Uncomfortable Truth Dredged from the Memory Hole

While everybody is busy having the vapors over exciting, dynamic Catholic Paul Ryan, permit me to throw a wet blanket on the festivities, as is my custom, by pointing out that a) he was (until it became awkward) a fanatical devotee of one of the great enemies of God the 20th century produced: Ayn Rand.  You know.  Ayn Rand the lunatic atheist who swore to devote herself to selfishness?  The zealot for abortion?  One of the most poisonous writers who ever lived?  Here’s where things stood a couple of months ago when I wrote:

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I simply want to direct your attention to Daniel Nichols, who points out passages from Sts. Thomas and Ambrose as he looks at Paul Ryan’s sudden and preposterous claim that his love affair with the thought of Ayn Rand is an “urban legend”. Riiiiight:

I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.”

And:

Ayn Rand, more than anybody else, did a fantastic job explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism, and that, to me, is what matters most.”

And:

The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

I’m quite happy to welcome any move to reject Rand and follow St. Thomas. But by “welcome” I mean, “Trust, but verify”. When a former embezzler walks into Church and immediately sets out to convince everybody to put him in charge of the finances, common sense suggests a prudent evaluation of his claims to be a Reformed Character. And when Ryan starts his proclamation of fealty to the thought of St. Thomas with a good solid lie that it is a baseless “urban legend” that Rand has been a huge influence on him, he does not inspire confidence that what he is saying about anything else is going to be honest either. This is, after all, a man who was, just this past October, addressing the Heritage Foundation using the Manichaean jargon of Rand to divide the human race into “Makers” and “Takers”. Reader Dan C (a doctor, not an out of work Occupy protester with a degree in puppetry) summarizes my own caution about Ryan’s sudden invocation of St. Thomas and his ridiculous pretense that Rand was never an influence:

[H]e used the vocabulary paradigm of Ayn Rand in his address to the Heritage Foundation in October in which he identified the world as divided into the “Makers vs. the Takers” and he insisted he was going to protect the Makers (John Galt-style men) against the Takers, which I guess is me and my family. As a “Taker” in his construct, he is a threat to me and my family. Takers, in this construct, is everyone south of the creative productivity of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. As such, not being a John Galt, I am declared his enemy and he is out to wage war on me and my family.

Perhaps he changed or maybe this was just an Academy-Award performance at Georgetown. Why should I believe him now after he issued a call to class war on me and my family in October?

In your commentary about some “lie,” I ask you, is the urban myth comment he made a “lie”? Why is he hiding the past association and clear intellectual influence (Maker vs. Taker) and enthusiastic admiration (as a speaker at an Ayn Rand conference)?

I need more than one new speech to trust the man who declared class war on me.

I am similarly dubious. When I hear Ryan a) ceasing to pretend that he was never an acolyte of Rand and b) doing more than paying lip service to Thomas and citing more than the word “subsidiarity” to give his rhetoric a veneer of Catholic respectability, I will take his Sister Souljah Moment with regard to Rand seriously. Till then, I’m not buyin’ Ryan. He seems to me to be a particularly odious epigone of the Randian Class Warrior against the weak, dressing his class warfare with a few rags from Catholic social teaching to make it look nice. When the Randian jargon goes and is replaced with actual Catholic social teaching beyond the bare repetition of the sacred word “subsidiarity” (interpreted to mean “individualism and hostility to the state”) I’ll start to trust that he is serious.

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As far as I can see, not one thing has changed since that was written.  The man is a champion for the Ruling Class’ war against the rest of us. He denies, not repents, ever having said things like this:

He is also an unreconstructed neocon who gives every indication of having learned not one thing about the disastrous Bush policies, foreign and domestic, that led to the election of Obama in the first place.

By the way, another thing that has not changed is that the Etch a Sketch Candidate is a liar who will say anything to win. So here he is courting the conservative Catholic vote:

Oddly, he neglects to mention that he did exactly the same thing Obama is doing to the Church nationally, but he did it in Massachusetts, ordering Catholic hospitals to dispense abortifacients.

Some folks want to believe Romney’s etch a sketch claim. I believe it as deeply as I believed Obama’s claim to have never been influenced by 20 years of Jeremiah Wright, his claim to support traditional marriage, and his solemn promise to never impinge on religious liberty or the conscience of Catholics.

If you trust either of these party leaders, I have a bridge to sell you.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Suckers.

    As If not accomodatIng evIl wasnt enough, a whole nest of Ryan supporters show up and remInd me of an even better one.

    If Obama’s really the worst evIl In thIs electIon, and I submIt he Is, you sure couldnt tell It readIng the GOP rank and fIle somedays.

  • Dms

    As someone who is going to vote for Romney/Ryan, I take issue with the notion that I am “being played.” I know what I’m doing, I know what the options are, I know what the results might be if “my guys” win. I think most serious Catholics who vote as I will are similar. There is no need to insult our intelligence.
    As for all this Rand/Ryan stuff, I don’t see it as much of an issue and the notion that Ryan has “lied” about it is itself misleading.

  • http://saintmarkslutheran.org Mark Brown

    Pretty harsh. Good thing I’m a Lutheran and understand a couple of things: 1) we are sinners and saints at the same time 2) in this vale of tears we don’t choose between good and evil but between evil and worse trusting in the grace of Christ. I’ll take the Randian (even one forced into the closet) over the therapeutic mush any day. There therapeutic mush is just one big ball of law and gospel confused. The Randian makes a clear distinction and can carry out the law. I’ll vote for the wise Turks over the mush headed Christians.

