Monday, April 27, 2015
Thomas Paine's surprising influence on Ronald Reagan
Paine's influence on Reagan accounts, in Diggan's telling, for much of Reagan's unorthodoxy as a modern conservative. As a result, Reagan's brand of conservatism was remarkably untraditional in its rhetoric. In several different contexts, Reagan quoted Paine's stirring line, "We have the power to begin the world anew" -- a very untraditional sentiment, one that displays the precise opposite of the customary conservative impulse to embrace the necessity of restraint in public reform. Reagan embraced Paine's idea that human beings can liberate themselves from corrupt & oppressive structures in order to create a new order of liberty & individualism.
It is a fascinating twist of history that the most radical founding father serves as a primary philosophical influence on the most successful conservative president of the 20th century. Any attempt to understand Ronald Reagan must take into account the influence of Thomas Paine on his work. And any attempt to appreciate Thomas Paine's influence on America must look to the impact his work had on the ideas, rhetoric & program of President Ronald Reagan.