Saturday, April 30, 2011

My All-Time Favorite Speech

In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater battled incumbent Democrat Lyndon Baines Johnson for the presidency. Johnson had only been president for a few months, after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Johnson benefited from Kennedy's popularity, and was well ahead in the polls the whole summer. A few weeks before the election, the Republican Party turned to a young actor and former Democrat named Ronald Reagan to address the nation. "A Time for Choosing" was that address.

Despite these inspirational words, Johnson won in a landslide. If I could choose one election in US history to reverse, this would be it. Over the next four years Johnson went on to do immeasurable harm to our nation's fiscal health through the "Great Society", which sent squandered the supposedly private Social Security accounts into the general treasury, birthed Medicare, and furthered many other unsustainable entitlement programs. Many Americans learned a lesson from Johnson's progressive failures, and many more learned from Reagan's eventual successes. But perhaps today we would be wiser to heed the advice of the oft-forgotten Barry Goldwater:

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

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