Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Saturday, August 11, 2012 :::

I have been seeing more insistent than usual rumors that Romney's VP pick will be Paul Ryan.

I'm a huge Paul Ryan fan, but I'm not actually sure I like the idea. Policy-wise, I like Paul Ryan as budget chairman; if electability is your concern, I think he helps the Republicans' chances in 2028 but likely hurts a little bit right now.

But in other ways, he makes a lot of sense. He has some similarities to Romney, like his analytical approach to issues and his economic focus. But it makes sense for Romney, who is not terribly conservative, to select someone who appeals to the base, which I think Ryan does.

My biggest misgiving about Romney is that he is very intelligent. Actually, it's not the intelligence itself so much as the impression that, like many very intelligent people, he is very confident about what that buys him. While I appreciate his analytical approach, I worry that he sees political problems as more cleanly solvable than they are. George Will commented a few years ago that, to conservative ears, the term "nation-building" should sound like "orchid-building" — a nation can't be "built" like a machine, but can at best be tended. A grower might pull weeds and provide some control over irrigation and other conditions that affect the success of a plant, but anything characterized as a "solution" has to be treated skeptically, even if implementing it is, in fact, the best available option. This is also true of a business, and I don't doubt that Romney appreciates this, at least to some extent, from his career in private equity, but it's an even more important consideration for someone charged with running a very, very large government for the benefit of its citizenry than for someone charged with making a medium-sized firm sustainably profitable.

I'm not as concerned that Ryan doesn't get that. Yes, he's looking for solutions to problems, and perhaps he really does have the temerity to believe that he's proposing "solutions" that he thinks will resolve whatever issues they address, but I always understand him to be proposing suggestions that might be worth negotiating over, amending, and trying, with further amendments to be made later as events warrant.

In terms of electability, I don't know whether or not Paul Ryan can persuade the less-educated working class that their problems are better solved by streamlining harmful regulations on their employers and potential employers than by adding new regulations on those employers (again: boosting employment by weeding, not by constructing) and that their retirements will be more secure if the government programs supporting them are less generous but more solvent and, in the case of Medicare, more flexible. Assuming he is the pick, though, that may be what determines the election. I hope he's up to it.

::: posted by Steven at 12:45 AM

I do think Ryan is about as good a salesman for the view as possible, and would also note that his history of compromise bodes well in particular for his grasp of the political difficulties of enacting "solutions", whether or not he grasps the later social difficulties of them as well.
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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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