Ronald Reagan as President accomplished good things – negotiating peace, curbing inflation, deregulating oil prices. Unfortunately these things are not his legacy. Nor is his legacy the bad things done under his administration – the Iran-Contra conspiracy, the downward shift of the tax burden.
More than his good and bad actions, his legacy is the bad memes he left to his followers – powerful assumptions and patterns of thought that influence his followers to this day. Here are examples of memes that Reagan fathered or fostered.
Reagan as actor
The secret of prosperity is to reduce the top marginal income tax rate, no matter what that rate happens to be.
If you cut taxes, spending will take care of itself.
Energy conservation is unmanly.
Common sense is a better guide to policy than science.
A missile defense system is essential to national security.
Budget considerations don’t matter where national security is concerned.
Nothing you do to stop bad guys can be morally wrong.
Left-wingers are bad guys.
Taxation is tyranny.
Poor people are poor because they are lazy and stupid.
Government action to help poor people is theft from the middle class.
Government employees are parasites.
The United States of America is the greatest country that ever existed.
The United States was founded on capitalism.
Criticism of capitalism is unpatriotic.
There is a free-market solution to every problem.
Giving a good performance is equivalent to doing a good job.
True, Reagan’s memes were one thing and his actual policies were another. Click on De-mystifying the Reagan mystique for an analysis of the latter by Michael Kinsley for Politico. While Ronald Reagan the human being is dead and gone, and the effects of Reagan’s policies fade, his zombie memes live on.