The Big Idea Guy

How a Novelist, an Economist, a President and a saint helped shape Paul Ryan's views about government

Martin Schoeller for TIME

Paul Ryan may be America's most famous budget wonk. But he's more than a number cruncher. Ryan's budget math is drawn from the political and economic theories of his many intellectual idols. It's possible that Mitt Romney loves the grand ideas of the conservative movement as much as Ryan does, but he certainly doesn't name-check long-dead authors and economists with the relish of his running mate. "Ryan is more of a movement conservative, more a product of the conservative movement" than Romney, says Edwin Feulner, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Ryan wants nothing less than to transform government, slashing its...

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