Forty-five years ago yesterday, Ronald Reagan gave a televised speech that laid out much of what today’s conservatives believe, and not a few things we have forgotten and need to remember. Watch or read the whole speech here.
A couple of things in it particularly caught my eye:
1. Not too long ago, two friends of mine were talking to a Cuban refugee, a businessman who had escaped from Castro, and in the midst of his story one of my friends turned to the other and said, “We don’t know how lucky we are.” And the Cuban stopped and said, “How lucky you are? I had someplace to escape to.” And in that sentence he told us the entire story. If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.
In four and a half years in Europe, I realized that there were plenty of places there for liberals to flee and find the kind of government they want, if they were ever to make good on threats to “leave the U.S. if _______ is elected.” But there isn’t anywhere else for similarly discouraged conservatives to go. Indeed, this is still the place to which discouraged conservatives in Europe and elsewhere in the world look. This is truly the last stand on earth. And that matters because of the next quote:
2. But beyond that, “the full power of centralized government”—this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don’t control things. A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.
This is as good a summary of what conservatives oppose about today’s power grabs in Washington or other world capitals — from people whom Reagan dubbed “a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol” — as any that exists.
If you have time, watch or read the entire speech.