Friday, January 15, 2010

Rep. Ryan Identifies the Real American Conflict

It's exceedingly rare these days for any politician to give evidence they understand the crucial struggle taking place in America today. They're more often superficial, even when well meaning. Rep. Paul Ryan (R – Wi) shows he gets it.

He clearly identifies the political conflict of our times: the ideal of freedom vs the philosophy of Progressivism. (He also — and this is surpassing rare — understands the source of Progressivism in Hegel's philosophy and historically in the Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson administrations, etc.)
But the struggle over federal health care reform, the Democratic leaders' signature program, goes beyond the problem of national health. This debate encapsulates the defining issue of our generation: should we reform and strengthen America's free market democracy, or should we abandon it for a European-style social welfare state, the dream of third wave Progressives? Ultimately this is about an ideological crusade.
Even better, he goes deeper and shows he understands at least one of the pillars that undergirds that battle between political visions.
American citizens once took pride in being responsible for their individual well-being and for governing themselves in freedom. They are now to become passive subjects of government leaders, wheedling for hand-outs, more concerned about their security than their liberty.

Isn't it wiser to suppose that those who promote this program are smart enough to know what they are doing? When we reach their intended goal, those who still cherish human freedom will be reduced to near-silence. Whatever you call the post-American regime they would impose on this land, it will be no democracy.
While identifying the good side with "democracy" is an error, it's an understandable one, especially given the audience. (These statements were made during a speech at Hillsdale College.)

He spirals back up again to lay blame for the recent economic crisis where it belongs, "crony capitalism."
In the current economic crisis there has been no lack of greed, envy, ambition, and plain ignorance in corporate boardrooms, financial markets, and government hallways. The capital sins are always with us. But the foundations for this crisis were laid by Progressivism itself, above all by encouraging "crony capitalism."

The Democratic leadership is trying to cure the disease of "crony capitalism" with more "crony capitalism." What we really need is a new engagement with the principles Progressives repudiate, the principles that founded this land of freedom.
A less-than-ideal choice of words, to be sure. (Crony capitalism isn't capitalism at all; it's fascism.) But that's a minor issue here. Similarly, he doesn't make any distinction between greed as the desire to obtain material wealth and greed as the desire to get something for nothing, or by dishonest means. That again is not a big deal in this case, given the overall tone and content of the speech.

Instead, Rep. Ryan is to be commended for what he did get right. It's worth noting also — for those who believe there's no fundamental difference between the Republican Party and the Democrats — that this line of thought is taken by a number of the first and exactly zero of the second, a situation that has persisted for a number of years.

Bravo, sir. May you be the next Speaker of the House, and may your principles never waver from this spot.

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