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Paul Ryan's Objective Virtues
[Editor's Note: Paul Ryan speaks about Ayn Rand's influence on his thinking in this audio file. (Audio: scroll to bottom) "Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand: In the Hot Seat Again"]
Now that Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney’s choice for vice president on the GOP ticket, Ryan’s plan for dealing with the federal budget crisis will be demagogued by Democrats and the leftist media alike.
But beyond the particulars of the plan or any of Ryan’s policy proposals, two of Ryan’s virtues shine forth through the fog of confusion and obfuscation on today’s political landscape. Republicans would be wise to tout these virtues as the standard for all candidates and as the foundation for the recovery of Americans’ culture of individual liberty.
Focus on reality
One of the most appalling vices of most paternalist politicians today is their flagrant evasion of the objective reality before their very eyes. Specifically, they punish the most productive individuals with high taxes and heavy-handed regulations, and they redistribute more wealth than actually exists. They evade the fact that such policies cannot be sustained, that they cannot destroy the wealth creators and then demand more wealth, that they cannot consume more than they produce.
Western Europe, epitomized by Greece, is collapsing because governments have followed such policies and now are running out of victims. There is just no more money for politicians to steal.
Obama’s America is on the same path as Europe. The federal government borrows 40 cents for every dollar it spends, and the national debt now equals the amount of wealth produced each year.
Yet paternalists simply shut their eyes and scream at the top of their lungs that the rich must pay more. This sort of evasion of reality is perhaps the most morally contemptible offense of most politicians, far worse than some tawdry sex scandal.
In his approach to policy, Paul Ryan respects objective reality and realizes that it will not be changed or altered by the evasions of political hacks. He understands what is in store for America if reality is not faced right now and measures taken to change radically the policies of economic destruction. One might rightly question the particulars of his plan. One might say it doesn’t go far enough. But Ryan is attempting to deal with the real world, not some wished-for fantasy that really is a nightmare.
Respect for reason
Ryan is known as a policy geek, someone who delves into the details of issues. He tries to understand the principles involved and to formulate policy based on facts. Ryan respects reason as the means by which we understand objective reality.
Further, when Ryan discusses issues with constituents, media, or fellow policymakers, he attempts to explain them, he strives to help his audience understand the facts and to understand his reasoning. He appeals first to their reason, not their adrenal glands. He seeks intelligent engagement. He’s the adult in the room.
In the end, only this approach will allow policymakers to deal with the challenges that face the country. And only a citizenry that respects reason will be able to sustain a free society.
Passion for liberty
To say that Ryan takes a rational approach to policy is not to say that he lacks passion. I first met Ryan in the 1990s when we both were staffers on Capitol Hill. What motivated Ryan then as now was a passion for the ideals on which America was founded, of respect for individuals and their liberty.
Those values were reflected in his speech when he was introduced as Romney’s VP choice, when he said, “We Americans look at one another’s success with pride, not resentment.”
In the campaign ahead the policies espoused by Ryan as well as all other candidates for all offices will be debated. One might disagree with Ryan on a number of particulars. But all candidates should be judged both by their policy proposals and by their respect for reason and reality.
Hudgins is director of advocacy for The Atlas Society.
For further information:
*”Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand’s Ideas.” April 30, 2012.
*Edward Hudgins, “Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, and My Thom Hartmann Interview.” May 4, 2012.