Paul Ryan: The serious thoughts of a serious man.


This past weekend Paul Krugman (always a favorite here at the Daily Cannibal) accused Paul Ryan of not being a “serious” budget planner because the VP candidate hasn’t said how he’d counteract the deficit increases that would result from his budget proposals.

But today’s biggest political news is the Romney-Ryan campaign’s effort to distance itself from unconscionable statements about rape by a legislator with whom Ryan has co-sponsored legislation on that very topic.

So how about we look at how “serious” a thinker this seriously pro-life candidate actually is about those “social issues” his marketing materials mostly avoid?

Exhibit A: a paper he wrote for the Heritage Foundation in 2010, straightforwardly titled “The Cause of Life Can’t be Severed from the Cause of Freedom,” which is being quoted all over the blogosphere today but not much explored. What arguments does Ryan use to support the proposition that the freedom (more properly called “liberty”) that we are supposed to enjoy under our Constitution is inextricably bound to a “pro-life” position?

Aborting a fetus, Ryan has figured out, denies it “the freedom to live.” Getting to the crux of his argument, he equates permitting abortion to the infamous Dred Scott decision, which denied African slaves and their descendants constitutional rights. “The freedom to choose is pointless for someone who does not have the freedom to live,” Ryan says, making the meaningless point that we can’t make choices unless we exist. “So the right of ‘choice’ of one human being cannot trump the right to ‘life’ of another.”

How that constitutes an argument against abortion is somehow evading me. But the failure here goes deeper. Underlying all this is the assumption that a fetus is a human being with the same rights under the Constitution as fully-formed people. “How long can we sustain our commitment to freedom,” Ryan asks, “if we continue to deny the very foundation of freedom – life – for the most vulnerable human beings?”

That’s right: Not alive? No freedoms. It’s truly brilliant.

Citing then-candidate Barack Obama’s equivocal response to a question about whether a “baby” has “human rights,” Ryan ridicules Obama: “God alone, [Obama] implied, knows whether babies are human beings!” This deliberate confusing/conflating of the word “baby” with what we are all talking about – a fetus – is, of course, the whole point of pro-lifers’ arguments, but beyond that, Ryan accuses Obama of doing just what religious people do themselves: defer, or claim to defer, to the superior or infinite wisdom and knowledge of a deity.

Whereas Ryan, in his own glorious wisdom, knows exactly how to define “human.” No need for God.