The Distributist Review Notices the Same Thing I Do

The Distributist Review Notices the Same Thing I Do April 27, 2012

Libertarians like Paul Ryan (and, nota bene, Ron Paul) like to talk about subsidiarity–and only that–when they want to give the illusion they care about Catholic social teaching. Sorry. Anybody who looks to Ayn Rand as their guru does not really take Catholic teaching seriously. You might as well say that Stalin is your guide to understanding the Church’s teaching on solidarity.

UPDATE: Some folks are buying the new meme that Paul Ryan is putting out that Ayn Rand is not a big influence on him and all his Libertarianism really comes straight out of the Catechism.


Now I’m quite happy to hear that, after only seven years, he has publicly rejected Ayn Rand’s heartless and icy philosophy. But the notion that it is an “urban legend” that he has trumpeted her work is, ‘ow you say?, a lie. Instead of pretending he never did this, he should just say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry” and not blame people for knowing what he said.

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    • Thomas R

      That’s good to hear. The more reject her the better. Her outlook is about one of the only philosophies I’d call “evil.” (Even Communism I think has more to its credit)

      • Write a hundred times ‘Only’ does not mean ‘few’.”

        • From, since you want to be pedantic:


          being the single one or the relatively few of the kind.

      • The Deuce

        Well, it has a few tens of millions more agonizing deaths to its credit, certainly.

        Other than that, I’m not sure what basis there is for calling one god-rejecting, dehumanizing philosophy “better” than another one.

        • MarylandBill

          I think to a certain extent there is a basis for the idea that Objectivism is, at root, even more evil than Communism. Communism, for all its faults, at least claimed to be working for the good of the poor. In contrast Objectivism is built on selfishness, on pride.

          Now, lets not mistake this as saying Communism was good. It was not both for its denial of God and for its essential consequentialist nature. But at some level, as a philosophy, it was built upon concern for the other and social justice. Objectivism is built on the very first of the seven deadly sins, pride. If Objectivism was able to take over the world, selfishness would be celebrated as virtue like no other.

      • Dan C

        Paul Ryan spoke at the following Ayn Rand conference:

        It wasnin 2005.

        As recently as last year he had speeches about “Makers” and “Takers” which is core objectivist language.

        There are significant foundational concerns he has not allayed. He is not convincing me on much right now.

    • Dan C

      Did he shrug her off?

      (I crack myself up.)

      • Patrick

        Perhaps his thinking (fountain)headed in a different direction?

        (Oh dear God).

    • Ted Seeber

      Must have finally noticed she’s an Atheist.

  • I admit I thought I was a big Ayn Rand devotee aas well until a few months ago b/c I didn’t understand the full scope of what she espoused and I read her work years ago when scrutinizing things I read was less important to me. I’ve no idea if that’s the case with Ryan, but that’s my two cents. It’s with hearing him out.

  • “The overarching threat to our whole society today is the exploding federal debt,” Ryan said, speaking in a Gothic, oak-paneled auditorium on the Georgetown campus.

    “The Holy Father, Pope Benedict, has charged that governments, communities, and individuals running up high debt levels are ‘living at the expense of future generations’ and ‘living in untruth.'”

    Ryan said the actions of individuals, charities, private institutions and firms should take precedence over government programs – citing a Catholic doctrine known as “subsidiarity”.

    “I feel it’s important to discuss how, as a Catholic in public life, my own personal thinking on these issues has been guided by my understanding of the Church’s social teaching,” Ryan said. “Simply put, I do not believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government.”

    Before his Georgetown speech, however, Ryan disavowed Rand’s views.

    “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told the National Review. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my world view.”

    Ryan added that he would rather identify with Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Dominican priest who promoted the philosophy that man needed divine help in the pursuit of knowledge.

    Via the Chicago Tribune.

