MARKETING OF PAUL RYAN
ROMNEY'S 'LIBERTARIAN' RUNNING MATE IS ANYTHING BUT
By: Justin Raimondo
Romney campaign is making a major effort to reach out to the Tea Party, grassroots
conservative activists, and Ron Pauls libertarian supporters. Theyve not only
Paul to speak at the Tampa convention, theyve also scheduled a
Tribute to Ron Paul video to be shown to the delegates. However, these are
mere crumbs: the video is not likely to
highlight Pauls more interesting positions, such as his vociferous opposition to the
American empire and its endless wars.
No, the real cake, complete with quasi-libertarian frosting, is
Paul Ryan, whose addition to the ticket opens up the prospect of having Ayn Rand, the late
novelist and philosopher of Objectivism, become a campaign
issue. I cant wait for someone to accuse the Republicans of endorsing
terrorism on the grounds that The Fountainhead, Rands best-selling
1943 novel, climaxes with the hero blowing up a home for mentally challenged
That some libertarians are ready, willing, and able to swallow this
guff, I have no doubt. They claim Ryan gets the free market.
Well, whoop-de-doo! So does the Chinese Communist party, these days.
However, he doesnt really get it at all, not even to the
extent that the heirs of Deng Xiaoping do, because he thinks we can still have an overseas
empire and a limited government, with low taxes and free
enterprise. The Chicoms to use right-wing Republican phraseology are
isolationists, i.e. their foreign policy amounts to minding their own business
and making as much money as possible. Ryan, on the other hand, is all about maintaining
American leadership in the world, and the way he tells it,
leadership is a polite euphemism for domination.
a speech before the Alexander Hamilton Society where else? Ryan
gave full-throated expression to what American foreign policy would look like under his
watch, and while the vice-presidency is an office with little power, from the tone of the
speech the office of the Vice President in a Republican administration wouldonce again become
a nest of neocons lobbying for more and bigger wars.
Ryan may be a neocon drone, but hes no Dan Quayle: he realizes, as he
put it in his talk to the Hamiltonians, that our fiscal policy and our foreign
policy are on a collision course; and if we fail to put our budget on a sustainable path,
then we are choosing decline as a world power.
Translation: we cant have an empire, given our present financial
straits. So whats the solution? To any normal American, who never wanted an empire
to begin with, the answer is simple: give up the imperial pretensions to global
leadership, and tend to our own ill-used and leached-out garden. Ryan, however, is a
creature of Washington, and this is unthinkable inside the Beltway: it would be a most
grievous blow to the self-esteem of these worthies if they had to exchange the imperial
purple for a plain republican cloth coat. Why, no Serious Person would even suggest such a
thing! So instead of stating the facts, he makes up some of his own:
Our fiscal crisis is above all a spending crisis that is being driven
by the growth of our major entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
In 1970, these programs consumed about 20 percent of the budget. Today that number has
grown to over 40 percent.
Over the same period, defense spending has shrunk as a share of the
federal budget from about 39 percent to just under 16 percent even as we conduct an
ambitious global war on terrorism. The fact is, defense consumes a smaller share of the
national economy today than it did throughout the Cold War.
This is a flat out fabrication. As David Callahan of Reuters put
Ryan is wrong and misleading when he argues that defense
spending is shrinking. He says that defense as a percentage of GDP has declined from its
Cold War average of 7.5 percent to 4.6 percent today. What he doesnt say
is that this share is up from the 1990s. Defense spending ranged between 3 percent and 3.4
percent of GDP from 1996 to 2001, according to budget data from the Office of
Management and Budget. Likewise, while Ryan says that such spending as a percentage of all
federal outlays is down from 25 percent three decades ago to 20 percent today, he
doesnt mention that defense spending constituted just 16 percent of federal outlays
The infamous Ryan budget wants to raise military spending and declares any
cuts off limits because, dont you know, its a strategic matter,
and not a question of dollars-and-cents. But what is this grand strategic
vision he wants to throw money at?
Decline is a choice, avers Ryan, citing neocon oracle Charles
Krauthammer, but he never defines his terms, only implies their meaning. What is
decline? To Ryan, the supposed free market fundamentalist, it has little to do
with economics, but is essentially measured by military power. He excoriates Britain for
ceding leadership of the Western world to the United States at the turn
of the century. Yet the Brits, exhausted by decades of taking up the white
mans burden, had no choice but to pull back: the alternative was to pour money
and lives into fighting insurgent peoples from India to Africa and the Far East.
