Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jimmy Carter: A fine libertarian president?

Jim Henley's claim that President Jimmy Carter could be termed a good "libertarian president" seems too interesting to be buried in a comment thread, so I'm pointing to it here.

Henley, who blogs at Unqualified Offerings, claimed in a Reason Hit and Run comment thread that Carter was "the greatest libertarian president in living memory."

Challenged on that assertion, Henley wrote, "I'm at least half serious. Carter deregulated trucking and air travel, two moves which have had more lasting economic benefit than just about anything else that happened in the last quarter of the 20th Century - except possibly allowing Paul Volcker, at enormous political cost to the incumbent president, to tighten money enough to kill core inflation until Dubya began his LBJ imitation (running phony wars on phony money). Of course, that was Carter too. Plus, to coin a phrase, He Kept Us Out of War. Not a bad record for a guy who had the bad fortune to become President when the bills for Johnsonism and Nixonism couldn't be stretched out any longer.

"On the other hand, Carter made a speech once wearing a sweater, and Nick Gillespie vaguely remembers hating him, so it totally makes sense to discount the massive good he did the country in trying circumstances."

I take it that under this formulation, Carter gave the country the Paul Volcker medicine, and Reagan reaped the reward. Reagan was not a libertarian in many ways, but he did cut taxes and help created Individual Retirement Accounts.

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