  • Dan C

    This essay in the distirbutist review is excellent. Two things-it emphasizes the communitarianism of distributism which was present in early forms and attempts at the practice of this economic philosophy. This essay also de-emphasizes “the family.” I say this not as an enemy of “the family.” The family though in many formulations can evolve into a “fortress family” activity in conflict and battling “community.” Such a formulation is antithetical to the “common good” of Catholicism. “The family” as a construct becomes rapidly enveloped in libertarianism and Ayn Rand’s systems as the “selfish unit,” if not intentionally than functionally, initially supplanting the individual as “the selfish unit” and creating a group of temporarily cooperating individuals who pursue common goals without regard to the community.

    I would like to believe Paul Ryan is merely misguided and not deceptive (or self-deceptive) on this matter. (This is far more generous an interpretation than conservatives provide to their political opponents.) I do not know what he thinks about how the sick and the poor will fare for the short and medium term should his plan be enacted. It will be awful on them. Horrifying. As well as those public and private institutions serving disproportionate numbers of the poor (hospitals and schools). They will go bankrupt. This may be part of the plan, however.

    No responsible leader of a charitable organziation welcomes these goals. They have been on record in the past fearing these types of plans. These leaders are clear that there will be insufficient private charitable support for the poor, the ill, and the elderly.

    I fear we will see child beggars like Mexico City.

    • The Deuce

      “The family” as a construct becomes rapidly enveloped in libertarianism and Ayn Rand’s systems as the “selfish unit

      No, the family pretty much disappears in Ayn Rand’s systems. Her books have a curious lack of children, or even of functioning married couples, and her selfish, atomistic, anti-family view of sex was lived out in her real life as well as in her fictional portrayals.

      I do not know what he thinks about how the sick and the poor will fare for the short and medium term should his plan be enacted.

      Well, since his plan doesn’t actually start reducing the deficit for more than a decade, probably not much will change. He’s attempting to balance the budget in the long term.

      Now let me ask you something. In thinking about the sick and poor and the elderly, have you ever stopped to ponder what will happen to them when, after having been made totally dependent on expensive and inefficient government programs by cynical vote-seeking politicians, the government goes belly-up from its debt, and all those programs disappear overnight? Because I assure you, that *will* happen if we don’t draw back the debt in the next few years, and if you ignored the available warnings and continued to vote for bigger government, then you – yes you personally – will be partly guilty for their suffering when it happens.

      • KML

        Amen. AND by then you will have a general public trained to accept and expect that the government will step in and help the poor, and not they themselves.

        I am tired of politicians getting elected on campaigns that seem to be the the equivalent of the kid who threw candy to the school assembly in middle school. We are remarkably inept at choosing politicians who actually challenge us to do the short-term hard thing for the long-term good thing. Thanks, original sin.

        • Ted Seeber

          “Amen. AND by then you will have a general public trained to accept and expect that the government will step in and help the poor, and not they themselves.”

          I thought after 80 years of Social Security and Welfare we already had that. Which is it?

    • Ted Seeber

      I will actually believe he has been self deceptive- and converted- when he gives out framed copies of Rerum Novarum as Christmas Presents.

  • Kirt Higdon

    I’ve never hear or seen Ron Paul cite Ayn Rand, nor for that matter the principle of subsidiarity. He has praised the Catholic Church for its support of immigrants and his attempts to rein in the banking system (the so-called financial services industry) strike me as congruent with the concerns about excessive concentrations of wealth and financial power which have been expressed by every pope from Leo XIII to the present.

    • Vickie

      Ayn is listed in one of his books as an influence. In the same reference, however, he says, he does not agree with part of her philosophy, I would guess the atheistic parts. And some objectivists can’t stand Paul because he is a Theist. They also can be very war-like. So Paul is not an ideological Randian, the people that I have worked with in campaigning for him have been predominately Christian. The supporters that I have an admirable ability to have civil discussions about areas of disagreement. There is a faction that composed of Libertarian Ideologues and objectivists that I don’ t trust. It is good that Mark is bringing this up.

