I’m saying? That’s why in positions of real leadership – from the front line in the trenches all the way to Commander-in-Chief in the Oval Office, the leader gets all the credit, and gets all the blame. That’s not only the way it should be…it’s the way it must be.

    Go back to WWII. Do any of you here remember the Battle of Midway? Who won that battle? We did, of course, but who’s the admiral who was given the credit? ADM Chester Nimitz…and if we look at it YOUR way, he should have received no credit at all.

    Why? Because we won the battle because the Japanese screwed up and left their battle group without fighter cover while refueling their planes on deck…and we got REAL lucky and caught them with their pants down and sank all four of their carriers even though our aircraft had already been mostly decimated by the superior aircraft and training of the Japanese pilots. We…got…insanely…lucky!

    But Nimitz is given the credit, and rightly so. Why? Because he – like all of the commanding officers and leadership below him – ensured that the men and pilots were trained, that the equipment was functioning properly, and when the moment of truth came, we were able to take advantage of the opportunity we had, and turned the tide of the War in the Pacific in a single afternoon.

    That’s why Nimitz rightly gets the credit for winning the Battle of Midway, and that’s why Reagan – for all his faults – rightly gets the credit for winning the Cold War.

  • Boeke

    I don’t see how Midway and Nimitz apply, sorry (and we were lucky that the Japs made some terrible errors and our desperate contrived sea-blitz worked; and if Nimitz gets credit for the win, who gets blame for all the US screwups that lead to his inferior strategic position?). And I don’t have very high regard for the Navy chain of command, witness Capt. McVey of the Indianapolis, the USS Liberty, etc.

    Aside from your analogy, which I disapprove of, since I generally disapprove of all analogies, I don’t think Reagan gets any special credit. In fact, I would give more credit to Gorby and the crowd that preceded him and surrounded him. They managed to pull out peace in spite of Reagan and USA war-mongering. We don’t recognize it because we are drunk with the notion of “unconditional surrender” because we are so deluded as to think we won WW2 almost singlehanded (in spite of the evidence of 40 million European dead and the absolutely dreadful devastation they suffered that gave us time to arm).

    IMO it’s a mistake to look for a “Man On A White Horse” to credit for a victory. Was it Ambrose Beirce’s “Killed At Reseca” that revealed the folly and vanity and betrayals of heroism?

  • zingzing

    beirce is an author to make all authors tremble. his points were made. i had a copy of his complete works, but i read it and gave it away. i’m sorry, but i guess that’s the way it’s best done.

  • Glenn, to go back a bit, the fact is that supplemental appropriations are NOT off budget. They show up on the next year’s budget.


  • BTW, I’m at CPAC this week. If you want my immediate reports before the summaries here on BC, subscribe on twitter – @texliberty


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    But that is essentially cherry-picking…and when it comes to Obama, we also need to take into account the significantly lower federal revenue – tax income – for our government outgo was increasing just as our federal tax income was DECREASING beginning in 2008 and is not estimated to return to 2007 levels until 2013! In other words, you can blame Obama – but you also need to blame the people who blew up the deficit before 2010 which was the first budget he submitted.

    And as I showed with the numbers, no one can honestly say that Republican presidents have been deficit hawks, just as no one can say that Democratic presidents have been bad for the deficit.

    Again, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” It was YOUR guy, not ours, that said that, Dave.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Boeke –

    I didn’t expect you to understand, and your reply obviates the fact that you don’t. I’m assuming that you haven’t spent a career in the military, for your tone makes it seem unlikely that you are.

    Not too many people who haven’t spent a career in the military are able to understand. It’s very easy for those without such experience to stand on the sidelines and throw stones at the few in the military who turn out badly…and readily forget – as you obviously did – the untold thousands of examples that are at least as positive as the examples you gave are negative. That leads me to view you as retired military normally view those civilians who are so quick to condemn the military – you have all the right in the world to say what you want…but much of what you say comes from your own ignorance.

    When it comes to Gorbachev, he does deserve credit for keeping his country from war – internal and external – as it dissolved. That in and of itself is a huge accomplishment. But his country was dissolving, and Gorbachev didn’t make that happen. The Cold War was an economic marathon that we won…and though our hands were at least as dirty as the hands of the Soviets – perhaps even dirtier – we still won.

    And I’m not going to second-guess the decisions of the presidents when it comes to opposing the Soviets. Why? If you haven’t read the Gulag Archipelago or One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, then do so. As bad as we were, nothing that we did came close to being as bad as what the Soviets did to their own.

  • Baronius

    Dave (#28) – I’ve never been clear on that. I think: first the budget, then appropriations (which distribute the budgeted money), then supplemental appropriations (which increase the budget and distribute the new money). Next year’s historical budget data includes the supplemental appropriations, but next year’s proposed budget assumes that there won’t be any supplemental appropriations. That way each president proposes a smaller-deficit budget every year, but deficits go up.

