Three of Esquire magazine's "10 Best Members of Congress" actually have good qualities, and are interesting signs of how reasonably hardcore small-state thinking can get props even from the mainstream. Three of them have been people Reason readers have been hearing about for awhile themselves.
Jeff Flake–who Reason has seen the good in since at least September 2008 [UPDATE: Reason was looking at Flake as early as Feb. 2001–when he was making vows unkept to term limit himself after three go-rounds]–is Esquire-approved:
it is stunning to see a conservative Arizonan keep his head and stick to his principles while all around him is chaos. In his five terms, Flake has been one of the steadiest and most articulate proponents of sane spending and restrained government. And it has cost him repeatedly: In 2007, he was stripped of his main committee assignment by his own party for being too critical of profligate spending by Republicans when they were in power. And this year he withstood a stout challenge from the right for (among other things) having the guts to oppose the awful SB 1070 in favor of comprehensive federal immigration reform.
it's come as something of a relief to witness the emergence of Congressman Paul Ryan as a rare credible voice of fiscal responsibility and small-government conservatism on the national scene. Virtually alone among his party, the forty-year-old representative from Wisconsin and ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee has had the stones to offer detailed conservative ideas for balancing the federal budget and reducing the debt.
And no, those ideas aren't pretty — and they shouldn't be. Ryan's budget blueprint, which he calls A Roadmap for America's Future, achieves savings chiefly through cuts in costly — and popular — entitlement programs (that's right — Medicare and Social Security), and by freezing domestic discretionary spending for the next ten years. Which is gonna hurt, and which is why the Republican leadership, who were all seen drunk at the Bush-Cheney orgy yet still have the gall to mouth risible platitudes about limited government, has kept Ryan's Roadmap at arm's length while offering exactly zero substantive ideas of its own.
It would be hard to argue that any single member of the House has a larger influence outside the institution of Congress — or displays a greater fidelity to his stated principles — than Ron Paul of Texas. And as God is our witness, he is a force for good. This realization has been a long time coming. When Paul was on his first tour of Congress in the mid-1980s, he was regarded as by far the most conservative member of the Texas delegation and perhaps the most right-wing member of Congress. Back then, he was a wild-eyed one-note John Brown, inveighing against the evils of the Fed and preaching return to a currency based on gold. Half the time, people mistook him for a LaRouchian. With such determined eccentricity, you're bound to attract flaky allies, and Paul certainly did. But he held firm to his core of the purest libertarianism in the Congress, and it has taken exploding debt, many foreign entanglements, a pointless drug war, government invasions of privacy, and out-of-control Pentagon budgets and entitlements for the rest of the country to finally catch up to Ron Paul.
Has the rest of the country caught up to Ron Paul? If only, Esquire, but glad to see you have. (I will note that Esquire has a history of overrespecting politicians of all varieties, but I'm glad they have at least been ecumenical enough to speak good about some things that actually are good.)