In the last several columns, we have explored Paul Ryan's announced affinity for the extreme, objectivist political philosophy of self or individualism in the work of Russian émigré Ayn Rand. The philosophy has very little room for admitting the existence of, let alone pursuing, a common good based upon common ground. In this regard, Mr. Ryan's proposed budgetary allocations suggested such profound disregard for the needs of the poor that it earned a fairly extraordinary and denunciation by the Catholic hierarchy. Despite his articulated admiration for Ronald Reagan, Ryan's Tea Party brand of conservatism has very little in common with the former president's principled effort to honor the best traditions of the past while being open to necessary modification or compromise in the present.
On monetary policy, Ryan once again seems to be living in a novella than in the real world. Fictional character Francisco d'Anconia, Ryan tells us, embodies his thinking on monetary policy. D'Anconia postulates that government is not community by destroyer of value:
"Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, 'Account overdrawn.'"
Would Ryan then promote a return to the gold standard? Knowing the impact that would have on unemployment, Ryan sidesteps, but he would prevent the Fed from addressing unemployment by lowering interest rates to stimulate new economic activity. Annoyed that FDR went off the gold standard in 1934 to fight the Great Depression, Ryan would propose a return to something like it: the price of a basket of commodities. But here again Ryan's purist, ideologically-driven mentality runs into the headwinds of reality that for lack of better description might simply be called the globalized modern economy. A dollar pegged to commodities like metals or soybeans surrenders our monetary health to the choices of others. In this regard, President Obama and the Department of State have repeatedly taken issue with China's manipulation of its currency to disadvantage American trade; Ryan's prescription would simply enhance China's ability to manipulate not only its own currency, but ours. Unsurprisingly, the policy has little support among mainstream economists insofar as the idea is thought either ineffectual or worse, likely to quickly diminish America's place in the world economy
Paul Ryan's nomination has not helped Mitt Romney; a young man whose policy view is tethered to an obscure Russian writer with antisocial sentiments at odds with the leadership of the Catholic Church in America, he is unappealing to undecided and independent voters. Hitting the ground running? No, more like just hitting the ground -- hard.
Romney presumably expected more. It's reasonable to suspect that Ryan got the nod because Romney perceived, accurately, that he was losing. The most sophisticated polling data based on national samples as well as state and local data taking careful account of economic data, shows President Obama leading by as much as 70%. The betting line in Las Vegas is that Obama has a 65% chance of winning a second term.
There hasn't been a Republican congressman who has succeeded directly to the vice-presidency since 1908. 104 years later, Congressman Ryan is well-positioned to "conserve" at least that tradition. Of course, 1908 was an extraordinary year, as that was the last time that "America's team," the Chicago Cubs, won the World Series. Right this moment Romney and Ryan have about as much chance of pulling this election out as the denizens of Wrigley Field.
My earlier think piece promoting Mrs. Clinton was viewed as too clever by half -- and for conventional politics, it was; moreover, now it seems unnecessary in light of Paul Ryan's lack of "bounce," as the pollsters say, or appeal to independent voters.
Yet, there is something curious about the Ryan selection that suggests a Trojan horse. Could it be that Ryan was selected to make the Democrats complacent and forestall the president from seeing any need to switch out Joe Biden in order to facilitate the historic election of Hillary Clinton to national office in 2012?
Right now, it is not clear Ryan can help Romney win even Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, but in an election where Mr. Romney base favors opposition to the president over affirmation of the opposition, maybe there's logic in a running mate whose every policy screams anti-Obama.