Paul Ryan’s take on American institutional challenges

Oct 5, 2023, 10:00 PM | Updated: 11:33 pm

Paul Ryan, a former U.S. House speaker and the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate, speaks ...

Paul Ryan, a former U.S. House speaker and the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate, speaks at the Gary R. Herbert Institute for Public Policy at Utah Valley University in Orem on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023. (Megan Nielsen/ Deseret News)

(Megan Nielsen/ Deseret News)

OREM, Utah — Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan spoke with students at Utah Valley University Thursday and then sat down with KSL NewsRadio’s Boyd Matheson about what he spoke about. 

Ryan said that he is optimistic about the youth of America, “I see a lot of young, exciting, just capable, talented, idealistic young people who just have a cool life ahead of them. And it gives me hope, it gives me confidence.”

With his optimism, he also shared some concerns, “We are in a bit of an institutional crisis right now in America, in free society, and democracy. And I think there is a lot of deinstitutionalization that’s underway.”

He mentions that even though the institutions of America are taking a hit, they are proving resilient.

One of the biggest hits that Ryan says America has taken institutionally is the idea of moral relativism. 

He added that this moral relativism, accelerated by digitization, is, “eroding against these institutions.” However, he observed, “There are a lot of young people who believe we’ve got to get back to the basics. So I actually am kind of encouraged.”

Stress testing America

In talking with the students, he mentioned some stress tests that the country is experiencing. 

The United States of America has undergone plenty of stress tests, from world wars to pandemics, and even economic collapse. These tests can be both internal and external.

External examples provided by Paul Ryan were things like tyranny versus democracy and China versus America. These stress tests are tough to overcome, but internal stress tests like the question of unity from within are even more difficult.

“Are we ripping each other apart from within? Are we going to muster the stuff we need to do to solve our big, pressing problems?” asked Ryan.

He continued that the relativism problem makes it “pretty impossible for us to repair riffs for different people from different backgrounds and perspectives,” he continued, “You have to have a bedrock of truth out there.” 

Challenges in the digital age

Ryan shared his opinion about the biggest challenge we may face. He said, “As a conservative, what I don’t like is this sort of progressive ideology that seeks to enforce its own anti-pluralistic ideology.”

Pluralism is a way of thinking in politics that accepts and supports diversity within a group. This makes it possible for different beliefs, opinions, and ways of life to exist together peacefully.

He brought up both sides of the aisle, saying, “And then you have on the right, you have this sort of ‘own the liberals’, populism that is not rooted in principle. It’s almost authoritarian in some ways.”

“I want to go back to basics,” said Ryan, “classical liberals [and classical] conservatives.” 

He said this has always been an issue, but reiterated that the accelerant of the digital age has made it even more difficult to overcome.

Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard on weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.


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Paul Ryan’s take on American institutional challenges