8.25.2012

on Paul Ryan

It's great to have someone on the Republican ticket who knows the words subsidiarity and solidarity and tries to think about politics with these principles in mind.

Like Romney, but authentic and Catholic.

Peter Lawler talks about something important here:
One thing Ryan had to prove to skeptical America—or at least skeptical ME—is that he's no (Ayn) Randian, no creature of the libertarian economists who are all about the selfish sovereign individual.  And he did!

Let me call attention to the his speech's three-paragraph theoretical moment, where Ryan explains what his country is all about:
Our different faiths come together in the same moral creed. We believe that in every life there is goodness; for every person, there is hope. Each one of us was made for a reason, bearing the image and likeness of the Lord of Life.
We have responsibilities, one to another – we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.
Each of these great moral ideas is essential to democratic government – to the rule of law, to life in a humane and decent society. They are the moral creed of our country, as powerful in our time, as on the day of America’s founding. They are self-evident and unchanging, and sometimes, even presidents need reminding, that our rights come from nature and God, not from government.
There's a lot I want to say about each of these beautiful and deep paragraphs.  But for now:
Notice that Ryan begins with the faith that all American believers share, the foundation of their "moral creed."  Each person is unique and irreplaceable, a being endowed with irreducible personal significance as a creature of God.
So most basic is the responsibility we have to one another. 
The strong (contra Rand etc.) have a responsibility to the weak and vulnerable, and any society is judged most truly by the quality of its care.  To what extent that care comes from government and to what extent from charity or altruism or families and friends or voluntary caregiving is a question.  But the question has to be asked in a way that acknowledges our responsibility as relational beings who aren't intended "to face the world alone."
Responsibilities are prior to rights.  But rights we do have as free and responsible beings with unique personal destinies.  Those rights don't change and don't come from government but from "nature and God," the sources of our personal, purposeful being.  We are free from government because of who we are, and the nature of the human person and so the limits on what government should do don't "evolve" over time.
We can now argue over to what extent Ryan's signature policies correspond to our "moral creed."
But we can't deny that this guy is morally serious and really knows stuff.