This Man Was Beyond Magnificent ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Fri, 2010-11-12 07:49

... notwithstanding conservative flaws, and notwithstanding Ayn Rand, Aaron Bilger, Craig Ceely, ARIan fuckwits, et al. It's called sense of life:

Here's the deal-breaker: Peikoff told me to my face he voted for Reagan. And so he damned well should have. He also told me he didn't tell anyone. How objective is that??!!

"There is no surer way to lose freedom than to lose our resolve." —Reagan.

My worry is, no one will be able to concentrate for long enough to take in this video.

And most assuredly, no one will be able or willing to debate it.

Airhead America rules.

Churchill was a hero

Richard Goode's picture

Churchill waged war on the Nazis.

Reagan was a narco-nazi who waged war on his own countrymen.

Your comparison is odious.

Winston Churchill ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... was another one "beyond magnificent." He'd be dismissed by certain idiot rationalists here for the same reason they dismiss Reagan. Just been watching the first part of a doco on him by his grand-daughter. Inspiring.

Here's the way it works, folks. We Objectivists and libertarians are trying to pitch-fork humanity to a point a quantum leap ahead of where it is now. It's beyond fuckwitted to hold all human beings who have hitherto existed to the standard of reason, consistency and live-and-let-live that we wish to become the norm, standards to which they themselves did not lay claim. This includes politicians, some of whom were human beings ... and in one or two cases, exemplary human beings. It includes the Founding Fathers, none of whom would pass muster with the aforementioned idiot rationalists. It certainly includes Reagan and Churchill. The latter made countless blunders and believed countless things we wouldn't agree with. He was the greatest British Prime Minister ever.

Baaaaaaaaade, who doesn't believe in Rand, but believes in goblins, asks if we take Rand's stricture against IOF seriously. Of course we do. Just as we take seriously her strictures about context.


Richard Goode's picture

So if you use your time in office to put pressure on the cuddle-bunny commies, liberate eastern Europe and the odd gulag but *don't* get Cheech & Chong market access to weed or coke then you just don't rate. In fact, turns out you're 'evil' and probably listen to Elvis too.

No, not at all. It's not what Reagan *didn't* do, it's what he *did* do—escalate the War on Drugs™—that makes him evil.

Do Objectivists actually take seriously Rand's stricture on the initiation of force?

Sheesh, which historical figure could you bring home to meet your Mum?

Elvis? He at least left his fellow Americans the hell alone.


Sam Pierson's picture

The perhaps obtuse point of my post was that Reagan achieved an exceptional thing that Truman, Eisenhower, JFK, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, myself & Carter did not. And that he took a better photo than all of them too - except for perhaps JFK. Hmmm, I overlooked that.

So if you use your time in office to put pressure on the cuddle-bunny commies, liberate eastern Europe and the odd gulag but *don't* get Cheech & Chong market access to weed or coke then you just don't rate. In fact, turns out you're 'evil' and probably listen to Elvis too. Sheesh, which historical figure could you bring home to meet your Mum?

Carter being bad....

Craig Ceely's picture

Aaron, Carter is a nuclear engineer, a successful businessman, and a former governor who dealt effectively with his state legislature (and he was a fan of The Allman Brothers Band) so he cannot avail himself of the "stupid" excuse.

Carter wasn't bad because he was stupid. He simply doesn't have that excuse. He also wasn't bad because he was naive, or stupefyingly uninformed, or tied to a pathetically wrong world view (although he was all three of those). Many US presidents have suffered from those impediments. Carter was bad because he was morally despicable. He remains so to this day.

I think you already agree with me on all of this, but I just wanted to make it clear. There appear to be some about who see me and perhaps you, too, as defenders of Jimmy Carter. I am not, I never have been, and I hope you aren't, either.

Sam- Reagan being bad does

Aaron's picture

Reagan being bad does not preclude Carter also being bad. Reagan did a few good things (e.g. lowering personal income taxes, negotiations on START I), Carter did a few good things (pardoning draft dodgers, eliminating the aforementioned regulatory committees) - but both did more than their share of bad. It's just that conservatives and Objectivists often tend to idolize Reagan and not Carter, so no one ever has to set the record straight concerning the latter.

