Bringing Up Buckley
In his response to Jack Trotter’s essay on William F. Buckley, Jr. ("Defense of Bill Buckley," Polemics and Exchanges, June 2020), Tom Pauken writes that Ronald Reagan as president “orchestrated an effective strategy that won the Cold War and dismantled the Soviet Empire." This is a common misconception among both the right and the left. As a person intimately involved in Reagan’s strategy to cure the stagflation that afflicted the United States economy and to end the Cold War, I would like to correct the record.
Reagan had two goals. One was to cure the economy of the worsening Phillips curve trade-offs between inflation and employment. The other was to use this restoration of the U.S. economy to force the Soviets to the negotiating table by threatening them with an arms race. Reagan was convinced that a supply-side policy would bring an end to the malaise of the American economy, and that the Soviet economy was unfixable.
As Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, my job was to get Reagan’s supply-side policy out of his administration so that Congress could vote on it. Later, as a member of a secret presidential committee, I was part of Reagan’s effort to assess the Central Intelligence Agency’s claim that, if challenged, the Soviets would win an arms race. The CIA’s reasoning was that as the Soviet economy was centrally planned, the Soviet...