  • Aimee M. Cooper

    Hi Mark, nice to see you’re as feisty as always! You keep everyone on their toes. And I appreciate that you point out that there are problems in Ayn Rand’s thought, which is a good thing in case people are not familiar with her writings.

    I also read Ayn Rand when young and enjoyed it, though I didn’t agree with all of it, long before I became a Christian. But I was influenced in a positive way by her philosophy of self-reliance and personal responsibility, as opposed to dependence on handouts from the state or demanding others “take care of me,” when I was perfectly able in body and mind of taking care of myself.

    I was most impressed by her emphasis on taking pride in your work, including very humble jobs that are often looked down on (I loved the scene about an executive who becomes a burger-flipper, and makes it his job to flip the very best burger he can). It was largely due to that that, when I began my spiritual journey of seeking God as a young adult, I chose to work humble jobs and do them as well as I could, taking pride in them, jobs that gave me time on the side to conduct my spiritual search, rather than pursue a “big career” that might eat up all my time and take me away from God. I lived that way for a long time, and it was an amazingly rewarding and fruitful time of life, though materially simple and not financially enriching. I think we could use more of that philosophy in today’s world.

    As a Christian and conservative Catholic, I recently re-read Atlas Shrugged, and still appreciate her analysis of the inevitable failure of social progressivism, though I still didn’t like other aspects of her philosophy, and of course now reject her atheism and sexual amorality. But I still see what is good in her thought, and appreciate the good effect it had in my life when young. And isn’t it part of the Catholic way to acknowledge what is good in the belief systems of others, though without condoning what is in error? Do we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater? It does not seem to me, historically, that this really is the Catholic way.

    I don’t know Paul Ryan so can’t speak for him personally of course, but I think he most likely reads Ayn Rand as I do, both critically and appreciatively, and uses the effective aspects of her work in trying to speak to a wide audience, as their representative, on economic matters. I don’t see him endorsing atheism, radical individualism or moral relativism. Rather he repeatedly emphasizes morality, and in the end uses the term “free will,” which is a Catholic concept, too. And I assume that if he requires his interns to read her, he probably also discusses it with them, to point out what is valuable in her thought and what is not. I least I certainly hope so.

    As for the language of “takers” vs. “makers,” I see it as the difference between “socialist redistribution,” where the state takes from some against their will to give to others, and all the attendant problems with that; and authentic “charity,” where one gives willingly out of the fruits of one’s labor to help others. And we can’t give much charitably if the fruits of our labor are taken away from us, and used to fund things like contraception and abortion, now can we? I suspect that’s the meaning behind Ryan’s words, Ryan who is, after all, extremely pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. Moral relativist, he is not!

    So I don’t have a problem with him, would need something more compelling than this to seriously doubt his ability to lead well, and in a way consistent with Catholic teaching. Actually I’m grateful he was picked, because I’m so displeased with Romney’s candidacy, think he’ll hold Romney’s feet to the fire on moral issues – the only reason why I now might be able to vote for Romney. We’ll see how things unfold as the election nears.

    Sorry for the length, and no need to agree with me on this. Thanks for keeping us on our toes – and Ryan too, if he’s reading this! You’re a real gate-keeper in that. God bless you!

  • The Deuce

    “Takers, in this construct, is everyone south of the creative productivity of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. As such, not being a John Galt, I am declared his enemy and he is out to wage war on me and my family.”

    Wait, what? First of all, Rand’s vocabulary referred to “parasites”, “looters”, and “moochers” rather than “makers and takers,” so the vocabulary is different (and less pejorative in Ryan’s case) even if there’s an influence there. And why would a doctor think that he’s a “taker” under Paul Ryan’s view? Ryan is pretty obviously contrasting productive citizens who produce more value than they consume to those who consume more than they produce, and pointing out the obvious fact that we’re going to end up an impoverished society if too many people decide to be the latter. A doctor who is actually working and providing something of value is rather obviously making more than taking. Even Ayn Rand didn’t consider doctors to be “looters” (and she considered the biggest looters to be those business leaders who get in bed with the government), though she of course glorified successful tycoons to an absurd degree.

    Frankly, I very much doubt that Dan C honestly believes that Paul Ryan considers him to be a “taker”. Ryan should be more honest and forthcoming about this, but so should Dan C.

  • http://www.strandedinnewmexico.blogspot.com Silver S. Parnell

    I think if your readers were more familiar with Ayn Rand’s PHILOSOPHY OF SELFISHNESS and the fact that HER hero, the guy upon whom she based her fictional heros, was a serial killer / dismemberer who kidnapped a 12-year old girl, raped, her, dismembered her body and removed its organs, then delivered the pieces to her parents after accepting ransom, we would have no controversy at all. We would all be in agreement that Paul Ryan’s philosophic foundation is not the Catholic Church. There is an Ayn Rand lexicon online, as well as plenty of other information about her. Ayn Rand’s economic ideas stem from her atheistic, sociopathic philosophy of selfishness. You can’t divorce her economic ideas from the philosophy from which it sprang. Everything she recommends is suspect because it arises from a perverted and evil foundation. Paul Ryan is equally suspect, especially now that he has lied about his former infatuation with her.

  • Marie