A Pragmatist among Pragmatists

Thursday, May 12, 2011

If this editorial in the Wall Street Journal is any indication, Mitt Romney isn't going to get away so easily with his posturing against ObamaCare, and hasn't a leg to stand on as a presidential candidate. That's the good news, but it may be more than made up for by the bad.

The Romney camp blames [the government-run medical care mess in Massachusetts] on a failure of execution, not of design. But by this cause-and-effect standard, Mr. Romney could push someone out of an airplane and blame the ground for killing him. Once government takes on the direct or implicit liability of paying for health care for everyone, the only way to afford it is through raw political control of all medical decisions.

Mr. Romney's refusal to appreciate this, then and now, reveals a troubling failure of political understanding and principle. The raucous national debate over health care isn't about this or that technocratic detail, but about basic differences over the role of government. In the current debate over Medicare, Paul Ryan wants to reduce costs by encouraging private competition while Mr. Obama wants the cost-cutting done by a body of unelected experts like the one emerging in Massachusetts.
Pay careful heed to the last sentence, including the full context about who Paul Ryan is and what he's about. Ryan, who imagines that such programs as Social Security and Medicaid can be "reformed," also is no capitalist. (Otherwise, he'd be clear that the best way to "encourage" competition is for the government to stop manipulating the economy altogether, and would speak of phasing out instead of reforming entitlement programs.)

Many conservatives will pay homage to principles one moment, only the next moment to say, in effect, that we should go only so far in applying them, or that always applying them is childish or ridiculous, and ultimately, that they should be "chucked" whenever they become inconvenient. The result of this is that many conservative commentators will catch or call out a nearly pure pragmatist like Mitt Romney, but miss a less obvious one like Paul Ryan or even enable him to pass himself off as a capitalist. We can thus expect conservative appreciation of the need for principles to go only so far, and the value of conservative commentary to be severely compromised, to put things very mildly.

Whether a candidate is pro-capitalist is not a matter of degree, or a matter of not being as blatantly unprincipled as Mitt Romney. That judgement requires an uncompromising application of objective principles, and an appreciation of the need to apply them at all times.

-- CAV


Narra Gansett said...

I'm not yet convinced that Paul Ryan is the Pragmatist you describe. I'm not saying he isn't, only that I'm not convinced...

Any time I've heard him speak, I get hints that he chooses his words very carefully - almost too carefully - as though he is keenly aware that to actually say "phased out" instead of "reformed" is to relegate himself to permanent back-bench status, and doom even his proposed "reforms" to failure.

No way to know for sure, and even if true, it is still just another indication of how unlikely a positive correction in course is at this point.

Again, it is just a feeling I get. He's one of the few glimmers of hope I see in the political world, and I guess I'm not ready to give it up just yet...

Gus Van Horn said...

My lack of enthusiasm for Paul Ryan in no way equals giving up hope for a return to freedom.