Well, it’s official. Mitt Romney has chosen rising Congressional star Paul Ryan to be his vice-presidential running mate. Team Red is stoked that the young articulate conservative will absolutely smoke Biden in the VP debate, and Team Blue is stoked that Obama is now guaranteed to win because Ryan is obviously too extreme for most Americans. But does this mean anything for us independent fans of small-government?
It’s hard to say. On the one hand, Paul Ryan talks the small government talk with intelligence and fortitude. In fact, Ryan does more than just talk like a modern Republican. He quotes Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek (and even seems to like Mises!) with a boldness that makes a libertarian’s heart flutter. (Leftists say Ryan discovered Rand was an atheist and retracted his earlier praises, although Breitbart spins it into a cohesive inspiration-for-free-markets-without-accepting-Objectivism.)
Ryan also doesn’t appear to come with the garden-variety baggages of corruption or Romney-level flip-flopping (though I imagine others may disagree), meaning he might help direct the overall debate away from personality and back to the actual policies and philosophies of government that are currently advocated by the major parties, especially regarding deficit reduction. He’s a tea party favorite who chairs the House Budget committee and is described as a solid fiscal conservative who not only knows the budget needs to be fixed but is smart enough to know how to do it.
But Ryan is a seven-term Congressmen, and his voting record is harsh enough to stop that fluttering libertarian heart. He voted for the Iraq War, No Child Left Behind, the Medicare expansion, TARP, and the auto bailouts. He’s no friend of civil liberties, either, voting for the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, and the NDAA. (Images like this one are already making the rounds of /r/libertarian.) Ryan looks remarkably like a typical Republican who supported expanding government under Bush and then under Obama came down with “anti-government religion,” that peculiar form of fiscal restraint that hates all forms of government spending Democrats like while still handing out money for anything that involves the wars on terrorism and drugs.
Paul Ryan is at least more honest than his brethren who pretend to hate entitlements without daring to touch anything that looks like reform, and he is even brave enough to create unattractive plans to try to do so. This is perhaps why Reason seems to like him as “someone who has actually come up with some ideas that reach beyond platitude.” They say he’s “in a good, knowledgeable position to rebut claims that capitalism is always at fault,” though his voting record also “underscores the fact that today’s GOP is offering an echo of the Democratic Party, not a real alternative.”
Ryan is perhaps the most competent Republican when it comes to communicating the fiscally disastrous contradictions of the Democratic party (here’s one popular video). What I don’t know is yet is how competent he will be at explaining the equally curious contradictions of his own party, especially now that Team Blue and the media will relish in highlighting them.
So, yes, I like Paul Ryan, but I don’t know if I should hope he will turn into a strong and smart advocate for the virtues of small government, or merely expect him to embellish his role as an articulate water-carrier for the Republican establishment. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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