Lukas O'Donnell | Wednesday, April 2, 2014
It is often said that history has a way of repeating itself. Since all people throughout history have possessed an underlying consistency of human nature, it can be expected that we too will make mistakes similar to our predecessors. For centuries, countries have been fighting back and forth over landmasses, from Napoleon in France to Hitler in Germany, but the global map has been largely unchanged since the beginning of the modern era. Different peoples have disagreed over the allocation and production of goods, such as the silks of the past and the oil of today. These disagreements and shortcomings seem to inevitably repeat themselves. But what if instead of making the same mistakes as our forefathers, we as Americans looked back to our history to see what we were warned of?
One must look back no further than Ronald Reagan’s 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing” to see what a bad version of the American future looks like, how eerily similar to our present situation it is and how the ideas within it can guide America back onto the course of prosperity.
Reagan began the speech by noting that the issues at hand transcended party lines. This could not hold truer today. Often, in today’s world of increasingly partisan and gridlock politics, it appears as if constituents must choose sides in the political battle and the political leaders tell them only their side can make the right decisions. With these types of attitudes, the country will continue in a state of gridlock and nothing will be accomplished. Instead, politicians from both sides of the aisle must come together for a common goal: to make America the greatest country it can be.
Reagan then spoke about several of the specific problems confronting America during his time. The federal government spent 17 million dollars per day more than it took in, and had 1.5 times more debt than that of all the other nations of the world combined, at around $300 billion. Today, we spend roughly 3.5 billion more dollars per day than we take in, and the federal debt is about 17 trillion dollars. If Reagan was worried about the numbers back then, just imagine what he would say if he saw them now.
We can see that the problems Reagan mentioned are becoming even more exaggerated. We, the American people, have the most to lose, but we are not doing enough to change our course. Reagan said, “We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that mankind has ever faced.” During his time in the midst of the Cold War, the enemy was the geopolitical foe of the Soviet Union. Now, in modern America, we face the greatest threat from within; withering into a land of mediocrity. If we were to lose sight of our freedom, both America and the world would be worse off — as Reagan said, “If we lose freedom here, there is nowhere else to escape to; this is the last stand of freedom on earth.”
Then and now, the question is this: do we want the representative government the founding fathers entrusted us with, or do we want to abandon the ideas of the American Revolution and allow an intellectual elite to run our lives? The choices before us have never been clearer. With government encroaching on our lives more and more every day, whether it be through ObamaCare, National Security Agency spying or higher taxes, we are not faced with the choice between left or right, but rather up or down.
If we go up, we follow the path to prosperity for ourselves and our posterity. It would be a government of the people, by the people, for the people, with ultimate levels of individual freedom consistent with law and order. It is an America based on what we were founded on, what made us great and what will continue to make us great. If we go down, we head down the road to a totalitarian society, based on collective action under the direction of Big Brother. Those who would trade our freedom for security have already embarked on this downward course, under the guise of equality of outcomes and utilitarian principles.
I believe the choice is clear both then and now; we as a people must go upwards to the best possible version of ourselves. While we have made some of the mistakes Reagan warned us of, it is never too late to get back on the right track to a prosperous future. The future of both our country and the world depend on our generation making the right choices.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.