Are you better off than you were 40 years ago?, what's the matter with libertarians?...


Are You Better Off Than You Were 40 Years Ago?

Veronique de Rugy makes a strong case that freedom has increased in the U.S. since reason began publication in 1968 ("Are You Better Off Than You Were 40 Years Ago?," December). One additional data point in her favor comes from the Fraser Institute's annual Economic Freedom of the World report, which measures on a zero-to-10 scale the degree to which a country's policies are consistent with economic freedom. The report shows economic freedom in the U.S. increasing from 7.61 in 1970 to 7.86 in 2006, the most recent year for whichdata are available.

Joshua Hall
Economics and Management Department
Beloit College
Beloit, WI

What's the Matter With Libertarians?

Jesse Walker is misguided when he claims that right-wingers should not have fought the Cold War in the early 1980s because the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse ("What's the Matter With Libertarians?," December). He falls into the familiar historical fallacy of denouncing people in the past because they didn't know what we know now. What we did know in, say, 1983 was that the Soviet Union was expanding into other countries and the Afghan War had not yet descended into a quagmire. The USSR was controlled by Yuri Andropov, a career spy who had spent his life plotting against the West. Most of us believed bad information from the CIA that said that the Soviet economy was at near parity with the U.S. Then there was the "Able Archer" episode of this period, where the USSR nearly launched a nuclear war because of the paranoia of the ruling Soviet gerontocracy.

In hindsight, Ronald Reagan's policy toward the Soviet Union, both in its coldest phase in the early 1980s and the gradual thaw in the late 1980s, was the correct strategy. In addition, Reagan's decision to decontrol the price of oil brought lower prices and hastened the USSR's death knell.

Martin Morse Wooster
Silver Spring, MD

Jesse Walker replies: My article made no claims about whether right-wingers, or anyone else, should have fought the Cold War. While I have many strong differences with Reagan's foreign policy, you needn't reject his approach to the Soviets to reject the paranoid mentality I described in the conservative grassroots—an outlook that "imagined Moscow as a virtually all-powerful giant, its tentacles pulling stateside liberals' strings while our weak-willed society teetered toward surrender." And Americans in the '80s didn't need hindsight to understand that the Angolan guerrillas beloved by certain anti-communists were thugs formerly financed by Communist China, or that Cambodia's nationalist rebels were effectively fronts for Pol Pot.