Paul Ryan is no Randian

As part of phase 1 of the Left’s plan to define then destroy Paul Ryan, we’re now being treated to article after article after article detailing Ryan’s alleged devotion to Ayn Rand.  For those who aren’t familiar with Rand, she’s an anti-communist, atheist, libertine libertarian who wrote two famous (but tedious) economic screeds masquerading as novels.  Rand is a divisive figure amongst conservative intellectuals because she was a militant atheist — utterly contemptuous of the faithful.  She’s a hate figure on the Left because of her withering critique of collectivism.  To the Left, a “Randian” is a social darwinist capitalist who would slaughter the poor if he could.  So when a Leftist calls a politician a Randian, they’re delivering the ultimate insult.

But that tells only part of the story.  For conservatives of my generation (I’m one year older than Paul Ryan) Rand often represented an exit ramp from economic liberalism.  Then as now our educational system — both public and private — was steeped in collectivism and deeply critical of capitalism.  Reading a Rand character’s epic rants (her novels are full of “monologuing”) was like getting splashed with cold water.  When I read Rand’s novels, I was put off by her atheism and painfully bored by her plots but also exhilarated by her dissent from socialism.  Sure, Hayek would have been a better first read, but for better or worse (mostly worse) Atlas Shrugged was passed around much more than Road to Serfdom, and for many conservatives reading Rand was part of the rite of passage out of liberalism.

So when Paul Ryan said this:

[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.

I knew exactly what he meant.  But understanding Rand as a critic of collectivism does not mean embracing Rand as a model for policy or morality.  In fact, by virtually every objective measure that matters, Ryan is no Randian.

Most importantly, Paul Ryan is a faithful Catholic, counting Thomas Aquinas as a key influence.  By contrast, here’s Rand speaking about religion in an interview:

Playboy: Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?

Ayn Rand: Qua religion, no – in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason.

And here’s Paul Ryan on abortion:

I’m as pro-life as a person gets . . . You’re not going to have a truce. Judges are going to come up. Issues come up, they’re unavoidable, and I’m never going to not vote pro-life.

Here’s Ayn Rand:

An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).

Finally, Rand was an implacable opponent of the welfare state, utterly opposed to the social safety net in any recognizable form.  The Ryan budget, on the other hand, represents a creative effort to not only make Medicare sustainable over the long run, but also to make it work better for seniors.  Watch the video below and then try to argue that those are the words of a man who doesn’t care about seniors and who doesn’t care about preserving their access to affordable, high-quality health care:

The bottom line? Actions speak louder than words, and Paul Ryan’s career in public service represents in many ways the best the conservative movement has to offer — a faith-filled man who defends the most vulnerable in society even as he seeks creative ways to sustain an American system that tens of millions of Americans depend on and value.

Ayn Rand would not approve.

Patricia Arquette, It’s Time to Admit: It’s a Great Time to Be a Girl
When Thugs and Liars Lose
How Political Correctness Improved My Life
I Thought Social Issues Only Favored Democrats
  • jaaayyyzzzeee

    OK, Paul Ryan now claims he’s re-thunk his youthful infatuation with Ms. Ayn Rand (anagram, ironically: And Ryan); nevertheless his budget proposals pretty much emulate the philsophy she articulated here, in Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World:

    “Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal.”

  • David French

    Jayzee, I’m curious. The Ryan budget increases the size of the federal government — just at a slower rate than the Dems propose — and makes Medicare solvent over the long run. Where in Atlas Shrugged or the Fountainhead does Rand endorse preserving the social safety net over the long run? What part of Ryan’s budget, specifically, is Randian? Either you don’t know the Ryan budget or you don’t know much about Ayn Rand.

  • ignoramus

    It would solve the problem of the comparison if you just focused on the “pursuit of Happiness”, instead of belief in the Creator of the Universe. Pursuit of happiness is the main goal for anyone professing a positive notion of humanity doing the right thing to better our existence. Pursuing Happiness, not Heaven is far more desirable than pursuing Heaven, which we are instructed, just won’t happen. Ask any of those guys on bicycles what the Plan of Happiness is and watch them light up!
    You are going to hear the “Pursuit of Happiness” a lot in the next three months, I guarantee it!