      • Vickie

        I meant that “his supporters have an admirable ability to have civil discussions….

      • Kirt Higdon

        I checked out in the reading list of one of Ron Paul’s books today and saw that among a few dozen recommended books to read, he included Atlas Shrugged along with the comment that he had serious disagreements with Ayn Rand on many issues. It was the only book concerning which he added such a caveat, so I think that’s pretty far from him considering Ayn Rand his guru. I would not recommend Atlas Shrugged to anyone; it is a tedious pedantic bore. I would recommend her earlier work We the Living, a novel with a Russian setting and showing a lot of Russian influece, written before Rand became too Americanized and Hollywoodized. We the Living was made into an excellent movie in fascist Italy of all places, then surpressed after a very short release when Mussolini’s censors belatedly realized that its anti-Communist theme could well be taken as thinly disguised anti-fascism. I saw it at a special showing at UCLA at the invitation of a Russian Jewish woman who was very impressed by the portrayal of the early Communist regime.

        • Vickie

          Thank you Kirt, for finding that specific reference.

  • The Deuce

    Mark, I think this is pretty unfair to both Paul Ryan and Ron Paul. Neither of them endorses Ayn Rand’s entire philosophy. Ron Paul personally lived out subsidiary as a doctor, and your other commenters above have just shown the wider context of Paul Ryan’s views. Heck, if Paul Ryan were a Randian, he wouldn’t have voted for the bailouts (I kind of wish he had been a little more Randian in that particular instance)!

    Besides that, hopefully rejecting Rand doesn’t mean we have to think she got *every single thing* wrong, because she got some things right! More than anything, she artfully portrayed how liberals, in their envy and zeal for so-called “fairness”, relentlessly attack and disparage the very people who produce the wealth they rely on, and end up destroying that wealth and devastating the lives of the people they were supposedly trying to “help” in the first place.

    Of course, she got a huge amount wrong. Rather than correctly identifying envy a sin, she wrongfully identified selfishness as a virtue. Rather than advocating genuine and effective charity over harmful and counter-productive government redistributionism, she advocated radical individual atomism and a complete abolishment of charity. And she pretty much equated financial success with a person’s ultimate moral worth.

    But her biggest blind spot was something she got half-right. She failed to see how her analogy of Atlas holding up the world (until being constantly pilloried by liberal attacks causes him to “shrug” and drop it) applies not just to the entrepreneurs, inventors, and business leaders who “hold up the world” by producing material and financial capital, but also to the Church, the families, and the other institutions that “hold up the world” by producing the spiritual, moral, and social capital our society needs to hold together – ALL of which are just as much under attack by the Left. In fact, the production of financial capital depends on spiritual capital, because a society that loses its spiritual capital falls into corruption and chaos, and is no longer able to produce wealth, as its political and business “leaders” look to get ahead by scamming and cheating rather that through honest hard work, wealth production, and trade. We keep pointing out how atheists absorb and rely on our culture’s vestiges of Christian morality, while simultaneously denouncing Christianity, and Ayn Rand was no different in this regard.

    Ironically, when it came to moral, social, and spiritual capital, Ayn Rand just took it for granted that Atlas would always be there, holding up the world for her, no matter how much she attacked him, just like the liberals she denounced for doing the same thing. But I still give her credit for having come up with such an apt analogy in the first place, and for illustrating it in fiction better than anyone else has.

    • Ted Seeber

      “Besides that, hopefully rejecting Rand doesn’t mean we have to think she got *every single thing* wrong, because she got some things right! More than anything, she artfully portrayed how liberals, in their envy and zeal for so-called “fairness”, relentlessly attack and disparage the very people who produce the wealth they rely on, and end up destroying that wealth and devastating the lives of the people they were supposedly trying to “help” in the first place.”

      I would consider that to be one of the things she got wrong.


    “You know you’ve arrived in politics when you have an urban legend about you, and this one is mine,” chuckles Representative Paul Ryan, the Budget Committee chairman, as we discuss his purported obsession with author and philosopher Ayn Rand…..”

