The Triumph of Politics Essay - Critical Essays

David A. Stockman

The Triumph of Politics

In the summer of 1958, in a woodshed on a Michigan farm, twelve-year-old David Stockman was being punished for getting into a tomato fight. As his father took a strap to his rear end, he told David that “This is going to hurt me more than you, but one of these days you will learn that what counts around here is what you do, not what you intend.”

By that standard, Stockman, on his own admission, gets flunking marks as the architect of the Reagan administration’s economic program. His book, however, deserves a higher grade. Candid, outspoken, gossipy, and eminently readable, it lacks only the balance and objectivity of historical perspective. It indicts politicians of all stripes, from Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill to Jack F. Kemp, and dismisses out of hand virtually all welfare programs (including food stamps, CETA, and the Job Corps) as illicit enterprises of social uplift. The author demonstrates the consistency of the true believer, victimized, in his own words, by ideological hubris. While his book reveals the woeful economic ignorance of public officials (Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker excepted), Stockman does not conclusively demonstrate that his grand design to bring about a Reagan Revolution would have worked, even if implemented.

As the subtitle suggests, this is a story of failure. Having campaigned on a platform to balance the budget and eliminate governmental waste, President Ronald Reagan (characterized by the author...

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