Peggy Noonan once remarked that she remembered a strange insight into the character of Reagan. “I remember acknowledging to myself that he didn’t seem to have any close friends. It was only years later that I understood what then remained hidden. Namely that Reagan came to the White House a complete man, all the formative events in his life over, his friends dead.” I’ve never forgotten what read like an epitaph.
Reagan came to the White House perhaps the best read President ever. His agenda was simple to understand: reduced taxes, deregulation, controlled spending in Congress, and a tight money anti-inflation policy. But exactly how did he arrive at this intellectual point.
Reagan understood that that primary cause of inflation was excessive government spending. Too much money floating around eroded the foundation of capitalism, it distorted price signals, and destroyed the nuptial arrangement of supply and demand. All such economic principles were espoused by the Austrian School of Economics, dominated in America by the writings of Fredrick A. Hayak’s monumental text “The Road To Serfdom”.
There were many others who helped shape the thinking of Reagan. Barry Goldwater’s “The Conscience of a Conservative” was monumental. But perhaps the most significant text was Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind” 1953.
Kirk’s text illuminated on six principals of Conservatism. They are summarized as follows: Belief in a transcendent order that properly discovered by reason can inform both governance and conscience. An attachment to the primacy of the individual over the leveling effects of modernity. The primacy of the rule of law over ruling aristocrats. A conviction that freedom and prosperity are linked. Faith in the cultural mores that inform civil society and the belief that true innovation is social preservation.
For an understanding of the intellectual drive that begot Reagan, begin with Russell Kirk’s text “The Conservative Mind”.