Richard Ebeling observes that whatever you may think or have thought about Nancy Reagan, her death will undoubtedly inspire renewed thoughts about the Reagan years. His own are worth pondering:
Conservatives will, generally, recall Reagan's time in the White House as a high water mark for the freedom movement in the post-World War II period.
On the other hand, some libertarians will focus on the "failure" of the Reagan years -- government spending kept going growing, the deficits went on with an increasing national debt; regulations were marginally reduced, while the welfare state persisted.
All this is true. But it leaves out what, in my mind, remains Reagan's most enduring legacy from his eight years in Washington, D.C. For virtually the total postwar period from 1945 into the 1970s the traditional limited government ideal of freedom, free markets and Constitutional order was lost.
Socialism, welfare statism, the regulatory interventionist system, and a culture of collectivism over the individual dominated education, the media, political discourse. The free market perspective was treated with ridicule and disregard.
And, then, came Ronald Reagan. He made respectable and legitimate the case for a philosophy of freedom. There was nothing "horse and buggy" anymore in speaking of individual liberty, about the spirit of free enterprise and the creative entrepreneur, on the right and rightness of private property; on the danger and destructiveness of socialism and communism.
This re-legitimising of a general philosophy of Liberty after more than a half-century of being in the ideological wilderness is what Ronald Reagan provided in the second half of the 20th century. And, in my opinion, that more than anything else is what I appreciate and value about his time in the political arena in American public life.