Remarks to the European Management Forum Symposium in Davos, Switzerland
Greetings to all of you attending the European Management Forum. On behalf of the American people, please accept our very best wishes for the new year. I would have liked to meet with you personally, but I am glad Ambassador Brock will be in Davos representing our administration.
As we begin 1982, we know these are times of testing in our relations. Together we face new perils of repression in the East and problems of weak growth in our own countries. Unless we are careful, these stresses could divide rather than unite us. They could combine with a sense of the complexity of modern life to produce skepticism and fear—a turning away from the sources of our strength.
Let us resolve that this must not and will not happen. The values and principles we share—faith in God, devotion to the rule of law, human rights, and economic liberty-are the foundation of Western civilization. They give life to the spirit of freedom and nourish the dreams of millions of oppressed around the world.
Our values and principles have never failed us—when we have lived up to them. Think back over the past 35 years. They have been remarkable years of peace, prosperity, and progress—years in which America and Europe have grown together to new heights of community and commerce.
We need to remember that despite the problems we face, we are strong, secure, and stable democracies. We need to remind ourselves that when we stood together in the past, we performed great feats. We can do it again; we can meet any challenge f we remain true to each other and to the beliefs we share.
In America, we are trying to do this. We have relearned one lesson we should have never forgotten: that only by rewarding personal initiative and insisting government live within its means can we save the spirit of enterprise and risk-taking so essential to economic progress, human fulfillment, and the preservation of freedom itself.
There is no other way. Higher government spending and taxation do not work. Protectionist tariffs do not work. Always they are sold as short-term solutions. But inevitably, a quick-fix leads to long-term addiction, and in this case, the disease of higher interest rates, inflation, and economic stagnation nearly destroyed our economy.
The United States has turned an historic corner. We have put together the greatest collection of incentives in 50 years to help Americans rebuild our economy and restore their financial security. These reforms are just beginning. They won't work overnight. But they will work, and savings, investment, and productivity growth will revive.
No one appreciates the role of personal initiative and incentives better than you, the entrepreneurial leaders of Europe. We are impressed by the talent and treasure of your industry and commerce. We look to you to initiate the revival we seek, to overcome the fears that some betray, and to reignite the spirit of independence and individual freedom we need.
Some say it is dangerous to push for dramatic reforms in a period of instability. But I believe it is dangerous not to. There will always be a crisis. There may not always be an opportunity.
As we strive for economic recovery, we are strengthening our defenses so America can work with your countries as a trustee of freedom and peace. We will work with our allies in a spirit of equality and consultation. There will never be complete agreement on all issues, nor should there be. We are sovereign nations. But let us remain unified and resolved on the essential: that above all, the Atlantic Alliance was built for the defense of Europe, and that it's because we've worked together for more than 30 years to keep the Alliance strong that Europe has remained at peace, free to grow and prosper.
Today we face a new challenge in Poland. Soviet-sponsored repression brings fresh evidence of the failure and inflexibility of their totalitarian system. Sixty-five years after their revolution, they still need the West to feed their people; they need our credits and technology to run their industries; and they remain so frightened of freedom they need walls, minefields, barbed wire and guns to keep their people in.
It is a measure of our strength that we would never declare martial law to prevent our citizens from voting for the kind of government they want. It would be a sign of our weakness if we tied our future too closely to the system that must.
Let me leave you with the words of a man who grew up in Germany and later moved to the United States—a man who never stopped leading us to new frontiers in space and time. His name was Albert Einstein, and he said, "Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom."
This is the wonderful heritage we share-entrusted to us to stand by, to protect, and one day, to pass on.
Thank you, and God bless you all.
Note: The President's remarks were recorded for use at the symposium.
Ronald Reagan, Remarks to the European Management Forum Symposium in Davos, Switzerland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/246148