Orrin Woodward LIFE Leadership Team

Winner of the 2011 Independent Association of Business Top Leader Award; Orrin Woodward shares his leadership secrets.

Presidential Candidates 2008 – Ronald Reagan Test

Posted by Orrin Woodward on February 4, 2008

Let’s follow up Ronald Reagan’s leadership post with another on how his thoughts produced actions.  My basic thesis is that how a person thinks in their own mind will flow into their actions in their life.  As a leader, it will flow into the culture they create in everything that they lead.  Reagan believed strongly in the power of the individual to govern their life better than any third party.   This belief propelled him from a small town Illinois kid to a Hollywood star, Governor of California, and President of the United States.  Not only must we give people freedom, but we must teach people how to think about their freedoms and corresponding responsibilities.  This is why the free enterprise system cannot just be transplanted into the former communist countries without some world-view changes. 


Reagan made America freer after years of less freedom, but he also cast a vision for America.  He made Americans proud to be Americans again.  One of the most important things the President does is cast a vision from their world-view.  This is why I believe understanding how a person views themselves and the individual will tell us what they feel government’s role is.   Because Reagan believed in himself, America, and the individual—he felt his main role in government was to reduce its pervasiveness in our lives.  I will allow Reagan to speak for himself, but notice how his thoughts led to his words which led to his style of government.   In my opinion, Reagan’s views of government and the success of his administration prove that a modern president can lead with the same principles that guided our founding fathers.   This is a huge point for Americans to understand as they listen to the candidates to understand their world-view.   Here is Reagan in his own words from his autobiography, An American Life.



“The first rule of bureaucracy is to protect the bureaucracy.  If the people running the welfare program had let their clientele find other ways of making a living, that would have reduced their importance and their budget.”


“I didn’t think much of the inefficiency, empire building, and business-as-usual attitude that existed in wartime under the civil service system.  If I suggested that an employee might be expendable, his supervisor would look at me as if I were crazy.  He didn’t want to reduce the size of his department; his salary was based to a large extent on the number of people he supervised.  He wanted to increase it, not decrease it.”


“There probably isn’t any undertaking on earth short of assuring the national security that can’t be handled more efficiently by the forces of private enterprise than by the federal government.”


“I became convince that some of our fundamental freedoms were in jeopardy because of the emergence of a permanent government never envisioned by the framers of the Constitution: a federal bureaucracy that was becoming so powerful it was able to set policy and thwart the desires not only of ordinary citizens, but heir elected representatives in Congress. . . For example, I learned the government had six programs to help poultry growers increase egg production.  It also had a seventh program costing almost as much as all six others to buy up surplus eggs.”


“No government has ever voluntarily reduced itself in size.”


“No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that reached a third of its national income.”


“Usually with the best of intentions, Congress passed a new program, appropriated the money for it, then assigned bureaucrats in Washington to disperse the money; almost always, the bureaucrats responded by telling states, cities, counties, and schools how to spend this money.  In Madison’s words, Washington was usurping power form the states by the “gradual and silent encroachment of those in power. . . . Over time, they became so dependent on the money that, like junkies, they found it all but impossible to break the habit, and only after they were well addicted to it did they learn how pervasive the federal regulations were that came with the money.”


“In return for federal grants, state and local governments surrendered control of their destiny to a faceless bureaucracy in Washington that claimed to know better how to solve the problems of a city or town than the people who lived there. . . . Once started, a federal program benefitting any group or special interest is virtually impossible to end and the costs go on forever.”


“We had strayed a great distance from our founding father’s vision of America: They regarded the central government’s responsibility as that of providing a national security, protecting our democratic freedoms, and limiting the government’s intrusion into our lives—in sum, the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  They never envisioned vast agencies in Washington telling our farmers what to plant, our teachers what to teach, or industries what to build.  The Constitution they wrote established sovereign states, not administrative districts of the federal government.”


“The waste in dollars and cents was small compared with the waste of human potential.  It was squandered by the narcotic of giveaway programs that sapped the human spirit, diminished the incentive of people to work, destroyed families, and produced an increase in female and child poverty, deteriorating schools, and disintegrating neighborhoods.”


“My theme on the campaign stump was familiar to anyone who had heard me speak over the years: It was time to scale back the size of the federal government, reduce taxes and government intrusion in our lives, balance the budget, and return to the people the freedoms usurped from them by the bureaucrats.”


“If no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?”


“The same principle that affected my thinking applied to people in all tax brackets:  The more government takes in taxes, the less incentive people have to work.  What coal miner or assembly-line worker jumps at the offer of overtime when he knows Uncle Sam is going to take sixty percent or more of his extra pay?”


“I don’t think we will solve the problem of the deficit until three things happen:  We need more discipline on spending in Congress.  We need a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance the budget.  And we need to give our president’s a line-item veto.”


“As I have often said, governments don’t produce economic growth, people do.  What government can do is encourage Americans to tap their well of ingenuity and unleash their entrepreneurial spirit, then get out of the way.”


“Every year that I was president, I asked Congress for a constitutional amendment that would require the federal government—like any well-run household or business—to balance its budget.  But Congress (and I concede there was opposition to it on both sides of the political aisle) wouldn’t sit still for this infringement on its spendthrift ways.  There was some important progress: . . . . But never underestimate the willingness of congressman to circumvent their own rules, or the public will, in the pursuit of their enthusiasm to spend other people’s money.”


“It is a fact of life that running for political office in this country is very expensive; once in office, few incumbents want to surrender their seats in Congress, so they often trun to the special interest, who want special consideration from them, for the money to finance their campaigns.  Then, after the election, they repay the favors—with the taxpayers’ money.”


“Until presidents have a line-item veto and there is a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget, I think the country is likely to face never-ending deficits piled up by a profligate Congress unable or unwilling to make the hard-nosed decisions necessary to bring down spending to a level the country can afford.”


“As I have often said, governments don’t produce economic growth, people do.  What governments can do is encourage Americans to tap their well of ingenuity and unleash their entrepreneurial spirit, then get out of the way.”


“For the free market to work, everyone has to compete on an equal footing.  That way, prices and demand go up or down based on free choices of people; there are winners and losers under the system of free competition, but consumers are ultimately benefactors. 
Free competition produces better products and lower prices.  However, when governments fix or control the price, impose quotas, subsidize manufacturers or farmers, or otherwise intervene in the free market with artificial restrictions, it isn’t free and it won’t work as it is supposed to work.”


“The explorers of the modern era are the entrepreneurs, men with vision, with the courage to take risks and faith enough to brave the unknown. These entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States. They are the prime movers of the technological revolution. In fact, one of the largest personal computer firms in the United states was started by two college students, no older than you, in the garage behind their home.  Some people, even in my own country, look at the riot of experiment that is the free market and see only waste. What of all the entrepreneurs that fail? Well, many do, particularly the successful ones. Often several times. And if you ask them the secret of their success, they’ll tell you, it’s all that they learned in their struggles along the way – yes, it’s what they learned from failing. Like an athlete in competition, or a scholar in pursuit of the truth, experience is the greatest teacher.”


There is Reagan in his own words.  Can you see how Reagan’s worldview led to a specific style of government based on the freedom of the people to learn, grow, fail and try again until they get it right?  This is what we desire for our children and grandchildren—the opportunity to grow and lead by their own merits.  I encourage everyone to study the candidates and give them the Reagan test for their thoughts on the role of government.  God Bless, Orrin Woodward

One Response to “Presidential Candidates 2008 – Ronald Reagan Test”

  1. […] I have to press “one” to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than “Old Glory” are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free […]

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