Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Jack Kemp, RIP

I'm more than pleased with the way my life has gone over the past 30 years or so, but every so often I wonder how things might have gone if I had hooked up with Jack Kemp in the late 1970s when he was just beginning his tax-cutting crusade and I was working on and later around Capitol Hill. He was essentially forming an economics think-tank with his congressional staff and he looked like a comer to me, mostly pushing good stuff. But his AA was Randy Teague, former executive director of YAF and there was bad blood between us dating from the 1969 libertarian-traditionalist split, so I knew, partly through the grapevine, that there was no way I would have gotten a job there without groveling, which I was in no mood to do. But I did run into Jack from time to time and, as apparently was the case with everybody, I couldn't help but like him.

As this Register editorial maintains (hardly originally), Jack Kemp was probably the most influential politician of our time never to be president. He laid the groundwork for Reagan's supply-side revolution. He loved freedom, and it was especially important that he understood that a free market capitalist system is more important for the poor and minorities, to give them a chance at success and dignity, than for the wealthy and well-connected, an insight too few yet understand.

Unfortunately, Jack remained pretty much a conventional conservative on foreign policy. He didn't seem to understand that when you cultivate an empire abroad it means domestic controls bordering on repression and higher taxes at home. I don't know if anybody ever seriously tried to explain that to him -- perhaps Jude Wanniski or Ron Paul might have had an opportunity. For the most part, however, he was a pretty consistent lover of liberty and one of the few politicians I've met that I actually liked.

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