  • Russell Dee

    Ryan now says he does not support Ayn Rand. What a laugh! This year Ryan began hiding his admiration of Ayn Rand only because he figured out it was a political liability to show his true self. Ryan only started to disavow Ayn Rand this year. And saying he an Ayn Rand supporter only when he was young is a big fat lie because Paul Ryan did not (fake) withdraw support for Ayn Rand until this year and he is 42 now so he is hardly young.
    His recent and phony conversion away from Ayn Rand is a phony scam to try to make his image more palatable to independents and moderates. He knows he needs moderates and independents because he has been contemplating higher political office since he was one of the people being talked about for a potential presidential run this year and he knew he was one of the guys being considered for VP this year. Paul Ryan figured out that he had to conceal his true Ayn Rand affinity and support of her philosophy in order to pursue higher political office. His new-found and fake disapproval of Ayn Rand is just a case of him hiding his true support of Ayn Rand. The author of the article above is either too stupid to realize that Paul Ryan is trying to conceal his true affinity and support for Ayn Rand or the author is just as wicked as Paul Ryan so he’s trying to help Paul Ryan conceal his true support and affinity for Ayn Rand.
    Either way his opinion is sh!t.
    And BTW Ayn Rand, the supposed rugged individualist, ended up leaning on the government for both social security and medicare so she turned out to be a big phony and a hypocrite.

  • David Davies

    And you know all these things, how? The pretty pink unicorns in the smoke from your bong tell you?

  • Jesus Morales

    Just because you read and are influenced by a book doesn’t mean you have to agree with every last thing in it. I hear a lot of Democrats, including President Obama, praising Ronald Reagan, but I don’t see him or any other Democrats proposing Reaganomics. Ayn Rand has a lot of ideas which are attractive to conservatives, but it doesn’t mean we just mindlessly ape all her beliefs. The very fact that Ayn Rand was an atheist and Paul Ryan is a Catholic explodes your whole nasty screed all by itself, regardless of the other facts present.

    Look, you all are free to disagree with Paul Ryan but at least have some good reasons for doing so. The extent to which Democrats are making things up this election cycle is ridiculous. Spin, I accept as part of politics. Making up charges out of thin air, not so much.

  • Pingback: Ayn Rand giving Paul Ryan the Pip Among the Papists()

  • Bob Wiley

    Great point. In its quest to re-elect the President, the Obama campaign will adhere to the standards of truth like David Barton does in his book JEFFERSON LIES.

  • JC Garrett

    Actually, Ryan also said he passes out copies of Atlas Shrugged for Christmas gifts. And here is what he said, HIMSELF, about her “morality”:

    ” I think Ayn Rand did more than anybody to build a moral case for capitalism, the morality of individualism, and this to me is what matters most.”

    You can watch him say it here:

    He said that in 2009.

    Of course, Paul Ryan is no Atheist. But he is very much a “Randian”. He just takes his inspiration from her cruel “individualism at all costs”, “I’ve got mine, don’t care if you get yours” economic policy. Then he tries to combine that with an authoritarian view of Christianity which completely omits the “collectivism” commanded by Jesus Christ himself.

    Ryan’s philosophy is more of a hodge-podge, cobbled together from different elements of authoritarianism and “objectivism”.

    I much prefer Jesus’ philosophy. Or even Thomas Jefferson’s. The author in the above link lays it out very plainly:

    “Even back in Jefferson’s day, “self-interest, or rather self-love, or egoism” was being proposed by some as the basis of morality, but the drafter of the Declaration of Independence was having none of it.

    Self-love, Jefferson warned, “is no part of morality. Indeed it is exactly its counterpart. It is the sole antagonist of virtue, leading us constantly by our propensities to self-gratification in violation of our moral duties to others…. Take from man his selfish propensities, and he can have nothing to seduce him from the practice of virtue.””

  • Alan Bean
  • roadlesstraveled

    I am a faithful Christian, and I love Ayn Rand’s writings. So???