Abject evasion

Richard Goode's picture

So let me get this straight

Reagan committed acts of evil that no man may sanction or forgive. He initiated the use of physical force against others. And he did so on a grand scale. Reagan was a killer acting on the premise of death in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man's capacity to live.

If people did not indulge in such abject evasions as the claim that some contemptible liar "means well"—that a mooching bum "can't help it"—that a juvenile delinquent "needs love"—that a criminal "doesn't know any better"—that a power-seeking politician is moved by patriotic concern for "the public good"—that communists are merely "agrarian reformers"—that, notwithstanding conservative flaws, Reagan was "beyond magnificent"—the history of the past few decades, or centuries, would have been different.

So let me get this straight:

Sam Pierson's picture

So let me get this straight: Reagan was worse than sliced bread; a big disappointment following the swimmingly great leadership and policies of the Carter years. The US voter again got it wrong, got seduced, and paid a heavy price in the 80's & is still paying for it today. But thank god for Carter and his policies! Who knows where things might have got to. Just a pity he didn't get a second term - oh, what a lost opportunity for the US & the west! If only he'd had more time to reach out with his understanding, explanations & apologies. Yes, the US skipped its chance for greatness & ended up with a Reagan. Oh democracy! Fickle mistress. (Thank god Carter is still around writing & speaking though. So good of him - heroic - after suffering such an unnecessary rejection. Imagine if we didn't still have his wisdom in circulation. After all, Reagan did his job then just rode off to the ranch, never to be heard from publicly again.)

Yup, the USSR was pretty happy to see Carter goneburger - the detente was just killing them; death by a thousand cuts. Iran too - the pressure over the embassy hostages was keeping them up at night, making them late for mosque. The Afghans despaired for their children - they wouldn't get to watch Soviet Mig & Hind flyovers anymore keeping the peace. Across the Siberian gulags the prisoners too despaired - Carter's understanding & apologies were bringing their freedom day slowly - delicately - a bit closer every day. Folk in the former Eastern Bloc - 50 or so million of them - miss Carter terribly. Israel likewise.

Yup, that Reagan. He got it all so wrong and this got him elected for a second term by a landslide.

People, the big story of the 20th century was the advancement of socialism under the notion that it was best & 'inevitable.' By the second half of the century its inevitablility was accepted and 'detente' was the western policy towards the communist countries. The Soviet Union was regarded as morally courageous for trying communism even though they might be a bit shoddy and misguided on details. In practice those countries were slave pens of misery & human carnage whose main raison d'etre was the maintenance & extension of aggressive military power at any cost.

Reagan used his presidency to end that status quo and the drift of the world into 'inevitable' socialism. In speech & deed he ended 'detente', unapologetically asserting the moral superiority of the US and its way of life. He reminded the US people of who and what they were. He revved up & directed the State Dept & military to start kicking some communist ass. He put the US on the front foot. He called a slave pen evil. The effect was an end to communism and the liberation of millions; an end to the 'inevitable' drift and a shift of the course of history. Some people will never forgive him for that. Reagan - sine qua non. He was beyond magnificent. Took a good photo too.

But for some folk, he was meant to get everything right. Lord help them.

Freedom is indivisible

Richard Goode's picture

he articulated the vision of individual liberty and limited government with a rhetorical genius none of us is capable of. And he meant it.

But he didn't understand it. As one of Reagan's predecessors said, "Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free."

I love the guy.

I'm cool with that. After all, someone else for whom I have immense respect once acknowledged, "I can feel love for Hermann Goering."

Craig beat me to most points

Aaron's picture

Craig beat me to most points and is dead on concerning Reagan. Just to clarify a couple points of contention:

By comparison, Carter was the deregulator, with his administration ending CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board) and greatly reducing the role of ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission - later eliminated by Clinton). While his administration maintained the disastrous oil price controls of the 1970s for most of his administration, Carter also signed the legislation to end this, though on a schedule that made it not take effect til after he was out of office. Reagan's deregulatory act was only to accelerate this schedule when in office, ending fuel price controls sooner than Carter planned.

