I finished Richard Nixon's 1994 book, Beyond Peace. This book was published in the same year that Richard Nixon passed on.
a handle on Richard Nixon's political ideology is not an easy task. He
often talks like a conservative in this book, and he quotes favorably
such conservative lions as Rush Limbaugh, Thomas Sowell, and Charles
Krauthammer. Nixon also expressed skepticism about global warming.
Yet, Nixon unapologetically takes certain positions that can be
characterized as liberal, particularly on the issues of gun control and
I don't have much of a problem with Nixon being his own
man, for why should we require people to subscribe to the usual banal
Left-Right polarization, where one either has to be a liberal or a
conservative, as if either "side" has a corner on the truth? But there
were a couple of times when Nixon seemed to me to be contradicting
himself. For example, he waxed eloquent about the failure of
rehabilitation when it came to criminals, advocating punishment
instead. Yet, in the very next paragraph, he referred to drug
rehabilitation programs that were effective. At times, I got the
impression that Nixon opposed the Great Society because it entailed the
government getting involved in areas that it had no business being in.
And yet, Nixon tries to make clear that he's for a social safety net for
the very poor----those who cannot support themselves. Nixon criticizes
a progressive income tax that taxes people based on what they make,
preferring instead a consumption tax. Yet, when it comes to
entitlements, he is for means-testing, which enables the poor to receive
more benefits, while shifting the cost more to the middle and upper
There are times when Nixon attempts to explain what
may strike people as an inconsistency. For example, Nixon is critical
of Bill Clinton's health care plan because it would require employers to
provide health insurance to their employees, a heavy cost that could
have bad economic consequences. But did not Nixon have a health
insurance mandate for employers within his own health care proposal,
back when he was President? Nixon acknowledges that he did, but he says
that health insurance was not as financially burdensome back then as it
There was one time when I wished that Nixon provided more
detail, in an attempt to answer potential objections that one could
raise to his position. Nixon supports a consumption tax, since that
could encourage saving, which would later be used for capital. That
makes sense to me. In fact, reading Nixon has sensitized me more to why
saving is important for the economy. But I still have a question.
Let's say that I've saved, and I then decide to use my savings to start a
business. How would I benefit, and how would I be able to benefit
other by employing them, if there is a consumption tax discouraging
people from buying my products? I agree that saving is important for
the economy, but so is consumption.
In addition to the importance
of saving, there was something else that this book by Nixon further
sensitized me to: on the need for a strong economy to support a social
safety net. Communism preached equality, but people living under it
were not better off whenever its policies inhibited economic growth.
Granted, some of the countries that Nixon praises as capitalistic, such
as Taiwan, came to adopt a single-payer health insurance system, the
sort of system that Nixon criticizes. (Whether it did so before or
after Nixon died, I do not know.) See this article. And yet, Taiwan did so after
it had become wealthy. Then, it could afford a single-payer system. I
hope that there is some way to combine the free market with an adequate
social safety net, or any government action that can provide people
with a hand-up. A while back, I was reading a New York Times
article on the legacy of Hugo Chavez, and it noted that, while Chavez
made things better for the poor, economic growth in Venezuela was not
that great when he was its leader. The article said that some are
looking to Brazil as a better alternative: it is capitalistic, yet it
has a strong social safety net.
Am I dying?
2 hours ago