August 23, 2011


Why Reagan Still Matters to Europe: He helped Europeans understand how a free society fosters more opportunity (Alberto Mingardi Monday, July 11, 2011, American)

For Europeans, here was the most powerful man in the world, the president of the United States, of the most almighty states of them all, preaching caution against confidence in the almighty powers.

Those in Europe who dared to question the pervasive state intervention typical of continental economies found in Reagan the words they lacked. He supplied them with the needed vocabulary, imagery, and confidence. Those who defended European social democracies perhaps despised Reagan but were forced to check their principles.

Political parties, think tanks, and organizations that openly embrace the free market are still rare in most of continental Europe. However, those who brought them about got from Reagan's years an unbreakable confidence: the United States was indeed the bright light to look to as they searched for freedom-generating economic policies. That confidence is shaken today, for the legacy of both President Obama and President Bush cannot foster a sense of allegiance to the venerable principles of free markets and limited government.

Winston Churchill famously said that America will always do the right thing, but only after exhausting all other options. After the bankruptcy of Keynesianism in the 1970s, Reagan's emphasis on the principles of limited government seemed to be precisely the right choice, after all the others were tried. Lessons are learnt the hard way in politics, in Europe as well as the United States. Let us hope this centennial celebration could at least remind us that the right choices may still be embraced, at least after others have failed.

In fact, governing parties across Northern Europe embrace "free markets," but as the instrumentality for putting the social welfare state on firmer financial footing, not as an end in themselves.

Posted by at August 23, 2011 6:26 AM

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