Paul Ryan debates David Brooks. What I heard at the debate was shaped by Jonah Goldberg’s description of libertarians and conservatives. The conservative wants the government to be conservative, with little concern about its size. The libertarian wants the government to be small, with little concern about whether it is conservative.

I heard Brooks arguing the conservative viewpoint. He wants a government that “builds character,” regardless of its size. He worries that without government help, the underclass will stay unmarried, uneducated, and dependent.

I heard Ryan argue that the most urgent issue is the unsustainable path of government spending. He worries that without action soon, we will head toward a debt crisis of the sort pending in Europe.

At a tactical level, I heard Brooks arguing for political compromise. He feared that Republicans would reject useful compromises and end up with nothing. To me, this make some sense. The Republicans hold one part of one branch of government. The balance of power does not suggest that they can dictate the terms of current policy.

Ryan took a stronger line. However, he touted the Ryan-Rivlin plan for health care, which I assume required some compromise in thinking. No one ever confused Alice Rivlin with Ayn Rand.