Paul Ryan Applies a Reality Check to Government, Confusing Pundits (Forbes.com) August 28, 2012Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.
Tags: Presidential Elections
Pundits aren’t sure what to do with a candidate like Paul Ryan, who has a clear political philosophy and a published set of policies for America’s future. If you think about it, it’s been awhile. Barack Obama has essentially campaigned on his personal narrative with broad promises of “hope” and “change.” John McCain’s appeal was his career as a maverick and a straight-talker. Even Mitt Romney is running more on his resume than his plans.
But Ryan is different. He’s actually read books of political philosophy and has published his own plans for governing: “A Roadmap for America’s Future, Version 2.0.” Of course the attacks on his plans come easily, one ad suggesting his approach to Medicare is like pushing your grandmother’s wheelchair off a cliff, a commercial at least one television station in Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin declined to air. But it’s easier to mock Ryan’s economic policies than to counter them with alternatives that will keep Medicare and other government entitlements afloat, much less in the black.
More interesting are the attacks on his philosophy and values with verbal punches that are so obtuse they fail to connect with most Americans. He’s a disciple of Ayn Rand, alleges New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, which would prompt most Americans, in imitation of Rand’s Atlas, to shrug. No, says Robert Reich, Professor at U.C. Berkeley and former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration, it’s worse than that: Ryan is a social Darwinist. And you thought Darwinism passed from presidential campaign rhetoric with William Jennings Bryan at the turn of the last century.
What liberal intellectuals like Krugman and Reich are unable to grasp is that, outside their ivory towers, there are Americans who still believe in limited government. And it is apparently lost on them that a belief in limited government need not be tied to the mid-20th century objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand or the product of a selfish, dog-eat-dog social Darwinism. Limited government, as Paul Ryan believes, is the fruit of the American Revolution and the counterpoint to the social and economic engineering of the European-style administrative state.
And so Mr. Ryan has made this election about two very different roads America might travel. These two roads start in different places since, as Ryan himself says at every campaign stop, our rights as Americans come from “nature and God, not government.” And their social objectives are quite different, with Ryan and Romney advocating equality of opportunity and Obama-Biden equality of outcome. And in between those widely divergent starting and ending points, one road travels with greater freedom and less government interference, with the other highway heavily regulated by a larger and more intrusive administrative state.
Combining Ryan’s philosophy and plans at a more detailed level clarifies both a good deal. So, for example, Ryan does not advocate the elimination of Medicare or other aspects of the welfare state. Instead, he looks at the charts and, in a way no economist is able to deny, sees the reality that the present course leads to bankruptcy of those programs, and perhaps of the federal government itself. His prescription is to find cost-savings that will make a social safety net sustainable, not to destroy it. In fact, one could well argue that the best way to destroy Medicare would be to continue blissfully on its collision course with bankruptcy. He advocates savings, for example, not by lowering the benefits, but by giving people money to make their own choices, again reinforcing his philosophy.
This is not Ayn Rand objectivism, or harsh social Darwinism. This is applying a reality check to government programs run amok. In that sense, ironically this election is like Roosevelt and Hoover in 1932, except this time it is a liberal president defending the unsustainable status quo, and a conservative challenger saying we need a new approach to the role of government and the economy. With Paul Ryan’s clear philosophy and programs, that’s what this election has become: a set of choices about the proper role of government. The words of Herbert Hoover from 1932 echo clearly today: “This campaign is more than a contest between two men. It is more than a contest between two parties. It is a contest between two philosophies of government.”
Please click on the link to view the article on Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2012/08/28/paul-ryan-applies-a-reality-check-to-government-confusing-pundits/