Here's a wonderful quote from Reagan in 1975 from Reason magazine.
If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals ó if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.
Now, I canít say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we donít each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are travelling the same path.
Alex Tabarrok found the above quote from a nice roundup on Reagan by Pejmanesque. See also his earlier commentary Mourning in America and Fabio's Reagan's Message to the World.
Marginal Revolution: Ronald Reagan the Libertarian
In a Libertarian society, the "strongest man on the block" will not run the neighborhood. One or more neighbors will hire a home-protection security service. Those who can't afford to hire one will benefit from a non-profit agency like the Red Cross which doesn't just help people who are victims of disasters, but helps prevent bad things from occurring. And in a Libertarian society, there will be no more atheistic government schools, so the strongest man will likely have learned that God says not to steal, and God says not to kill. Two centuries ago, when it was still legal to teach children "The Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" in public schools, the average age of an incarcerated inmate was 45. Today it is 18. It took 40 years for a man to break away
from the moral education he received as a child. Crime was lower. Most people never had to hire security services. Most people went their whole lives without ever seeing a federal employee (except for the post office) or federally-funded SWAT teams.
next: Campaign Finance, Corruption and the Oath of Office