Washington, DC – Earlier this week, American Idea Foundation President Paul Ryan joined the American Enterprise Institute’s podcast: Banter, to discuss how capitalism has done more to lift people out of poverty than any other economic system in history. Ryan, who is a distinguished visiting fellow in the practice of public policy at AEI, shared his thoughts on why millennials are attracted to socialism and what can be done to educate them on the perils of this political and economic theory. He also discussed how to address issues like income inequality and poverty.
The full podcast is available here and excerpts of Ryan’s responses follow.
Legislative efforts to expand opportunity and upward mobility:
“There are three laws that I worked to pass in my later years in government, when I was Speaker of the House, that work on these things. One was Opportunity Zones, which is a way of getting private capital into the poorest communities in America to revitalize communities. The second one was something called Social Impact Bonds, which uses private-sector solutions to seek to solve social problems. And then the Evidence Act, which is focused on Evidence-Based Policymaking and opening up the federal poverty programs for analysts to use data and analytics to go with what works best. My point there is it ends up validating that our principles work, that personal responsibility and incentives do matter. And these are new policies we put in place, or that the ink is barely drying on these laws, that I think will take the center-right principles and apply them to the problems of the day and help us get some serious profound results.”
Countering socialism’s rising popularity among younger Americans:
“The current generation has what I would call a very historically ignorant, romantic attachment to socialism. It’s just basic emotions and altruism, that is how I see it…. It’s a soft form of collectivism, so it just seems “cool.” I don’t think [most younger Americans] even really know what it actually is.
“But so, it definitely is in vogue…. We have work to do – and this is what my American Idea Foundation does and this is what I’m working on here at AEI – to make sure that young people have the scales lifted from their eyes so that they can see the perils and the pitfalls of socialism and understand that democratic capitalism, free enterprise, whatever you want to call it, is the best possible tool for upward mobility, for fighting poverty, for human beings that man has ever created….”
“Capitalism is the best possible weapon against poverty and for upward mobility than any other system that humans can organize themselves upon.”
“I really do believe there is a really good case for very classical liberalism among our nation’s youth. They just don’t quite see it yet. Their own personal experiences and preferences and needs and wants all speak to freedom of choice, free self-determination, and yet, they’re going to vote for politicians who want to deny them those things in all these basic areas? It doesn’t jive. It doesn’t fit.”
On Universal Basic Income:
“I understand the intellectual appeal. I do not support the idea because I think it lacks an aspect of self-worth and self and personal responsibility. I think it lacks a proper incentive structure for people to move themselves up and out in life and to feel that fulfillment in their lives. So, it’s sort of a hollow, materialistic solution to what is a bigger, deeper problem.”
On capitalism growing the economic pie and promoting opportunity for all:
“My elevator pitch on that is. What do you want? Do you want a government designed to promote equality of opportunity, or do you want a government designed to promote equality of outcome?
“These are two very different kinds of governments. Our system is designed for equality of opportunity. A socialist system is designed for equality of outcomes. And my pitch to young people is: When you have to have the government as your centerpiece in life, it has to be the core of everything, and take it from me – someone who spent 25 years in government, 20 of them in elected government – it’s not going to be done so equitably. It’s going to be cronyism, corruption, and, and you’ll have even greater disparity. You’ll have the super-rich, the super-poor, and very little in between. Again, look at countries like Venezuela.
“And so, the best solution to income disparity is more economic wealth, more upward mobility, better education, turn on the escalators of opportunity and of upward mobility. That is how you tackle the wealth gap. You bridge the wealth gap by growing the pie and making sure that everyone can have access to bigger slices of an ever-growing pie, versus trying to have government we distribute slices of a shrinking pie.”