Saturday, January 21, 2006

Rothbard Smashes the Myths of Reaganomics

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's inauguration as the 40th president of the United States. The War Street Journal observed the occasion with a paean rich in revisionist history:

Twenty-five years ago today, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th President of the United States promising less intrusive government, lower tax rates and victory over communism. On that same day, the American hostages in Iran were freed after 444 days of captivity. If the story of history is one long and arduous march toward freedom, this was a momentous day well worth commemorating.

The article continues, approvingly (and predictably) citing statistics demonstrating the "successes" of Reaganomics. Though The War Street Journal continues to perpetuate these myths of Reagan's legacy, Murray Rothbard shattered these illusions back in 1987 with this scathing article, "The Myths of Reaganomics:"

Reaganomics has been an uneasy and shifting coalition of several clashing schools of economic thought. In particular, the leading schools have been the conservative Keynesians, the Milton Friedman monetarists, and the supply-siders. The monetarists, devoted to a money rule of a fixed percentage increase of money growth engineered by the Federal Reserve, have come a cropper. Fervently believing that science is noth­ing else but prediction, the monetarists have self-destructed by making a string of self-confident but disastrous predic­tions in the last several years. Their fate illustrates the fact that he who lives by prediction shall die by it. Apart from their views on money, the monetarists generally believe in free markets, and so their demise has left Reaganomics in the hands of the other two schools, neither of whom are particul­arly interested in free markets or cutting government.

A cursory survey of the blogosphere shows that the Reagan worship continues apace, which is pretty depressing considering it took me less than a minute to find two of Rothbard's classic repudiations of Reaganism (the other, "Ronald Reagan: An Autopsy," from 1989, can be found here).

It is no exaggeration to say that the celebration of the statist Reagan as a champion of freedom, while "Mr. Libertarian" Murray Rothbard has in many circles been marginalized and dismissed as a kook, is rapidly becoming one of history's great injustices.

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