Reagan saw lower personal income tax rates in 1982 - but these were more than outweighed by tax increases in 1983, substantial payroll tax increases to 'save' social security. Other years generally saw small increases such as gas taxes, closing tax 'loopholes' (i.e. ways to avoid tax burden), etc.

And I'll reiterate: Despite one high-profile bombing of Libya, his general policy on terrorism was to talk tough but at best run, at worst negotiate with terrorists and arm the regimes sponsoring them. Reagan opposed Israel bombing Iraq's nascent nuclear program, aided Iraq, looked the other way when Saddam used chemical weapons in war, armed and trained Islamofascist mujahadin, and armed Saudi Arabia and even Iran. Reagan more than any other president helped the future enemies we've had to deal with since.

You wrote...

Marcus's picture

"Thatcher and "would have caused?" I don't do predictions. Rational folk don't."

In other words you disreagard Reagan and Thatcher's opposition to the policy of détente in the 70's as being significant to the downfall of the USSR.

That puts you firmly in the camp of the nihilists, leftists or détente supporters.

It seems you can't find one positive thing to write about Reagan.

Maybe only the far left-wing are that cockeyed.

Worth a

PhilipD's picture

And just who...

Craig Ceely's picture talking about "equals" and aiding and supporting the Soviets, Bachler? Who advocated that? Not I.

Show me where I said anything of the sort. Anywhere.

Go ahead and read Ayn Rand's mind if you like. We know what she said and wrote about Reagan.

Who's delusional here?

You're deluded...

Marcus's picture seriously believe that if the west were treating the Soviets as equals, giving them aide and support that would have made no difference?

Ayn Rand would have labelled you nuts, Ceely.

Go ahead

Craig Ceely's picture

Six out of eight years, is what I said. You say, Marcus, 25% cut in federal personal income tax -- which did happen, yes.


However, that's not the whole story. That was accomplished by closing a lot of exemptions and raising other taxes and rates.

Live by Wikipedia, die by Wikipedia. I like it too. But I voted for Reagan -- twice -- and I paid those fucking taxes every year.

As for military spending, well, as we know, he spent some of that on Iran.

Thatcher and "would have caused?" I don't do predictions. Rational folk don't.

Wikipedia is on Linz's side...

Marcus's picture

"His first act as president was to issue an executive order ending certain price controls on domestic oil, which had contributed to the 1973 Oil Crisis and the 1979 Energy Crisis.The price of fuel subsequently dropped, and the 1980s did not see the gasoline lines and fuel shortages that the 1970s had.

Reagan focused his first months in office on two goals, tax cuts and military spending, which was viewed as a successful way to tackle issues and echoed by later presidential advisers. Reagan's economic policies, similar to supply-side economics and dubbed "Reaganomics," achieved a 25% cut in the federal personal income tax, moderate deregulation and tax reform, which he believed would remove barriers to efficient economic activity. After a sharp recession, a long period of high economic growth without significant inflation ensued."

As for his policies against the Soviets, Thatcher is absolutely clear on that point. The former policy of détente in the 70's would have caused the Soviet regime to have survived much longer.

Not a chance

Craig Ceely's picture

"Reagan trashed Carter, who was trash, thereby saving America from an unspeakable idiot."

Umm.....Carter was indeed trash, always was, and still is, but Reagan "saved" us from nothing. By running against Ford in the 1976 Republican primaries, Reagan weakened Ford, thereby enabling the election of Carter. Many, many political analysts -- including Ayn Rand, with whom I disagreed at the time -- believed this. It is quite possible that there never would have been a Carter presidency had it not been for Reagan's actions in 1976.

"He lowered taxes in the face of ferocious Democrat opposition."

Oh please bleeding fucking Christ this is the fucking vampire myth. Taxes ROSE six of the eight years during which Reagan was in office. MY taxes --- plutocrat that I was, a Marine Corps corporal -- went up every year.

"He allowed free enterprise to get the economy moving again."