    And note, as I have pointed out before, that Rand denounced anyone who did not agree with her on EVERYTHING instead of just a lot of things, as “concept-stealers”. E.g., those awful libertarians, who do not base their positions on her PHILOSOPHY.

    • The Deuce

      Also a good quote from that article:

      “This gets to the Jack Kemp in me, for the lack of a better phrase,” he says — crafting public policy from broad ideas. “How do you produce prosperity and upward mobility?” he asks. “How do you attack the root causes of poverty instead of simply treating its symptoms? And how do you avoid a crisis that is going to hurt the vulnerable the most — a debt crisis — from ever happening?”

      Would be nice if some of those “loving”, “caring”, sanctimonious liberals who denounce Ryan as an uncaring jerk would spend two seconds actually pondering that question, rather than preening about their own supposedly good intentions. If their intentions were actually good, if they were actually motivated by desire to help the poor rather than by their statist ideology, then they would be taking this problem seriously and trying to solve it.

      • Dan C

        I think your presumption of evil on the part of liberals is inaccurate.

        Ryan presents the new budget that ensures military expenditures over current budget cuts. He rejects the cuts intended for the military. He rejects increased revenue.

        Additionally, this is Ryan’s plan. It is incumbent in him to figure the solution to caring for the poor. He offers none.

        • The Deuce

          I think your presumption of evil on the part of liberals is inaccurate.

          It’s a lot more accurate than your presumption that Ryan is an Objectivist who would just like to let the poor hang.

          Ryan presents the new budget that ensures military expenditures over current budget cuts. He rejects the cuts intended for the military.

          Does he? In fact, as I pointed out, he doesn’t cut much at all over the next ten years. If you can show me that he plans to increase military spending indefinitely while reducing everything else, I’ll give you this point, but so far your statements indicate that you aren’t even remotely familiar with what’s in his plan. Of course, some level of military defense is a foundational obligation of any government to all its citizens, not just the poor or rich ones. Oh, and if you think this is Randian, perhaps you should look up Rand’s views on military expenditure.

          He rejects increased revenue.

          Nope, I’m quite sure that his plan hinges on the idea of *increased* revenue from a growing econo- Oh, wait, nevermind, “more revenue” is your doublespeak term for “more taxes” yes? You realize we could confiscate the entire net worth of every millionaire and billionaire in the country, and it would only pay the deficit for *one year* don’t you? And the harm it would do to the economy would redound to the poor as well.

          Additionally, this is Ryan’s plan. It is incumbent in him to figure the solution to caring for the poor. He offers none.

          It’s quite revealing of your mindset that you think a politician not coming up with some government solution to caring for the poor is the same as there not being any solution. Have you looked into how much charity Ryan gives, and how it compares to the amount of charity *you* give, by any chance?

          In fact, he’s trying to come up with a solution to prevent the poor from being utterly devastated when the government collapses under its debts, and to get the government out of the way so that *actually charitable people* can do more real, effective charity for the poor.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            Are you suggesting for a moment Ryan’s charitable contributions will care for the widows and orphans once he gets his legislative way? Really?

            I’ve dropped deuces that stank less.

            • The Deuce

              I think that actual charity in general, not just from Ryan personally, will always be more effective and humane than “charity” run by check-stamping federal bureaucrats, and that we should encourage real charity as much as possible, and endeavor not to put policies in place that usurp it.

              I also *KNOW* that the federal government can’t and won’t care for widows and orphans (and the sick and poor and…), and that when it goes bankrupt, those people will suffer greatly, and when that happens, their suffering will be on YOUR head, because you should have known better but chose not to.

              I also think you’ve also illustrated the hypocrisy of liberals on this topic nicely. You think that you’re more compassionate and concerned about the poor than people who actually give their *own* time and money to the poor, simply because you’re in favor of taking more of *other peoples’* money than they are.

