Since Paul Ryan has entered the race as Mitt Romney's running mate, I've had to hear two long-standing tropes that just annoy the hell out of me. The first casts Mr. Ryan as some kind of "thinker," "intellectual," and "ideas man." The second posits that unlike the Democrats, the Republicans are the "party of ideas." The first is pretty easy to refute: since when did espousing the half-baked economic theories of a third-rate hack novelist beloved by teenage boys make anyone an intellectual?
The oft-repeated line about the GOP being the party of ideas demands more in-depth consideration, mostly because it contains a great deal of truth. Republican policies and initiatives are more likely to be idea-driven, it's just that those ideas are really, really bad. Don't believe me? For your consideration I present the following examples from the great minds at the Republican lab:
Supply Side Economics
If more money is given to the wealthy ("job creators") via tax cuts that they will then take this money and invest it into the economy, creating growth. According to the Laffer Curve, the resulting growth will generate more tax revenues than before. You can cut taxes and get more tax revenue, it's magic!
Of course, we all know that this isn't true at all, and we've had the deficits since the Reagan era to prove it.
Anything the government does is by nature shoddy and inefficient, unlike the omnipotent market. Why not just give over public functions to the private sector, and let these wizards of industry sort it all out? The incentives of the market will unleash all kinds of innovation!
Not exactly. Not only does privatization allow politically-connected people to make huge profits off of infrastructure built by tax dollars, it allows those who profit to ignore the public good for their own bottom line. Look no further than the for-profit college industry, which has benefited from cutbacks in community colleges and gets almost all of its money from federal student loans, and often gives their students a useless, cut-rate education. If that doesn't convince you, take a look at the abuses and corner cutting in New Jersey's privatization of halfway houses.
Neo-conservative Foreign Policy
People in the Middle East will understand democracy when we invade their countries and give liberty to them at the point of a bayonet. They will welcome us as liberators!
Oh, wait, how did that work out again?
2nd Amendment Solutions
Hey, if we let people carry concealed weapons, we will have all kinds of citizen heroes to stop anyone who attempts a shooting spree!
Recently in states with open conceal and carry laws like Wisconsin and Colorado (and elsewhere), it hasn't quite worked out like that.
As Adam Smith and von Hayek proved to us, regulation of the free market will put us on the road to serfdom. We must free up the laws of supply and demand instead of shackling the economy to the authority of bureaucrats. Rules for of the financial industry like Glass-Steagall harm innovations and hurts economic growth! Once we allow our banks the freedom we need, prosperity for all will follow!
As hard as it is to believe, the clowns on the Right are getting their knickers in a twist over the Dodd-Frank Act, a fairly piddly response to the complete meltdown of our economy caused by shady financial dealings. Deregulation gave us the 2008 collapse and the S&L debacle after decades of financial stability in the wake of New Deal regulation. It's an epic fail on the scale of Mitt's trip to London, but people out there still push it with a straight face.
What have we learned here? Perhaps that conservatives these days tend to turn their ideas into a rigid ideology that blinds them to reality, no matter how many times their theories fail. (Back in the old days conservatives always used to level that charge at the left.) As a proud member of what one of their number derisively called the "reality based community," I think common sense is a better guide to our politics than the flights of fancy being pushed by pseudo-"intellectuals" like Paul Ryan.