Paul Ryan: A Catholic Champion For Liberty?
I have to say, I’m not the biggest fan of the GOP or most of its politicians. Of course I consider the party to be marginally better than the Democrats on most issues, and so if I grace the polls with my presence, I tend to prefer GOP candidates. But this is hardly a ringing endorsement. Nor can I possibly count my political support for Ron Paul as support for the GOP, since he rejects significant parts of the party platform, rhetoric and practice.
Paul Ryan, however, is someone I have begun paying attention to. Since he has invoked Catholic Social Teaching (CST) as the basic foundation of his approach to the federal budget, he has become quite the person of interest among combatants in the Catholic media and blogosphere.
Ryan recently penned a column which appeared in the National Catholic Register titled “Applying Our Enduring Truths To Our Defining Challenge.” It is worth reading. I will quote some of the highlights here. His main point:
As a congressman and Catholic layman, I am persuaded that Catholic social truths are in accord with the “self-evident truths” our Founders bequeathed to us in the founding ideas of America: independence, limited government and the dignity and freedom of every human person.
Absolutely! Human dignity and freedom are indivisible; every assault on a legitimate right or liberty is an affront to human dignity. It is no coincidence that those philosophers who have most despised liberty have also most despised man himself, viewing him as little more than a machine comprised of pleasure and pain receptors.
Ryan also makes another incredibly insightful point:
…I have found it useful to apply the twin principles of solidarity (recognition of the common ties that unite all human beings in equal dignity) and subsidiarity (respect for the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groups such as families, businesses, schools, local communities and state governments).
When applied in equal measure, these principles complete and balance each other. But when one is applied exclusively, the result can be harmful. For example, in a misapplication of solidarity, politicians in both parties expanded big government for decades.
Bravo! This is absolutely correct. In fact, I am surprised it came from the pen of a career politician – pleasantly surprised. The expansion of federal bureaucracy does not foster solidarity, nor is it justified by it, because it ends up accomplishing the exact opposite. Welfare-statism does not respect intermediate social groups; finding them inadequate, it seeks to replace them. Under the control of militant secularists, it not only finds them inadequate, but ideologically dangerous and threatening, and seeks to destroy them. Communism was the most extreme example of this belief, but the tendency has manifested itself in a gradient of intensities over the past two centuries or so. It is manifest now, under the militantly secular regime of Obama and his minions. In the place of organic solidarity, the “little platoons” rooted in time-tested tradition, we are offered an artificial monstrosity, a Leviathan of good intentions and vicious repression.
Ryan explains what his budget actually accomplishes as well:
Our budget has been criticized for giving tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of the poor. It does no such thing. Instead of taking more and more from the paychecks of working Americans, the House budget proposes a comprehensive reform of the tax code to make it fair, simple and competitive. We would lower rates for everyone across the board. But revenue would still rise every year under our budget because our economy grows and because our budget proposes to eliminate special-interest loopholes that go primarily to the influential and well-off. Washington should not micromanage people’s decisions through the tax code. Basic economics and basic morality both tell us that people have a right to keep and decide how to spend their hard-earned dollars.
Finally, Ryan, in a recent interview, debunked the idea that he is a “disciple of Ayn Rand”:
“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.
Well, he’s won me over. For now. Time will tell if his actions match his rhetoric, and I pray that they do.