Paul: Counterfactuals like this are always fun. I’m not so sure an earlier Reagan presidency would have been an unalloyed good. If Reagan had beaten Carter in 1976, his margin of victory would surely have been much lower than it was 1980, which would mean diminished coattails. What would the Reagan years look like without a Republican Senate? Surely his legislative accomplishments would have been diminished.
And how about monetary policy? Would the 70s Reagan have kept the disasterous Nixon-appointed Fed Chairman Arthur Burns (who believed that wage and price controls rather than monetary policy would be the key to controlling inflation)? He wouldn’t have replaced Burns with the sleazy William Miller, who leaked details about Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal’s personal life to Carter in a (successful) effort to get Blumenthal’s job, would he have? Would we have gotten Volcker a year early? Greenspan a decade early? The answers to these questions would radically change the legacy of the hypothetical administration.