December 19, 2005

Column of the Day: Michael Barone on the Lessons of the Past 25 Years

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:55 pm

Barone looks at the conventional wisdom in December 1980, as Jimmy Carter was near handing over the presidential reins to Ronald Reagan, and how it was turned on its head by the events of the next 25 years.

Then he identifies the lessons, and who has and hasn’t learned them:

First, American military power can advance freedom and democracy to all corners of the world. Under Reagan and his three successors, America has played a lead role in extending freedom and democracy to most of Latin America, to the Philippines, Indonesia and almost all of East Asia, and, most recently, to Afghanistan and Iraq, with reverberations spreading through the Middle East. Area experts said, often plausibly, those countries’ cultures were incompatible with democracy. Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and brave men and women in those nations proved them wrong.

Second, markets work, and lower taxes and less onerous government produce more economic growth than the alternative. About 43 million jobs have been created in the United States since December 1980, while the number in the more statist nations of Western Europe is on the order of 4 million. Markets are creating millions of jobs in nominally Communist China and once-socialist India.

Third, politics and effective government can, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, change the culture. The crime-control methods pioneered by New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the welfare reforms pioneered by Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, imitated around the country and followed up by federal legislation, resulted in huge decreases in crime and welfare dependency.

These lessons have been widely learned and widely applied, by George W. Bush but also to a large extent by Bill Clinton. But not, curiously enough, by those who see themselves as the best and the brightest, our university and media elites. They would still like to see America’s power reined in, as it was in the 1970s.

They are insouciant about the costs that larger and more intrusive government and higher taxes impose on the economy. They think that leniency and subsidy are the appropriate responses to deviant and self-destructive behavior. They think our most important right is a right to kill our unborn children. You have to be awfully smart, someone once said, to believe something so stupid. And to be so blind to the clear lessons of the past quarter century of history.



  1. “America has played a lead role in extending freedom and democracy to most of Latin America, to the Philippines, Indonesia and almost all of East Asia…”


    Latin America’s new socialist revolution

    “the nation will join Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and possibly Mexico next year in the rebirth of Latin American socialism, much to the chagrin of the United States.”

    Filipino in US jailed for arms
    shipment to terrorists in South

    “A Filipino living in New York has been sentenced to 40 months in jail for allegedly shipping weapons to a terrorist lair in the southern Philippines.”

    North Korea says it will boost nuclear deterrent if U.S. strengthens ’hostile policy’

    “‘If the United States strengthens its hostile policy aimed at stifling us under the pretext of human rights and the nuclear issues, we will respond by further solidifying our self-defense force including nuclear deterrent.’”

    Comment by WestEnder — December 19, 2005 @ 9:15 pm

  2. #1 A – Latin America; only if they’re fools. Most countries 30 years ago were autocratic. Most at the moment aren’t.

    B – Philippines – overthrow of Marcos.

    Indonesia, improvements in past few years

    C – NoKo – Still cleaning up on Clinton-induced mess.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 19, 2005 @ 11:53 pm

  3. A – The U.S. is more involved with Columbia than any other country in S. America. If you think U.S. involvement in Columbia is an example of democratic success (and you probably do) then you’re the only one.

    B – The Phillippines is a hotbed of terrorism. Once again, if you think…

    C – The Clinton administration made excellent progress with NoKo and left the cards on the table for the Bush admin to pick up. Bush dropped all the cards and bumbled the situation, making the NoKo situation worse and more volatile.

    Comment by WestEnder — December 20, 2005 @ 9:11 am

  4. #3 – A – Well now we’re limited to Colombia, which is not a success if you compare now to 25 years ago. Most others have improved, not by enough to please any true lovers of democracy, but by more in the past 25 years than the did in the previous 50, or 100.

    B – The Philippines is a hotbed of terrorism. So is France, only moreso. The Philippines remains a democracy, vs. the kleptocracy of Marcos. That is known as “an improvement.”

    C – That is sheer fantasy. NoKo got the fissible material they wanted and made progress towards a bomb, something the naive Clintonistas never thought they would do. Now Bush has to clean up a sticky mess, and probably can’t solve it without pressure from the Chinese, who will have to conclude at some point that the nutjob running NoKo could just as easily turn on them if the mood strikes.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 20, 2005 @ 12:00 pm

  5. France is worse than the Phillippines? Interesting perception of reality.

    Clinton faced the NoKo threat and contained it (those were the cards left for Bush). Bush’s has not been able to contain the threat because of bumbling ineptitude in all diplomatic matters.

    You picked up the word “fussible” from Bush, I presume…?

    Comment by WestEnder — December 20, 2005 @ 1:42 pm

  6. #5 – Geez, who just had a month of widespread rioting and thousands of car bombings by terrorist-in-training Muslims posing as “disaffected youths”?

    Where are 40-60 or so car burnings STILL occurring DAILY?

    The answer is NOT The Philippines. You need to widen your perceptions so they pick up reality.

    You can spin NoKo all you want, the fact is NoKo became a real threat BECAUSE of the Clinton Administration’s giveaway and failure to monitor.

    And I picked up “fissible” (please get glasses if needed) from something called “The English Language”–go to the fifth paragraph at the link and Google elsewhere at your leisure:

    Comment by TBlumer — December 20, 2005 @ 1:58 pm

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