Paul Ryan is an interesting character. Among today's politicians I would put him on my very short list (albeit at the bottom) of those who, given the opportunity, "might" enact legitimately good fiscal policy. Alas, our current President and 99+% of Congress didn't make my list. Honestly, as of this moment, it consists of just two names (so being at the bottom [of a list of two] ain't all that bad) and both have Paul (as in Ron Paul - although his position on earmarks troubles me) in their name. Monday's New York Times called Ryan a disciple of Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. Now when I think disciple, I'm thinking "follower", I'm thinking "someone who lives the teachings of whom he follows." I don't doubt that Ryan has read many of the works of these two greats (apparently he read Atlas Shrugged as a teenager and encourages all of his interns to read it as well), but, based on his voting record, I don't know that "disciple" fairly characterizes his commitment to the philosophies of Rand and Friedman.
Having myself read many of the works of both, here's my impression of how they'd, were they alive to tell, feel about Mr. Ryan today:
As for Ayn Rand, I'll simply say that she was as pure a libertarian as they came. And she was quick to condemn (and I do mean condemn) any politicymaker for the slightest transgression. Therefore, obviously, with few exceptions, she was no fan of politicians. Ryan's yea votes on bailouts for the airline, financial and auto industries, I assure you, would have won no praise from Ms. Rand.
As for Milton Friedman, he would have seen real potential in the young congressman. He would have gladly met with Ryan, I'm sure at Ryan's request, and counseled him to live up to his rhetoric. To walk his talk. He would have told the unresisting congressman to put free trade at the very top of his agenda. He would have tried to convince Ryan that the 'loss' (as in profit and loss) is essential to the efficacy of free market capitalism. That the absolute best economic policy is one where government allows the natural culling of industries by the free market. That when government bails out an industry it steals from the productive sectors of the economy and creates a moral hazard that will come back and bite society in the worst way. He would have applauded Ryan's attempts at entitlement reform and encouraged him to work harder at freeing individuals from the shackles of government "assistance".
As for me, among the four characters vying for the White House, Ryan's my man. I cringe however, given his voting record, when I hear him referred to as a champion for the free market. But I do appreciate his willingness to tackle the inevitable implosion of our present entitlement system. As for his position on trade, I'm guardedly optimistic, inspite of what he said this week on the stump in Ohio:
"Free trade is a powerful tool for peace and prosperity. But our trading partners need to play by the rules." In reference to China he said "They steal our intellectual property rights. They block access to their markets. They manipulate their currency."
I suspect, if he truly buys into Rand and Friedman (both fiercely advocated unilateral free trade), that he knows better. That this morning's rant was purely politically motivated. Sure, the intellectual property issue is something that needs addressing, but as for the blocking of access to their markets; if they choose to compromise their own citizens while sending us affordable goods, that'll be their undoing, not ours. As for manipulating their currency; again, that's a price their people pay (reduces their purchasing power) to benefit us. And oh what a contradiction, when you consider how our Fed manipulates the value of the dollar.
Here's the thing folks. I know my readership is largely composed of passionate conservatives, and I do sympathize. But I think the days of falling in love with policymakers, making them out to be something they're not, have got to end. We need to hold our politicians, particularly our favorites, accountable for every move they make. They need to understand that their career success will be predicated upon their willingness to adhere to the most basic fiscal principles: Balancing the budget, paying down the debt, getting out of the way of business (meaning simplifying tax and regulatory policy, and putting and end to all the cronyism [a long shot I know]), never engaging in protectionism, and incentivizing individuals to get off the dole and back to work*.
*No jobs you say? "They" do the above (simplify policy, etc.) - that is, create a little certainty - and just you watch.