John Kelly, author of “The Great Motality” and “The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People,” writes:
Paul Ryan and his siblings are proud of their Irish famine-to-fortune history. They trace their paternal lineage to Ryan’s great-great grandfather, James Ryan, who fled the famine in Ireland for America in 1851, just after the worst of the catastrophe was over. But there’s something wrong with that scenario, and it is this: Ryan’s high-profile economic philosophy is the very same one that hurt, not helped, his forebears during the famine—and hurt them badly.
The Irish famine, widely regarded as the worst natural disaster of the 19th century, began when, between 1845 and 1850, repeated crop failures reduced the population of Ireland by a third. But crop failure wasn’t what caused the worst of it: a government economic philosophy called “Moralism” and speeches made in Parliament that are almost word-for-word like Ryan’s own speeches about his Republican budget are what made the famine catastrophic, causing needless deaths.