38 / CHRONICLESntas? Why are there 8,000 Cubans innNicaragua? If they represent the people,nwhy don’t Sandinistas allow reallynfree elections like several other LatinnAmerican countries? Why does Qaddafinsend money to Nicaragua? Whyndid the Sandinistas send arms to ElnSalvadoran guerrillas?nThe meeting ended in an uproar asnthey leaped from their seats to shakentheir fists and shout revolutionary slogans.n”Death to Contras” and “Deathnto Samosa.” Death and vengeance wasnthe final translation of their message. Inleft the meeting in that state of specialngrace granted those who succeed withoutntrying.nGary Burleson writes from LittlenRiver, California.nLetter From thenLower Rightnby John Shelton ReednMonumental FollynThe other day I got a “Dear Friend”nletter from Malcolm Forbes asking forna contribution to the Reagan PresidentialnLibrary. It raises all sorts of questions.nFor instance, does MalcolmnForbes really think of me as a friend?nWhere has he been all this time? Anfriend in need is a friend indeed, Mr.nForbes, and I’ve got two daughters tonsend to college: How about if I contributento your foundation and you kickninto mine? Shall we say 5 percent ofnannual income?nBut leave aside the fact that my newnfriend could build this edifice from hisnpocket change, if he really thinks wenneed it. Let’s ask a fundamental questionnthat the letter doesn’t really address:nWhy in heaven’s name shouldnthere be a Reagan Presidential Library?nWell (I hear you say), Kennedy hasna library, Johnson has one, andnNixon, even Carter. True, all true. IfnReagan had no library, he would notnbe in the company of these worthies.nHe would be libraryless with the likesnof Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln,nmen to whom the idea of anpresidential library somehow didn’tnoccur. (Can you imagine John Adams’npals hustling funds by direct mail?)nAh, but (as Forbes’s letter puts it)n”Think what rich repositories for historynand sources of perspective we’d havenif there had been libraries for ournearliest Presidents! They would bentreasuries valuable beyond measure.”nYeah. Think what prodigies of scholarshipnwe would witness at the MartinnVan Buren Presidential Library, thenMillard Fillmore Presidential Library,nthe William Henry Harrison PresidentialnLibrary, the—well, you get thenidea.nThere are many reasons to opposenthis well-meant but ill-considered enterprise.nThere is, in the first place, thenlibertarian argument—obvious (asnusual), but overlooked (also as usual).nThe $45 million to buy the land andnbuild the building is to be raised fromnprivate contributions, more or less voluntary,nbut that’s just the beginning.nThe annual budget to operate thisnshow is bound to be well up in sevennfigures, probably eight—not chickenfeed,noutside the Beltway—and thatnmoney will come from the publicncoffers. From you and me, that is. Likenit or not. Forever.nWhy are presidential librariesnthought to be an appropriate use ofnpublic monies and open space? Theynserve no useful scholarly purpose.nWhat could possibly be in an AndrewnJohnson Presidential Library innGreenville, Tennessee, that is notnmore conveniently available somewherenelse under the present dispensation?nFuture historians studying ourntimes will already have to cheek in atnpresidential libraries in Boston, Austin,nSan Clemente, Atlanta, andn—where is the Ford Library, anyway?nGrand Rapids? Aspen? I guess I couldnlook it up. (If there isn’t one, I’ll takenback every mean thing I’ve ever saidnabout the man.) Adding Palo Alto tonthe list wouldn’t hurt much—just anothernfew hundred bucks on the historian’snNEH grant. But it wouldn’t helpneither.nOf course, we shouldn’t think ofnthese libraries as simple repositories.nThey are, above all, monuments tonpresidential ego. And that is disturbing.nMaybe our Presidents have alwaysnthought of themselves as demigodsnentitled to pyramids maintained atnpublic expense, but, if so, they keptntheir opinions on this matter to them­nnnselves for the republic’s first centurynand a half A healthy public opinionnwould have hooted them down.nWhere did we go wrong? Whatevernhappened to republican simplicity?nThere is also the otherwise delightfulnfact that Presidents come and gonevery four years, or eight. If eachnPresident gets a library (and the nationnsurvives), in a couple of hundred yearsnthe countryside will be littered withnthese structures, each with its complementnof chantry priests and lay brothers.nAnd the whole creaking, groaningnapparatus will be supported by leviesnon the toil of an urban peasantry toonignorant to reflect that the systemnswept away at the Reformation onlyntook 10 percent.nMoreover, obviously, not everynPresident will deserve a monument. Inn50 years, our grandchildren will wondernwhy we bothered to memorializensome of those we already have. Wenshouldn’t rush into these things, as anyngraduate of Warren G. Harding HighnSchool could tell you. I like TeddynRoosevelt, but he does look a little sillynon Mount Rushmore, and “CapenKennedy” was quietly dropped when itnbecame indelicate to refer to the Kennedysnand water in the same breath.nI don’t mean to pick on RonaldnReagan. In this, he’s just acting like antypical modern President. But he disappointsnme when he acts that way,nbecause sometimes I’ve almost believednthat he isn’t one. I would rejoicen—many Americans would rejoice—ifnhe would drop Malcolm Forbes a note.n”Dear Friend,” he could say: “Thanknyou for your efforts to build a library tonhouse my papers, but I’ve decided tonput them in the Library of Congress,nwhere related materials will be morenconveniently available. A businessmannlike you will recognize the significantneconomies of scale in puttingnthem there, too, and I like to cut thencosts of government when I can. Inknow the library was meant to be anmonument as well, but that’s not annappropriate use of tax money. Whyndon’t you take what you’ve raised andnbuy some small arms for the Contras?”nI say Ronald Reagan ought to writenthis letter. Do you think he will?nJohn Shelton Reed is a semi-pro curmudgeonnwho writes from ChapelnHill, North Carolina.n