    Is that right?

    To ask the question another way, is this another case of Glenn being wrong and not admitting it?

  • “The Cold War was an economic marathon that we won…and though our hands were at least as dirty as the hands of the Soviets – perhaps even dirtier – we still won.”

    Oh, those Phyrrhic victories, I love the very sound of it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Baronius (and Dave) –

    If I’m wrong, then show me proof that I’m wrong and I’ll be happy to publicly own up to it as I’ve done quite a few times before. On the other hand, what is the chance that (if neither of you can prove otherwise) that either of you will publicly own up to it?

    If the past is any judge – just as with Baronius’ claim that Reagan was so good with the economy and wasn’t that bad with the deficit – the chance that either of you will admit error is just about zero.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    Exactly what is Phyrric about it?

  • Spoken like a true military man, Glenn. I’ve told you there is a future for you in our State Department, make it Pentagon instead.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    I’m very well aware of what a Phyrric victory is, Roger, and I think you’re misusing the term. That’s why I asked you to explain what is Phyrric about it.

  • Glenn, I’m not going to waste my time discussing skeletons from the morality play otherwise known as the American Playhouse, certainly not in light of groundbreaking events in Egypt and the Middle East which, to my pleasant surprise, serve to undermine American hegemony in the region and the rest of the world. It’s about time. I give you credit, though, for being a true patriot to the bitter end, though I question, as you no doubt can gather, the quality of your blind loyalty and as part of that, I perfectly understand your hopelessly misguided set of priorities.

    Nuff said.

  • Boeke


    Supplemental Allocations do not go on the next years budget, they go into current year deficit directly, thence to national debt directly. They avoid the whole budget process and don’t contend with other projects for priority. Thus, they are exceptional and should be used sparingly. Bush did it carelessly and without consideration of the future, which is one of the reasons he increased National debt by $6-7trillion. Bush abused the privilege.

    LBJ did it for the first year or two of his Vietnam war, but soon submitted to congressional demands to put Vietnam War costs into the budget.

    To his credit, Obama took the Iraq/Afghanistan costs out of supplemental and put it into current budget. Ending that budget trick accounts for a large part of his current account deficits.

  • Baronius

    Glenn – I asked a question about the budgetary process. I’m not an economist. I’ve tried to figure out the answer, but I’m not sure. If anyone’s still reading BC and knows the answer, I hope they reply.

    It’s telling that you said it doesn’t count toward the budget, I proved it doesn’t count toward the budget, it’s cherry-picking, and it doesn’t count toward the budget. That indicates to me that you’re more interested in defending your viewpoint than in finding the answer.

  • Boeke

    Our strivings did NOT cause communism to collapse. Communism collapsed because of it’s own internal contradictions. Just as the more insightful conservative writers of the 50s and 60s predicted. And just as our own system of ‘capitalism’ will.

    All we had to do was survive and not throw ourselves into an apocalyptic gotterdamerung of final war and scotch the whole thing.

    The failure of USA Reagan strategists to understand history was nowhere more apparent than in the lectures of Jeanne Kilpatrick, who, two weeks before the wall fell, was predicting that the soviets would last for another hundred years.

  • Well put, Boeke.

  • Boeke

    Wikipedia has a pretty good federal budget discussion:


    It’s not really that complicated.

  • Baronius

    Boeke, I don’t think the wikipedia article answered my question.

  • Boeke


    If your question was, as in #32:

    “I think: first the budget, then appropriations (which distribute the budgeted money), then supplemental appropriations (which increase the budget and distribute the new money). Next year’s historical budget data includes the supplemental appropriations, but next year’s proposed budget assumes that there won’t be any supplemental appropriations. That way each president proposes a smaller-deficit budget every year, but deficits go up.

    Is that right?”

    The answer is “no, it’s not right”.

    For one thing “…supplemental appropriations (which increase the budget and distribute the new money).”

    is wrong for two reasons:

    (1) supplementals never go on a budget (in a way that’s the point, to avoid budgeting),

    (2) there is no ‘new money’, it is debt, pure and simple.

    When you read the Wiki article it might help to scan thru by hitting ‘ F’ and typing “supplemental” into the search field, then ” to step thru appropriate references. I just tried it and it worked for me. YMMV.

  • Boeke

    Let me retype that last paragraph since the blog editor discarded my expressions enclosed in sharp delimiters:

    When you read the Wiki article it might help to scan thru by hitting “[ctrl] F” and typing “supplemental” into the search field, then “[F3]” to step thru appropriate references. I just tried it and it worked for me. YMMV.

  • Rep Chris Lee resigns. But did he have to over a stinking photo and a big lie? Some say nay.

    That opens a door for somebody. New York is just full of surprises.