              Pop quiz: Did Jesus tell his disciples to care for the widows, orphans, and poor? Or did he tell them to lobby the Roman government to confiscate taxes from Roman citizens, especially the rich ones, regardless of whether or not they were Christians, and give it to the poor on their behalf?

      • Ted Seeber

        The first step to understanding a “Debt Crisis” is that money is an invention of mankind, that the economy itself is an invented system, and that there is nothing natural about debt that mankind cannot simply choose to change. Including, gasp, the concept of saying “I am wrong about overspending, if I stop will you please forgive my past mistakes and erase my debt?” As well as there’s nothing wrong with the rich and powerful saying “I will give up a large part of my wealth that is currently invested, so that the country can have a second chance and a reset”.

        The world badly needs a financial jubilee at this stage in history- but nobody is courageous enough to declare one.

        • Martial Artist

          @Ted Seeber,

          You write [emphasis added]

          “…money is an invention of mankind, that the economy itself is an invented system, ….”

          Based on the highlighted assertions, I would inquire to know from you who you believe invented money, and who you belive invented the economy?

          As to the first point, no one knows with any certainty how or where money first came to be used, nor what was used as money. It is very widely believed by people who study ancient history that, once populations became large and complex enough to begin making and trading a variety of goods between each other, that it was much easier to have a token of exchange with which to acquire a good or service from another person, particularly if that person were far away, than it was for the farmer to carry bags of grain around looking for someone who weaves fabric and makes articles of clothing. In other words, barter was, quite early in human history, determined to be less productive than having a token of value that was widely recognized, and usually, also readily portable (except in some few isolated localities, such as Yap).

          As to the second point, the very word economy comes from the Greek οικoνομoσ, i.e., one who manages a household. It later came to be extended from management of a household or family to having the senses of “thrift,” “direction,” “administration,” and “public revenue of a state.”

          So, it was not, in any meaningful sense, “invented” but evolved as human populations and skills increased, tribes began to be divided into groups of families, and different “tribes” moved into areas having different relative abundances of different resources of use to all groups.

          Perhaps if one is going to weigh in on a topic by the use of categorical assertions, it would be wise for that person to know something of the topic on which he is writing.

          Pax et bonum,
          Keith Töpfer

  • Matthew

    You, yourself, seem to be lacking in a basic Catholic principle – there is some truth in all things. Or if you prefer Thomas; “Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish.” I am NOT a Randian – I haven’t even read any of her books. But to treat ALL of Rand’s philosohpy as EVIIILLL, goes againt the principle cited above and seems a smear on men who, it seems, do not embrace all aspects of her philosophy.

    • Tom

      @Matthew — I think you misread what Mark said. I don’t think he was saying that everything Rand believed was wrong…only that subsidiarity (the word, not the concept) seems to be used in order to create the image of Catholicity — even if the content lacks anything close to Catholic Social Teaching. For those who defend Rand, I have the following question: Is not the teaching of the Catholic Church sufficient? Even if there is “some good” in her beliefs, why risk the garbage it is wrapped in? Give me the Missal, the Catechism, and a Catholic Bible. Give me the Mass and the Eucharist and I have enough. Looking elsewhere just seems to be looking for trouble.

      • The Deuce

        Because the Bible is not an economics textbook?

        • Ted Seeber

          The Bible may not be an economics textbook, but it contains one in two parts. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts contain all the economics anybody needs.

          • Timbot2000

            Really! What does Acts say about the elastic function of time in valuation. Or the interplay of information and knowledge in general catallatics?
            I once read a protestant minister who claimed that all necessary medical knowledge was in the Bible too. Exactly how are you different from him?

        • Hezekiah Garrett

          And Atlas Shrugged or the Virtue of Selfishness is?

          I guess the Brown Trout strikes again!!!

      • Martial Artist


        You ask:

        Is not the teaching of the Catholic Church sufficient?