Does Ryan really believe the Brits shouldve held on to India in spite
of Gandhis heroic struggle for independence? Try explaining that one to the Indian
Ambassador, Mr. Vice President.
Yes, Ryan is right when he declares that the unsustainable trajectory
of government spending is accelerating the nation toward the most predictable economic
crisis in American history. What was even more predictable, however, is the response
of our elites, who refuse to even scale down, never mind abandon, their grandiose visions
of a world-spanning hegemony, because they are ideologically and most important of all
emotionally invested in the imperial project. They like comparing themselves to the lords
and ladies of the former British empire, and indeed in Washington we have all the pomp and
circumstance except for the hereditary titles.
claims years of ignoring the real drivers of our debt have left us with a profound
structural problem, and to him this means throwing grandmothers out in the street
rather than cut one dime from billions going to Lockheed. The Ryan budget,
endorsed by House Republicans, would cancel planned cuts in the growth rate of military
appropriations, and increase the Pentagons budget by $20 billion. Hes right
that the trajectory of our debt-to-income ratio is catastrophic, yet is
patently dishonest in describing what or who is driving us over a fiscal cliff.
I might add that the figures Ryan cites omit the costs of the Iraq, Afghan,
and other wars, effectively disappearing $1.4
trillion in debt accrued since 9/11, as Callahan points out. Another dishonest
sleight-of-hand from the man who recommends Atlas Shrugged to all his new staff
hires. Perhaps Ryan has forgotten one of the key passages of
that novel, where the hero describes what Rand considered to be the virtue of honesty:
Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and
can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by
fraudthat an attempt to gain a value by deceiving the mind of others is an act of
raising your victims to a position higher than reality, where you become a pawn of their
blindness, a slave of their non-thinking and their evasions, while their intelligence,
their rationality, their perceptiveness become the enemies you have to dread and
Ryan had better start fleeing now, and get a head start, because its
going to be a very long campaign season.
Standing before the Alexander Hamilton Society and declaring that the US was
unfortunately, at the turn of the last century , not yet ready to assume
the burden of leadership from our British big brothers smacks of treason when one
considers Hamilton wanted a king,
and, by 1790, had become a British
agent. Ryan moans that our refusal to assume the reins of empire resulted in 40
years of Great Power rivalry and two World Wars as if the Americans are to
blame for the assassinationof the
Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the spark that set that 40-year
conflagration to burning! It was a wildfire that would never have touched American shores
if not for the strenuous efforts of Americas Hamiltonians to drag us into
Europes wars. Ayn Rand, Ryans literary idol, understood this, which is why
she opposed US entry into
World War II, and bitterly denounced the Vietnam war.
Ah, but the stakes are even higher today, says Ryan:
Unlike Britain, which handed leadership to a power that shared its
fundamental values, todays most dynamic and growing powers do not embrace the basic
principles that should be at the core of the international system. A world without U.S.
leadership will be a more chaotic place, a place where we have less influence, and a place
where our citizens face more dangers and fewer opportunities. Take a moment and imagine a
world led by China or by Russia.
It is doubtful the Russians or the Chinese have the either the desire or the
capacity to lead the world a grandiose concept that seems to have
originated with those who believe civilization would literally go to pieces without the
beneficent direction of the right Anglo-Saxon aristocrats.
To Ryan, giving up this hereditary right to world hegemony amounts to
accepting decline, a choice which would have consequences that I doubt
many Americans would be comfortable with. Again, the facts burst Ryans
fanciful ideological balloon: as Ezra Klein points
out, Republicans as well as Democrats, when presented with the actual budget
breakdown, favor on average an 18 percent cut in military spending.
