While over at Ace of Spades yesterday, I watched Ronald Reagan’s stirring speech from 1964 entitled “A Time for Choosing.” I hadn’t heard it in several years. I was struck by the number of issues he addressed that we have yet to resolve. In case you haven’t heard it lately, here it is,
Nearly all of the problems he mentioned are still with us today. Problems such as deficit spending and high federal debt, inflation, war, apathy, a ruling elite who believe they can control our personal lives better that we can, and the fragility of freedom (under attack from all sides, but mostly from inside Washington), serve to remind us that we have fallen far from the political ideals of our Founders.
At the same time, Mr. Reagan also reminded us of our exceptionalism. The concepts of self-rule, individual responsibility and freedom prick our senses to reawaken us to our destiny and our purpose, to the greatness that we are today in real danger of losing.
Free-market capitalism was under attack then, as now. Well-meaning but misguided social scientists seek to impose their vision of a mankind perfected upon our society, as if we were somehow incapable of correcting our mistakes, as if the average American was some sort of animal, growling and pawing in search of prey when all we really want is to provide for ourselves and our families a comfortable living in peace with our neighbors. He points out the still popular but grossly inaccurate opinion held by leftists that capitalism is a zero-sum game where the one who benefits robs the less fortunate of their money. Or as he put it, “We have so many people who can’t see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one.”
Today, as in 1964, there are those that feel our Constitution is outmoded, an anachronism due to its age and language, indecipherable, limiting, nothing more than a relic to be viewed in a museum much like the bones of a prehistoric beast.
Like a wild beast, Mr. Reagan cited government programs that grow far beyond their original intentions to spring from their confinements and wreak havoc where there was none, outliving their usefulness (if there ever was any) to devour the private sector’s initiative and energy. “The more the plans fail, the more the planners plan.”
In a rare dose of reality coming from a campaign speech, Mr. Reagan asks if, since government seeks to solve all the ills of society, shouldn’t they be reading us the score showing how well they’re doing? Indeed, after all the billions spent to cure poverty and the grand promises made by those who propose program after program, how is it that record numbers of Americans are now forced to live in poverty today? “Shouldn’t they be telling us about the decline each year in the number of people needing help?”
Fraud, waste and abuse of government systems were addressed in his speech, along with the demonization of those who seek to clean it up. He summed up what passes for liberal thought today, even as it was back then. “They say we’re always against things, never for anything. The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, it’s that they know so much that isn’t so.”
Social Security was in financial trouble then as now. Imagine the scorn heaped upon someone who would dare suggest that there was a private sector way to provide for retirement years, or that the system itself was insolvent and in need of reform.
Reagan excoriated planned inflation, the same type that we’re seeing today couched in the benign title of the “quantitative easing” of our monetary supply. Whatever it’s called, the results are the same: a carefully planned reduction in our standard of living through the printing of more money in order to try to balance Washington’s books in the absence of getting the economy going again.
The failure of a corrupt United Nations that seeks to blunt American interests at every turn, the exploding numbers of public sector employees, the erosion of once-sacrosanct individual property rights by an overreaching and out-of-control court that focuses on Constitutional case law instead of what it actually says, it's all there.
Nothing has changed. We’re still in a struggle to maintain our freedom against government.
We miss you, Mr. Reagan, and pray that your words will persevere, to renew the spirit of freedom we so desperately need today to liberate us from our own special tyranny, that of progressivism.