        The answer is, when matters such as politics and economics are addressed, specifics such as the application of the teachings are left to the laity as a matter of “prudential judgment.” The teachings of the magisterium must be considered, but they are not infrequently, and particularly on matters of the practical application of the teachings, not inherently infallible. In such matters, the task of determining the proper application falls to us laypersons, which has the consequence that we must do everything to educate ourselves as to the arena in which those prudential judgments are to operate. To remain anything less than as knowledgable as we can make ourselves is an abrogation of a duty assigned to us by God through his Church.

        Pax et bonum,
        Keith Töpfer

    • Mark Shea

      Nothing is all evil, including Rand’s philosophy. But it’s still got enough poison in it to kill an elephant.

  • I think Ron Paul, in particular, faces unique criticisms when it comes to political philosophy.

    When people describe Obama as a liberal, no (serious) person believes that he endorses all the worst tenets that liberals have ever championed. He shouldn’t have to distance himself from Marx unless he willfully ties himself to Marx in the first place. Similarly, if people describe Romney as a conservative, no (serious) person believes that he endorses Franco’s policies. He shouldn’t have to distance himself from Franco.

    Yet, for some reason, when Ron Paul is called a libertarian, he has to distance himself from every crazy libertarian thinker or philosophy that anyone has ever spoken. Unlike liberalism or conservatism, libertarianism is treated in the public sphere like its adherents march in lockstep on every issue, and ever libertarian is exactly like Ayn Rand.

    Now, I have not read everything Ron Paul has written or heard all of his speeches. If he has tied himself to immoral philosophy, then he deserves such criticism. I just don’t understand the automatic assumption that he’s a Randian just because he’s been called libertarian.

    Also, everyone should remember that he’s a member of the Republican, not Libertarian, party.

    • Timbot2000

      Frankly Andy, its already been hashed to death, Mark just has this weird rhetorical obsession with
      Ayn Rand = Libertarian
      Libertarian = Ayn Rand
      While completely ignoring other schools and strains of Libertarian thought that are distinctly anti-objectivist. It would be akin to an anti-Catholic writer attacking something written by, say, Patriarch Sviatoslav Schevchuk as being, “anti-Christian, being founded, as all Catholic thinkers are, on Aristotelian Thomism”, when, as a Byzantine, his theology is not Thomistic. Or akin to failing to distinguish Suraez and Bellarmine, or Rosmini in liberal thought from Mark and Engels (yes, that filthy Marxist St. Robert Bellarmine), or a Burkean conservative, from a Kirkian conservative, from a Neo-conservative.

      • Dan C

        It is best described as an area of inquiry as to whether libertarianism has any role in the view of the Catholic. More inquiry and substantive theological evaluation exists for elements of anarcho-communitarianism in the form of personalism than for libertarianism. Libertarianism is promoted specifically by the Acton Institute and has little intellectual patrimony in the Church. In truth, European Models of government have been viewed as the models of government for Catholic Social Theory.

        Being a libertarian has no roadmap to holiness, is one way to look at it. Theologically, conservatives are very attracted to this, but it has little experience in Catholic theology. It remains untested.

        • Telemachus

          “More inquiry and substantive theological evaluation exists for elements of anarcho-communitarianism in the form of personalism than for libertarianism.”

          Could you expound on this a bit more? This sentence is pretty packed.

          Libertarianism can’t be harmonized with Catholic social teaching because its presuppositions cannot be accepted. The important question is whether or not the conclusions of libertarian-ish forms of political thought can be reached from Catholic starting points. I believe they can, i.e. I believe that a Catholic theory of strictly limited government can be developed.

          You mention Acton? Don’t confuse libertarianism and support for the operation of the free market. Libertarianism is much more than mere support for free markets. Also, don’t confuse Catholic support of libertarian prescriptions as support for libertarianism.

          God bless,

          • Ted Seeber

            My problem with libertarianism and a free market goes something like this:
            When you place any invention of mankind in higher importance than the design of God in our DNA, you end up with evil.