Carter deregulated trucking and airlines. Reagan deregulated nothing, cancelled nothing, abolished nothing. Nothing. Not one goddamned thing. Reagan, via his Greenspan Commission, "saved" Social Security -- one of the biggest-ticket items in the US federal budget, and increased taxes to do it. My taxes, but not just mine. Everyone's, forever. He then apponted Greenspan to chair the Federal Reserve, after which we got the first of many bailouts -- LTCM, anyone? -- and more inflation. And, ultimately, more discrediting of capitalism and of Ayn Rand herself.

"He faced down the Soviets and beat them."

So did Belgium. So did I. So did reality itself -- at least if you accept the von Mises argument that the USSR would eventually implode, which it did. Allow me to remind you that Reagan also seriously suggested a total ban on nuclear weapons to Gorbachev in Iceland. Nuclear weapons, which have kept major powers from warring with each other since 1945.

"And he meant it."

There is no defense, today, for that claim. None. The man cared about abortion and scoring points against the Soviets. He also armed -- armed, mind you -- the Saudis, Saddam Hussein, al-Quaida, and Iran.

Fucking Iran.

Do you have any idea what this means? Try this: If either Israel or the US does what many here want, if either should bomb Iran, let me tell you that some of those planes and pilots won't come back. The Reagan administration armed Khomeini's Iran with spare parts for its HAWK air defense missile system. Now, I have expertise here -- technical expertise, and I can tell you that the radars in the HAWK system are still among the best out there today, the signal processor is accurate and fast, and, sadly, in this case, that missile has no conscience and it does not miss. And it won't.

And this means that this bombing mission could actually fail.

Yes, fail. Think about that.

This is what Reagan left us. Higher taxes, higher debt, inflated currency, and armed enemies. And all, now, blamed -- even by Republicans -- on too much capitalism.

He gave great speeches. Hell, I voted for him in 1980 because I thought Carter would bungle us into a war in Central America. I still think he would have. But Reagan was a disaster.

I voted for him again in 1984.

I was wrong. I was wrong in 1980 and I was wrong again in 1984. Great speeches, and the memories of great speeches, do not change the wreckage that he caused.

People: His speeches -- his words -- and his Presidency -- his actions -- are not the same thing. It is not rationalism to point this out.

If you claim it is, then you show it. Go ahead. It will not be easy.

No: It is documented, it is history. It is real. It is fact. It happened, it all happened, it's here, and we have yet to deal with much of it.

It will not be easy.

An error of rationalism ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... is to equate "was beyond magnificent" with "was John Galt." I noted Reagan's "conservative flaws," knowing full well that it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference to those with Reagan Derangement Syndrome. I noted "sense of life" knowing full well that would make even less difference: how can you have a sense-of-life debate with a Slayer-lover? One of Reagan's flaws was his Goblianity. Baade shouldn't speak so uncharitably of a fellow-Goblinite.

Reagan trashed Carter, who was trash, thereby saving America from an unspeakable idiot. He lowered taxes in the face of ferocious Democrat opposition. He launched an assault on regulation, ditto. He allowed free enterprise to get the economy moving again. He faced down the Soviets and beat them. For all the things he didn't do that we would like him to have done, and for all the things he did do that we would like him not to have done, he articulated the vision of individual liberty and limited government with a rhetorical genius none of us is capable of. And he meant it. The "evidence" is in the video. It beats me—makes me weep, indeed—that there breathe men with souls so dead they can be unmoved by it (assuming they even watched it). But I suppose such bereftness is possible when you're fixated on a single-issue (drugs) which is dear to your heart for all the wrong reasons.

I love the guy. He was not perfect—not even close—but he was beyond magnificent. He had class, flair, humor, passion, intelligence, love of freedom ... and an unsurpassed ability to communicate that love. His hero Jefferson would have been proud of him.

My last word on this thread. Future silence should not be construed as assent to whatever irrational rationalistic nonsense may be uttered here. I just know when debate is pointless. I was mistaken to throw down a gauntlet to those whose minds are irreversibly made up. Other things to do.


Richard Goode's picture

I described Reagan as "contemptible," etc. I offered compelling evidence for this claim.

