I first met Paul in 1996 when he was the legislative director for a freshman Congressman, Sam Brownback. I was on leave from Hillsdale College to serve as Michigan Rep. Nick Smith’s chief-of-staff. This was the famous “Contract with America” Congress when Republicans took control of the House for the first time in decades.
Brownback organized a new group called The New Federalists, who met on a weekly basis with Paul serving as the staff person in charge. This group was primarily freshman, but Rep. Smith – a second-termer – quickly became a member. It was dedicated to ensuring that the federal government stayed within its proper bounds of protecting life, liberty, and property. It was an extraordinary time – and an extraordinary group of people – and Paul was the glue that held it together.
Friedrich Hayek wrote in The Constitution of Liberty:
It has been a long time since that ideal of freedom which inspired modern western civilization, and whose partial realization made possible the achievement of that civilization was effectively restated. If we are to succeed in the great struggle of ideas that is under way, we must first of all know what we believe; we must also become clear in our minds as to what it is that we want to preserve if we are to keep ourselves from drifting.
Paul kept the focus of The New Federalists on Hayek’s ideal of freedom. When he became a Congressman his passion for the principles of individual liberty and free markets launched him into a leadership role. His “Roadmap for America’s Future” is a unique document in that it dares to set out specific steps as to how we can regain the liberty and economic growth that made America a great nation.
Alexander Tytler, a contemporary of Adam Smith, taught the difficulty of maintaining liberty once people become dependent on government.
For example, 48 million Americans, all of them eligible to vote, receive federal benefits through Medicare. As a result, it is difficult for any politician to address this system’s failures, since any change will appear to threaten this dependency. What is special about Ryan is that he not only understands that government intervention in the health care system is at the heart of the problems we face – but he is bold enough to make it clear and to provide a solution.
In 1850, Frederic Bastiat wrote in his book “The Law”:
It seems to me that this is theoretically right, for whatever the question under discussion—whether religious, philosophical, political, or economic; whether it concerns prosperity, morality, equality, right, justice, progress, responsibility, cooperation, property, labor, trade, capital, wages, taxes, population, finance, or government—at whatever point on the scientific horizon I begin my researches, I invariably reach this one conclusion: The solution to the problems of human relationships is to be found in liberty.
We are fortunate to have Rep. Ryan as a political leader. As vice president he will be able to ensure that the ideas found in the Declaration of Independence guide the policies of the Romney administration.
A Romney-Ryan ticket is exactly what America needs.
While Mitt Romney’s experience as a turnaround artist brings the practical skills needed to right-size a floundering federal government, Paul Ryan adds the philosophical grounding needed to reestablish the government our Founders envisioned. Imagine having a president who is an expert in taking failing organizations and ensuring that they focus on their core mission. Imagine a vice president who has a clear vision of the role of government in preserving liberty along with a set of policy proposals based on free minds and free markets.
The Obama campaign will be based on what Mises called the politics of envy. It will try and convince Americans that they should remain dependent on government. The choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate ensures that the Romney campaign will offer a much different choice. It will, in contrast, be focused on “the ideal of freedom that inspired modern western civilization.”
(Dr. Gary L. Wolfram is the William E. Simon Professor in Economics and Public Policy at Hillsdale College. Find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GaryWolfram. And on Twitter at @Gary_Wolfram. Originally posted on The Michigan View.)