There is a billboard along I-35 near Wyoming, Minn., with a huge photo of former president George W. Bush and this question: "Miss Me Yet?" Now, the push is on to find out who paid to have it put up. … At first glance, it would seem to be from some person or group who isn't thrilled by President Barack Obama's performance so far — unless it's a more ironic message from those who didn't think too much of Bush and want to remind voters about him. Anyone out there know anything about where it came from? Tell us and we'll pass the word. – NPR
Dominant Social Theme: George Bush looks better and better?
Free-Market Analysis: We disagree with those who believe that George Bush's presidency was a failed one. We believe George Bush was a profoundly transformational and important president. We also believe he was one of the cleverest men to occupy the White House – though we do not mean that necessarily as a complement. Additionally, we are well aware that what is called the "conservative" movement in America is straining to rehabilitate the image of a man who left the White House with absurdly low approval ratings – and this article is intended to put such efforts into context.
You can read an accompanying article on this topic here: Unlike Bush, the Bell is Anti-State and Anti-War.
While Bush's legacy was two wars and an economy on the brink of ruin, one cannot, if one is a free-market thinker, deny that many of Bush's apparent goals were at least partially achieved – specifically the inclination to expand the scope and authority of the federal government. Unlike Ronald Reagan, another self-professed conservative, Bush's brand of conservatism did not seem aimed at a reduction of the federal government. Instead, his administration (focused on "compassionate conservatism") helped pass the No Child Left Behind act that structured the American public school system along the lines of a kind of Confucian bureaucracy – where test-taking was of paramount importance.
Bush also proposed to fund religious entities with federal dollars, claiming that the bright line between church and state when it came to governmental sponsorship of private religious activities was old fashioned. The administration did push a tax cut through Congress, to be sure, but many of its other initiatives, as we can see from the above, were actually positioned to expand the clout and breadth of the American federal government, the biggest and bluntest bureaucracy in the world (excluding China, maybe).
The administration really hit its stride after 9/11. Once 9/11 occurred, the entire Bush presidency was galvanized. A war on terror was declared and Afghanistan was invaded and later Iraq. In the meantime, the Bush administration pushed through a pre-composed Patriot Act, one which basically allowed American intelligence agencies to spy domestically using a variety of extra-Constitutional means such as warrantless wiretapping in order to catch terrorists that might be lurking within the US. Additionally, American airports became areas where US citizens underwent invasive searches of their clothes and belongings. Even in Canada, the once neutral neighbor to America's north, airport security areas now sport two-meter tall posters encouraging visitors to call a 1-800 terror hotline if they see any "suspicious" behavior.
The Bush administration also created a super-secret rendition program abroad that gave US intel agencies the ability to capture and then shuffle "enemies" around the world to a variety of destinations where at least some underwent interrogations procedures that have been later defined as premeditated torture. The administration for some reason authorized the construction of domestic detention centers for some reason, (and a number of these have apparently been built).
There were many other decisions taken during the Bush administration, which further eroded American civil liberties in the name of security. The ever-expanding wars on terror colored the American psyche and furthered an aura of military mobilization across the country. The administration used concern over domestic security to control information about the wars that were being pursued – and this control generally extended to other kinds of reporting as well in the mainstream press.
There is plenty of material on the Bush family and its background available on the Internet, some of it credible and some not. But what seems clear from the above is that Bush purposefully declined to rein in federal power – and likely never had any intention of doing so – and then, after 9/11, radically expanded it. Through a variety of methodologies including controversial executive orders, Bush aggressively expanded the strain of American federal authoritarianism that has been evident since Abraham Lincoln declared the union sacrosanct – and went to war to maintain it.
The Bush administration, in our humble estimation, was intended to be a transformational presidency. Seen from this standpoint, the Obama administration is something of a caretaker administration, struggling to contain or ameliorate the forces that Bush set into motion. Thus Bush has been widely underestimated in our opinion. From his actions, it seems clear that he and the people around him favor a very strong and even militaristic federal government, one which uses central bank fiat money to sustain and develop an Anglo-American empire that reaches from one side of the globe to the other. This formulation was not so publicly evident before Bush, but since his time in power it has presented itself as a significant reality.
We do need to touch on one more aspect of the Bush presidency, the bizarre episode at the end of his final term when he attempted to push through immigration legislation that would have begun to create a de facto merger between the US and Mexico. This seems to stand in opposition to the authoritarian meme that was present throughout the Bush presidency, but in fact the various actions of the administration are in a sense illuminated by this late effort.
Putting this into context, one could argue that Bush's efforts were control-based and that he and those around him (and above him) were interested in controlling the largest amount of people possible. If control – not patriotism or nationalism – is the ultimate goal, then merging disparate cultures and peoples is indeed a sensible idea. It creates chaos, prejudice and gives rise to violence that is then to be ameliorated by yet more federal control mechanisms. We would argue the Bush administration's authoritarianism and disdain for republican governance becomes explicable if one merely concentrates on the social control-oriented aspects of its actions and ignores the accompanying rhetoric.
Those investors who are betting on a continuation of the authoritarian model that Bush radically expanded during his time in office may be well advised to watch the unfolding interaction of the Internet and Bush policies and practices most closely. It does appear that Bush put into place, or at least expanded, authoritarian measures that benefited a certain model of American mercantile commerce. But this does not mean his legacy is sacrosanct, nor that the impact of his changes are inevitable.
We would argue that the mercantile model described above reached its high point during the Bush years and is already on the wane. We would also argue that, ultimately, its descent will not be mourned, and that most normal Americans will miss neither Bush nor his administration. Finally, we would argue that Conservative efforts to rehabilitate the Bush image will fail, as in fact the Conservative movement itself will eventually diminish. Classical liberalism, with its 2,000-year-old history, is America's foundational conversation and it is a most profound and generous one. We anticipate its return as an animating American force in the fullness of time and expect to report on what we believe is its inevitable expansion.