There is no debate.


Craig Ceely's picture

There are folk here describing Reagan as "magnificent," etc. I've seen them offer no evidence for this claim.


Kasper's picture

What is it that you actually wish to have debated?

Still no takers

Craig Ceely's picture

Didn't think so.

Wise choice.

All hat and NO cattle

Craig Ceely's picture

Lindsay Perigo wrote, quite presciently:

"My worry is, no one will be able to concentrate for long enough to take in this video.

And most assuredly, no one will be able or willing to debate it.

Airhead America rules."

Guess Lindsay was right. I mean, no one did, did they? Debate, that is, or offer even one argument or piece or sliver of an argument-- at least, not on the pro-Reagan side. "Able or willing," nice turn of phrase. You were right to worry.

"Airhead America," by contrast, seems quite able and willing to step up to the plate, defend the wicket, whatever.

But: no need. There are no takers. Too bad: one can't score -- in baseball or in cricket -- if there's no ball in play. And in this case, there is not.

Not one. Speech sounds good, that's all some folk seem to care about -- even on an explicitly Objectivist web site. Need I remind anyone that talk is cheap?

All hat. No cattle.

Prediction: something will remind us of Shakespeare, something about "sound and fury."

The Age of Envy

Richard Goode's picture

I think you really hate Reagan for his virtues, rather than his faults.

If you really think that, you're a fool.


Marcus's picture

...every President since Nixon in 1971 has continued the "war on drugs".

Obama has dropped the term, but he still pursues the policy.

Even Bill Clinton raised the "drug-czar" to cabinet-level status in the 90's.

Are they beyond contempt too?

I think you really hate Reagan for his virtues, rather than his faults.


Richard Goode's picture

Reagan wasn't the one who made drugs illegal

No, but he escalated the War on Drugs™. He boasts about it ("we've made much progress") in the YouTube video I posted.

Thirty-seven Federal agencies are working together in a vigorous national effort, and by next year our spending for drug law enforcement will have more than tripled from its 1981 levels. We have increased seizures of illegal drugs. Shortages of marijuana are now being reported. Last year alone over 10,000 drug criminals were convicted and nearly $250 million of their assets were seized by the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Administration.

His (and Nancy's) speech is nothing but a sick-making blancmange of collectivism ("the sons and daughters of the United States... drug abuse concerns every one of us—all the American family"), hysterical fear-mongering ("drugs are menacing our society... threatening our values... killing our children") and big government tyranny ("these proposals will bring the Federal commitment to fighting drugs to $3 billion... your government will continue to act aggressively"). (A transcript of the full speech is here.)

So why is Reagan contemptible exactly?

I didn't call Reagan contemptible. I said he was beneath contempt. Civility in the face of evil is no virtue!

pull the other leg

Craig Ceely's picture

This is not fucking serious.

Promised to end selective

Aaron's picture

Promised to end selective service (i.e. draft registration) in campaign, and didn't (this would not have even required Congress). Promised to end departments of energy and education, didn't even try. Spoke strongly for lowering taxes while in fact raising them, e.g. modest decrease in income tax - with a massive increase in social security tax. Probably most significantly, talked tough on terrorism while his actions contradicted this and helped cause many of our future problems - sent marines to Beirut, then turned tail and ran after suicide bombings, aided Iraq and Afghani Islamic radical mujahadin (Osama and future al Qaeda), gave arms to terrorist-sponsoring Saudis for lowering oil prices, traded arms to Iran for release of hostages. I probably already have a more complete list posted elsewhere Eye.

Reagan wasn't the one who made...

Marcus's picture

...drugs illegal either. Nor did Bush, Clinton or Obama.

So why is Reagan contemptible exactly?

Linz- I agree Reagan is great

Aaron's picture

I agree Reagan is great to hear speak. It was just that wielding-power-instead-of-talking bit where he messed up. Anyway, I'm flattered to be grouped with Ayn Rand and even certain of the 'ARIan fuckwits'.

Evelyn Beatrice Pall-Mall

Richard Goode's picture

the video below was posted by the same stupid, stinking hypocrite who called Tobacco smoking "anti-life".