  • John Sawyer

    I’m curious how you reconcile Rand’s strongest exhortation–never give anybody anything unless you’re paying them for work done–with Jesus’s equally strong (and in your religion, better-sourced) exhortation to always give things to the needy that they need, without asking or expecting anything in return.

  • ymoore

    “[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.”

    Collectivism? How about community? When did community become a vice to be avoided? The first century church in Acts didn’t think community was a defect. Rather, community occurred among them because of their experience with a loving God, and because of that, they shared and “there were no needy persons among them.” Paul Ryan learned that the rich are the “makers” and the working and poorer people are “takers” from someone, but it wasn’t Jesus the Christ.

  • ymoore

    No one is saying Ryan’s an atheist because he believes in Aya Rand’s philosophies that praise the wealthy and villainies workers and the poor — the vast majority of whom are workers. We’re just saying her conclusions are false, not good for society, and as a Christian, anti-Christ because they are opposed to everything Christ taught us about how to live. Jesus was very clear about how to treat someone in trouble, in need — friend or foe. People like to say, “Oh, Jesus meant that for individuals, not societies.” Jesus started his ministry quoting the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied against Israel and its leaders for the way they wronged the poor — who worked AND WERE POOR because they’d been swindled out of the wealth they created by the rich and powerful. He was very clear about paying taxes.

    We as the Church in the 21st century global economy have to come to grips with the fact that of all the false gods in the world, the only one Jesus took the time to name and warn us about was mammon, wealth. He said we could not serve God and wealth. We have to decide if we’re the Church of Jesus Christ or the church of mammon, wealth. We can’t be both.

  • Evan Maughan

    What? “Ask any of those guys on bicycles what the Plan of Happiness is and watch them light up!” If you mean LDS missions (which I was one many years ago in Peru – sans bicycle), they light up if you ask them anything – they are like puppies when you show them attention. Pursuit of happiness – I think you are confusing that with the Plan of Happiness which we also refer to as the Plan of Salvation. Pursuing happiness without understanding why we are here or Christ’s role in our mortal lives, is empty. One can not receive a fulness of joy without heading the words of the Lord, “come, follow me”. If your suggesting that LDS missionaries believe and teach that happiness is obtained through secular means, you could not be further off base.

    As for Ayn Rand, she has a great prospective on what evils government can inflict on a nation as it attempts to manipulate the masses and control the producers. What Ayn Rand does not have a good prospective on is what “evil” truly is or its source.

  • Evan Maughan

    I like Einstein – but do not follow Judiasm.
    I love C.S. Lewis – but I am not a protestant.
    I admire Jefferson – but I am not a Deist.
    I like many things Ayn Rand wrote but I am not an atheist.
    I greatly enjoy the Frenches, our host, but I am the opposite of a Calvanist.
    Conclusion – it is silly to believe that a person must follow ALL the tenants and beliefs of one that the like or admire.

  • Evan Maughan

    Wow – I think you are getting into mind reading territory with this one. Most of the Christians that I know who like Rand, do not believe in a Nietzche style of individualism. We are our brother’s keeper, we just believe strongly that Caesar’s role should not be that of redistribution of wealth. Charity should be freely given and not forced by government.

  • Evan Maughan

    Will not speak for the poster above, but will answer for myself.

    I do not believe in government stepping in and rewarding poverty – thus creating incentives to stay in poverty. Make the poor too comfortable and they may choose to stay poor (data shows that this is the case – look at the failure of the “Great Society”). That which government incentivises increases, that which government punishes decreases. Thus, government should not be Big Brother.

    As individuals and faith communities, we can be a powerful force for good and TRUE charity. Most Christians that like Rand do not believe that we should not help lift our brother. Ayn Rand is not the “gospel” to us – that belongs to another.

  • Kit

    Would you consider it good for a charity to spend, I don’t know, say $5 billion a year if it can only bring in $1 billion a year?

    If so, then how, I ask, is that charity supposed to exist in a few years? It does the poor no good for the government to spend itself into insolvency, something the Ryan Budget Plan hopes to avert.