As I'm sitting here working a little on a piece with Stacey Gahagan on Obama's 1994 race and law syllabus, I have suddenly become very interested in Paul Ryan's early work. The Cincinnati Enquirer has a not wildly searching story about Representative Ryan's time in college at Miami University of Ohio. Rich Hart, one of his economics professors, recalls that favorite books included The Road to Serfdom (available in cartoon -- yes, cartoon -- version here) and Atlas Shrugged. Did Ryan write a senior thesis? I'm not seeing any evidence of it. Also, when I heard that Ryan had been a student at Miami University I immediately wondered if he had been a student of the extraordinary Cambridge intellectual historian Michael O'Brien, who taught at Miami back in the day. O'Brien, you may recall, wrote a sweeping two volume history of conservative ideas in the old South. Would be most cool to know if those two people ever met and if so, what that conversation was like.
If it turns out that Ryan did write a thesis, I'll add it to my list of the early writings of the now famous.
Two other thoughts on this -- first, you may recall that I've written a little bit about George Junkin, who was briefly president at Miami (before he was pushed out for his proslavery ideas). Also, you might enjoy Representative Ryan's self-deprecating graduation speech at Miami in 2009. Ryan gave a shout-out to Rich Hart in the speech as well.
Update: Completely understandably, Dr. William Richard Hart is saying nice things about his star student -- and Representative Ryan has returned the favor. Thus, I'm interested in learning a little more about Dr. Hart's work. His Washington University Ph.D. dissertation is titled, "The Financing Constraint and Macroeconomic Analysis." I can't find either an abstract or the dissertation on-line. And he signed a letter (using the name William R. Hart) with a number of other economists asking for the repeal of the ACA in January 2011. He also signed a January 2009 letter prepared by the Cato Institute (using the name Richard Hart) opposing stimulus spending. It reads in part:
Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan's "lost decade" in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policy makers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.
Here is a link to a 20 minute podcast of Dr. Hart speaking with Detroit talkshow host "Doc Thompson" back in June 2011. Hart speculates just before minute 2 that Ryan would like to go further but political considerations constrain him.
Most importantly, Dr. Hart has a sense of humor -- a trait so rarely found these days. Hart's linkedin profile notes that in addition to a past job working for "North Pole at Santa Claus Inc," he is now retired. "I sit at home and lounge around reading, writing a little, and watching races on TV. Then, every month someone sends me a big check. Ahhh, for the first time in my life I know what it is like to be a Democrat!" His current occupation (for 3 years and 9 months is "nObama.") I love good senses of humor and I wish I'd had the chance to serve on a faculty with Dr. Hart, because (though we'd disagree on a few things), I think we would have had a good time together.