I disapprove of what you smoke, but I will defend to the death your right to smoke it.


Marcus's picture

That the video below was posted by the same stupid, stinking hypocrite who called Tobacco smoking "anti-life".

A stupid, stinking sermon

Richard Goode's picture


Marcus's picture

"The current president has similar talents as a communicator that Reagan did..."

Obama is a pygmy compared to Reagan. The main reason he was voted in was that he was "not Bush" and a bunch of slogans that a ten year old would come up with after watching an episode of "Bob The Builder".

Even his own supporters are starting to realise that George W. Bush wasn't that bad compared to Obama.

What will his next campaign slogan be? "You can count on him." "Let's blast off." "Let's get lunar."

He Was a Romantic

Jason Quintana's picture

I remember watching a PBS program a few years ago about Reagan. One of the commentators was a Soviet aide to Gorbachev. He made the comment cynically, but with some admiration, that Reagan was a romantic. The idea behind his comment was that Reagan was idealistic and saw the world in black and white. From the commentator's point of view this seemed strange and childish.

The current president has similar talents as a communicator that Reagan did, and inspires a certain kind of idealism in his followers. The difference is that ultimately the current president is condemned to the same cynicism as the Soviet aide. His message can't carry, and hasn’t carried the same kind of enthusiasm for as long without sounding phony. His brand of idealism has always been empty because it can never be achieved. Nothing but failure and destruction can result from efforts to achieve liberal (socialist) causes. Supporters of leftist ideas will always end up scoffing at an idealist like Reagan. At his age and stature he was an impossible alien to them.

Reagan could be perfectly natural and honest as an idealist, because his ideal already existed. America and capitalism were and are the shining city on the hill. It is the ultimate achievement of human history. It is the hope of mankind. It is everything that Ronald Reagan said it is. It is amazing given the enormous pull of this message that Reagan was unable to convince enough people of the obvious. Most people still don't understand and respect the freedom, the prosperity, and the prospect of unlimited opportunity that America represents. Many Americans still advocate a path that is doomed to cynicism, and worse, most of them choose one that dooms them to mediocrity and stupidity.

War on Shiraz™

Richard Goode's picture

I suspect that if Reagan had prosecuted a War on Shiraz™ you'd be less than enamoured of him.

Reagan was a great man and a great leader.

Olivia's picture

"The congress can give us these tools, but it really comes down to just being our best, and that’s the core of American greatness. A responsibility of freedom presses us toward higher knowledge – and I believe moral and spiritual greatness. Through lower taxes and smaller government, government has it ways of freeing people’s spirits but only we, each of us, can let the spirit soar against our own individual standards. Excellence is what makes freedom ring and isn’t that what we do best?"

Great words befitting an extraordinary leader. They encapsulate what the relationship between people and government ought to be. A prompt to contemplate what excellence is and to take stock of your own individual standards and how one will spend or squander the freedom we DO have in life - and Reagan did it well. If there were his like running for office in my country, I'd vote for him in a heart-beat. Words like his are not said everyday, words like his are written off as mawkish, cheesy and insincere.

It makes me sick that people criticize Reagan for being "just an actor" - as if he doesn't mean the speeches he made and they are themselves just an act. He meant his words and he meant them from the best possible goodwill toward the world and the American people!


"our nation could not have been conceived without divine help.."

It’s actually true but obviously not in a mystical sense. Divine is “of the gods” “fine” “excellent” “the best” “perfect” – something elusive and magical in human beings which inspires passionate feelings and great feats.

Let's not strain out a gnat in order to swallow a camel. If America had another Reagan right now, that would be a GREAT thing despite the christian sentiments. Reagan had the BALLS to act toughly for America's security! And the ability to up the ante when it mattered. He was beyond what people thought of him, like Cheney, he cared about right being done. Jesus Christ, politicians made of that stuff are so utterly rare now!

Thanks for posting that Linz, can't tell you how much I enjoyed being in his presence.