Heedless of either facts or figures, Ryan barrels on ahead, his inflated
rhetoric ascending to the higher realms of moral philosophy and political theory:
So we must lead. And a central element of maintaining American
leadership is the promotion of our moral principles consistently and energetically
without being unrealistic about what is possible for us to achieve. America is an
Without even getting into what, exactly, this Grand Idea is all about, one
has to ask: how can an entire nation possibly be reduced to a floating abstraction? Any
nation with a history longer than fifteen minutes is already marked by the passage of
time, during which the original intent or Idea is revised, if ever so
slightly, in response to new circumstances. We have seen that in our own history, and yet
Ryan is blind to this obvious fact because his view is essentially rationalistic and
A nation cannot be a mere idea for the simple reason that America, like all
other countries, is a place; in our case, one with vast plains, fertile valleys,
burning deserts, towering mountains, and two long coastlines fronting two oceans
separating it from the ire and intrigues of foreign princes a place which, at the time of the
Founding, was a sparsely populated and incredibly rich wilderness relatively free of
European exploitation. It wasnt settled by ideas, but by people
real live actual human beings, some of whom were the bearers of certain concepts which had
a catalyzing effect on the course of American history. Whats interesting is that
Ryan fails to mention the primary idea that motivated the American colonists,
which was opposition to foreign domination and the legitimacy of the British
monarch. Even Hamilton, who wanted to place a crown on George Washingtons head,
embraced the essential spirit of the American Revolution, which if it can be called
anything was certainly anti-imperialist. Indeed, it was the Founding Fathers who warned us not to go
abroad in search of monsters to destroy, and explicitlyopposed the export
of our revolution in the French style. Apparently the neo-Hamiltonians have surpassed even
the treason of their idol.
From these soaring heights of philosophical expostulation, Ryan executes a
rather bumpy landing into the lower planes of actual policy, but not before enunciating an
axiom most puzzling:
There are very good people who are uncomfortable with the idea that
America is an exceptional nation. But it happens that America was the first in
the world to make the universal principle of human freedom into a credo, a
commitment to all mankind, and it has been our honor to be freedoms beacon for
millions around the world.
Where in the Constitution or in the other founding documents of our country
is it written that we have a commitment to all mankind? A commitment to
do what? It only gets crazier as Ryan continues building the fantastical structure of
his argument. The result is a monument to the intellectual emptiness of the
America-is-an-idea bromide pushed by neoconservatives like that old
bore Ben Wattenberg. Americas exceptionalism, avers
Ryan, is just this:
While most nations at most times have claimed their own history or
culture to be exclusive, Americas foundations are not our own they belong
equally to every person everywhere. The truth that all human beings are created equal in
their natural rights is the most inclusive social truth ever discovered as a
foundation for a free society. All means all! You cant get
more inclusive than that!
Or more contradictory. For if America is exceptional, along with
Americans, then how is it were just like everybody else on earth? If our
exceptionality doesnt belong exclusively to us, we cease being exceptional. Perhaps
we can forgive Ryan this lapse into complete incoherence: after all, we dont expect
our rulers to be philosopher kings, even if thats how they see themselves. All this
abstract theorizing, which no one takes seriously, is meant to get him to a the point
where he can argue the following:
Now, if you believe these rights are universal human rights, then that
clearly forms the basis of your views on foreign policy. It leads you to reject moral
relativism. It causes you to recoil at the idea of persistent moral indifference toward
any nation that stifles and denies liberty, no matter how friendly and accommodating its
rulers are to American interests.
Such a dizzying leap of logic leaves the listener breathless, and somewhat
disoriented: Ryan doesnt tell us why recognizing the universality of
human rights ought clearly to form the basis of
ones foreign policy views. A foreign policy is not a moral philosophy, which Ryan
seems to belatedly recognize by citing the tension between morality and
reality. How he resolves that tension is particularly interesting.
Giving the example of the Saudis with whom we share many
interests he notes the sharp divide between the principles around which
they have organized their state and the principles that guide the United States. His
recommendation: We should help our allies effect a transition that fulfills the
aspirations of their people. He supposedly hears voices within the
Kingdom calling for reform, however in Syria and Iran, he
says, we are witnessing regimes that have chosen the opposite path. In that
case, we ought to give full-throated denunciations of the jack-booted thugs of Syria
Our principles, Ryan declares, must be tempered by a healthy humility
about the extent of our power to control events in other regions, but isnt it
funny how humility always come into play when the petro-tyrants of the Kingdom
are concerned, yet plays no role in our relations with Syria or Iran? This policy of
selective humility is highly convenient for Ryan, because it enables him to align himself
with whatever powerful lobby is pushing for war or a policy of complicity in
For all his calls for consistency and morality, Ryan
is just another cynical self-aggrandizing opportunist, whose principles
consist of appeasing the military industrial complex, the Israel lobby, and the
neoconservatives, who have been briefing
him on the Party Line. If he is the intellectual
leader of the Republican party, then it is time for the GOP to declare
Justin Raimondo is Editorial
Director of AntiWar.Com.
He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
"Published originally at EtherZone.com :
republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."
Justin Raimondo may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
13, 2012 issue of Ether Zone.
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