Everyone is abuzz with Romney’s “bold choice” of running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan. Every bobble head with a press badge is telling us that the Tea Party and Ron Paul supporters should be psyched because, to borrow a phrase from Harry Reid: “The word is out!” Ryan’s a libertarian!
What else could he be? Ryan quotes Austrian economists and loves Ayn Rand – he must be a libertarian! And anyway, everyone says he is: Forbes calls Ryan “Ron Paul-esque,” the Financial Times calls him “a conservative of the libertarian kind,” and New York Magazine calls him “Your Annoying Libertarian Ex-Boyfriend.” He even has a libertarian-sounding name for crying out loud: Ron Paul, Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan…it just flows! As a matter of fact, someone said to me yesterday that Ron Paul was Romney’s running mate—true story! I mean those two are practically interchangeable!
What was that? You’re not so sure? Oh come now, don’t be such a purist, and don’t you dare let those nagging doubts about Ryan’s voting record bubble up to the top of your brain. And of all things, please don’t fall for it when Democratic operatives say things like, “while he may be a devotee of Ayn Rand, he has voted more like a Republican hack than a revolutionary,” or “Paul Ryan Record Shows He Could Be Running Mate of Obama.” Libertarians really do need to be more pragmatic.
Sure, Ryan denies being a libertarian—he is quoted in the New Yorker as saying, “Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature, as if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians.” He’s in good company there—Rick Santorum and John McCain have made the same kind of denials (as did Ayn Rand herself to some extent). And yes, Ryan did vote for the USA PATRIOT Act, NDAA, Medicare D, TARP, No Child Left Behind, the Bush Stimulus and even one of Obama’s stimulus packages, but in his HEART, he’s a libertarian, and that’s the best a Paulbot can do. So thank Romney for acknowledging your existence and just join the team.
That’s what I’m supposed to be thinking and saying and telling myself, but the truth is, there’s no denying it: Paul Ryan is a neo-con, through and through. And what’s worse, he’s not only A neo-con, he is THE neo-con. He is the ONE. He is a real-life NEO. Except that unlike the fictional Neo, Ryan is trying to switch ON the Matrix, not switch it off.
Come on, you might say–you Tea Partier, you fiscal conservative–you might ask me: Why harsh on Ryan? He’s the most conservative conservative we’ve got! He’s trying to privatize Medicare, after all, and if we’re lucky, he’ll do that to Social Security too. That’s an improvement for sure – choice, competition, capping costs! So he wants to legislate Christian values, OK, but hey, those are some good values! Better than legislating humanist values. And so what if he believes America has an obligation to impose its values and dominance on the rest of the world? That could be worse too–I mean, who can argue with Liberty & Justice for All!
Without even getting into the problem that legislating morality and dominating the world negates America’s claim of liberty & justice for all—and most certainly negates Paul Ryan’s claim on libertarianism–let’s just focus on Ryan’s “conservatism” and see if he really is “a conservative of the libertarian kind,” or if he’s something else entirely….
This is post one of a three post series. Click for part 2 and part 3.