The Reagan Legacy

Geoffrey Lawrence

Cato’s Gene Healy has an interesting take on the Gipper’s legacy, in light of what would have been his 100th birthday. Healy says that neocons mistakenly cast themselves in Reagan’s shadow, despite the fact that Reagan was far from a neocon himself.

Healy inveighs against the Weekly Standard, which has also published its own tribute to Reagan’s legacy in commemoration of his would-be century mark. However, I find Healy’s criticism to be somewhat unfair.

Certainly, Weekly Standard writers are, in a general sense, viewed as the poster children of neocon ideology and would love to cloak themselves in the Gipper’s aura. However, Jeffrey Bell’s recent column on Reagan’s legacy is both thoughtful and accurate – regardless of one’s take on what he views as the importance of social conservatism.

Bell documents Reagan’s clear departure from the “realist” foreign policies that had animated Republican leaders since the Nixon-Kissinger era. Healy points out that “Reagan viewed the U.S. as a city on a hill, a ‘model to other countries,’ not a crusader state with ‘an obligation to forcibly promote democracy overseas.'” Bell’s column actually reinforces the same viewpoint.

The political Right in America has always been characterized by a somewhat uneasy coalition of libertarians and conservatives since the days when the two ideologies were united in opposition to FDR’s socialist-authoritarian intrusion into American society. However, in this case, I think the disagreement is imagined.

My personal take on Reagan’s legacy has always stemmed from what he told Reason magazine in 1975:

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals-if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Indeed, sir.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.