Concerning Ronald Reagan

De mortius nil nisi bonum.

I had hoped to avoid any comment on Ronald Reagan’s death, but there is so much chatter on the topic I fear that my silence might become a loud silence.

What principles ought to apply when a political figure who has achieved high rank dies after a long retirement and illness? Surely, his friends are entitled to eulogize him, and his adversaries, if they can find nothing good to say (as, for example, in John Kerry’s very graceful comment on Reagan) ought to adhere to the principle de mortius nil nisi bonum.

If the dead man’s friends insist on eulogizing him by making palpably false claims on his behalf (for example, that he had no significant failures), his adversaries are put in a false position, and risk giving their consent by silence. Still, ugly outbursts such as Christopher Hitchens’s are to be avoided at all costs, and even well-reasoned and restrained criticism ought to wait at least until he is buried, and, preferably, until the grass is green on his gravesite.

As it happens, the liberal side of the aisle has been rather well-behaved so far; surely better-behaved than the right would have been had the decedent been Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.

Note: The right-wing Indianapolis Star seems to think that Hitchens is still of the left. In fact, like the proverbial Harvard professor who left for Yale, Hitchens improved the moral and intellectual tone of both camps by changing sides.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Concerning Ronald Reagan”

  1. Nil nisi bonum

    You have only to inhabit for a little while the stacks of a library to realize that the fate of most of what we write is oblivion. The act has its moment and is gone. Though its traces remain, the

  2. Nil nisi bonum

    You have only to inhabit for a little while the stacks of a library to realize that the fate of most of what we write is oblivion. The act has its moment and is gone. Though its traces remain, the

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