Faecesbook has its uses!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I tend to forget that any new thread I post goes automatically to Faecesbook, where the family references may cause some puzzlement. I hope Craig and Aaron don't mind being mentioned in the same breath as Ayn Rand, not to mention "ARI fuckwits," on so populous a forum! Eye In any event, an old friend just spotted this one on Faecesbook and sent me this message:

"Absolutely awesome...I remember seeing some of this when I was a teenager...inspiring now as it was then. Compare it to the types of SotU speeches today...lacklustre and mealy mouthed. A great vid to start off Saturday..."

This Man Was Beneath Contempt ...

Richard Goode's picture

An excerpt from a 2004 article on DRCNet's website.

The Reagan-Era Drug War Legacy

When it comes to Reagan's legacy in drug policy—the drug war, of which he played a major though not lone role in escalating to an unprecedented level—even staunch Reagan enthusiasts are less likely to brag about it than other issues he impacted. Though polling has found that 3/4 of Americans support the drug war, polls also show that 3/4 of Americans consider the drug war to be a failure, and a number of high-level Reagan administration officials have broken fundamentally with the drug war ideology his administration vigorously espoused—votes of confidence in neither case by any means. While some drug war advocates point to decreases in casual drug use rates during the 1980s as measured by government surveys, others point to much more hard-hitting and more accurately measured phenomena such as increased drug trade violence, constant addiction rates, an explosion of HIV transmission through injection drug use, and the rapid growth, seemingly from nowhere, of crack cocaine into a widespread habit having deleterious effects on the nation's inner cities.

Among drug reformers, no matter their position on the ideological spectrum, there is little debate about it: Reagan's drug policy legacy is a disaster. For all the people contacted by DRCNet for this article—which included both critics and admirers of the Reagan presidency overall—the question was not whether Reagan's drug policies were bad, but how bad and how much of the blame he shares with others. To drug reformers, the Reagan-era represented a traumatic disappointment, a time when the nation hurtled down a path of massive suffering, waste and injustice.

Of course, Reagan didn't create the war on drugs by himself. That the rampant escalation of the drug war in the 1980s was a bipartisan affair is unquestionable. It was Democrats in Congress, for instance, who took the lead on mandatory minimum sentencing in the middle of the decade. And, as we shall see below, Democrats and Republicans were in the grips of a race to the bottom to see who could be "toughest" on crime and drugs.

Nor can Reagan cannot be held directly responsible for its deepening since then, under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, and at least some of the seeds of the drug war, such as an incarceration rate still spiraling far beyond any previous time in history. As a graph on the web site of The Sentencing Project illustrates (, America's incarceration binge began during the Nixon presidency and continued unbroken under both his successor, Gerald Ford, and Reagan's immediate predecessor, Jimmy Carter, a Democrat. Even as social tolerance and progressive criminal justice ideals seemed to be taking root in the public consciousness, and as marijuana decriminalization appeared to be on the way with bipartisan support, the prisons continued to grow.

But Reagan lit the fire, and in the years since he took office tens of millions of people have been arrested under the drug laws, millions have been sent to prison, and hundreds of billions of dollars have been incinerated in a program that epitomizes big, intrusive government in one of its most violent forms. And while Reagan did made the occasional gesture, such as allowing the tiny federal medical marijuana program to function, or said the occasional word suggesting a lighter touch might work, those good deeds pale in comparison with an enduring legacy of police and prisons, searches and seizures, and a population ever more surveilled in the name of its own well-being. It was during the presidency of Ronald Reagan that narcotics law enforcement morphed into drug war overdrive with a series of ever more draconian drug laws and an attitude of repressive "zero tolerance" emanating from the White House.

To serve him above?

gregster's picture

Excellent. Until the religious conservatism comes through:

"crusade against drugs"

"our nation could not have been conceived without divine help.."

Worst sight - that stone-faced slothful Ted Kennedy looking bored - impatient for his next groupie-grope at any nearby restaurant. Evil bastard.

"We the People are in charge." Nice sentiment with scant evidence, unless one is to compare US with a totalitarian state.

"Are we at the End?" Prophetic. "America isn't finished, her best days have just begun." Optimistic, though now devastatingly sad.

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