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Conservatives in an Age of Change

The Nixon and Ford Administrations

By James A. Reichley

From 1969 to 1977 the executive branch of the U.S. government was dominated by politicians and their advisers who called themselves “conservatives.” In their speeches they professed belief in such values and institutions as social order, military strength, market capitalism, governmental decentralization, and traditional morality. But did these social ideas have much influence on their actual policy decisions? Or were their decisions, as some observers have argued, largely based on personal ambition, partisan interest, and pragmatic response to the day-to-day problems of government? To answer these questions, A. James Reichley examines the effects of conservative ideology on the formation of specific administration policies under the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. The policies covered include the development of detente with the Soviet Union, welfare reform, revenue sharing, resistance to “busing,” the imposition of wage and price controls in 1971, and governmental reorganization under Nixon; and, under Ford, adjustment to the rise of the third world and problems with detente, the drive for decontrol of oil prices, and the fight against inflation. In the last chapter Reichley considers whether the Nixon and Ford administrations can be truly described as conservative, and suggests what the future role of conservatism in American politics is likely to be.

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