To the Editor:
Wayne H. Merrit's recent letter to the editor declared Ronald Reagan to have made a "false argument" when he said "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
Mr. Merrit engages in a clear strawman fallacy; the "false argument" is therefore his. The well-known quote is from President Reagan's 1981 Inaugural Address. And it's easy enough to discover that Mr. Merrit has snipped off the first four words of the actual sentence Reagan spoke: "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
Let's remind ourselves of the "crisis" to which Reagan referred: a (then) historically-high unemployment rate of 7.5%; double-digit inflation in 1979 and 1980; interest rates close to 20%; negative GDP growth in the last half of 1980. It was an economically miserable time, and Reagan correctly fingered government mismanagement of its fiscal, monetary, and regulatory policies as the prime culprit.
By cutting out this context, Mr. Merrit makes Reagan sound like a rabid anarchist; this is monumentally silly.
But he proceeds from this initial fallacy to rant against "GOP politicians" and "right wing politicians" and anyone else who dares to think that it might be a good idea to limit the size and scope of government. Apparently, Mr. Merrit thinks that unless government continues to spend trillions of taxpayer dollars each year (along with about a trillion borrowed), we won't have roads, or something.
And (worse) Mr. Merrit concludes that such people should not be "popping off about 'big government'"; instead they should "just get out of politics and stay out of the way of good government." I hope that everyone will decline Mr. Merrit's advice, and continue to use their First Amendment right to "pop off" about whatever they want.
Paul Sand, Rollinsford