            For instance- a free market means that parents need to, when they choose to become parents, be in a financial position to raise the children without help from others. But God’s design is that human beings become parents between the ages of 16-25, and the free market has no living-family-wage jobs for anybody below the age of 26, because it takes that long to get the skills needed to get those jobs. Thus we get the twin sins of contraception and abortion to put off having children until after the age of 30, on average- and end up spending much more money in health care as a consequence, because genetic diseases and birth defects are tied to older mothers.

            Do you see the problem with liberty and freedom from being even told you’re doing wrong yet?

            • The Deuce

              When you place any invention of mankind in higher importance than the design of God in our DNA, you end up with evil.

              Agreed. But it’s important to remember that the government is itself an invention of mankind, and a particularly dangerous one because of the power it can wield.

              But God’s design is that human beings become parents between the ages of 16-25, and the free market has no living-family-wage jobs for anybody below the age of 26

              Do you really think that’s all the doing of the “free market”? There are a variety of reasons people are marrying later and later, and nearly all of them are primarily caused by government “assistance.”

              Let’s start with feminism. The government has gone out of its way to try and increase female employment and higher education, with a variety of “equal pay” laws, Title IX programs, affirmative action, disproportionate female hiring by government agencies, and so on. The result? Women now consider it obligatory to get a college education and a career before they even *start* to look for a husband. Furthermore, the influx of women into the workplace has nearly doubled the supply of workers without increasing the demand much, driving the wages of individual workers down by nearly half, so that now a household requires both spouses to work and save up enough money to support a child, forcing them both to wait until they are older, and resulting in less time spent with mother and child together.

              The other big reason is debt. Families are in bigger debt than they used to be, and they can’t afford children until they pay it off. But the government has gone out of its way to create that debt. All those home loan programs meant to extend credit to people who couldn’t otherwise get it has the double effect of driving up house prices, thus sticking them with greater debt. The government’s drive to increase college attendance has required giving out student loans, which has driven up the costs of college, which has buried young people in ever-greater debt.

              And then there’s the costs of living from taxes. Young people can’t afford to have children, because they’re forced to pay taxes to pay for all these government programs that are pushing them to wait to have children in the first place!

              We instituted Social Security and Medicare, supposedly to care for the sick and elderly, but did anybody think about what effect those taxes would have on young people and childbirth? They should have, but they didn’t. They just went off half-cocked with their “good intentions” and didn’t think about the future. Just like liberals should be considering what all this federal government debt is going to mean for our children and the poor when the government’s programs collapse, but they’d all rather pillory Paul Ryan as an uncaring Objectivist.

              Do you see the problem with liberty and freedom from being even told you’re doing wrong yet?

              Of course. But there’s a difference between being told your wrong, and giving someone else the unlimited power to *force* you to do what they see as right – especially when that someone is a faceless, secular, bureaucratic entity that sees God as competition.

              • Dan C

                I married when I did because God called me to at that time. Prior to that age of 28, I had many other things I was to do. Why would I not presume the same for others as opposed to presuming some evil?

            • Timbot2000

              So I take it you never receive anesthesia or analgesia?

        • The Deuce

          In truth, European Models of government have been viewed as the models of government for Catholic Social Theory.

          The Church is dead in Europe, and those European Models of government have quite a lot to do with it.

          • Dan C

            That is a different conclusion than the fact that magisterial direction tends to point at Europe as the model. And you are burying the patient before he is dead.

        • Timbot2000

          Does Aristotelianism have a roadmap to holiness? Does Platonism have a roadmap to holiness? Does Newtonian Mechanics have a roadmap to holiness? Does carpentry have a roadmap to holiness? Does economics qua economics have a roadmap to holiness? There just seems to be a category error in your thinking.
          Pessimist: “The glass is half empty!”
          Optimist: “The glass is half full!”
          Distributist: “Hey! I ordered a pizza!”

    • Ted Seeber

      I find nothing in libertarianism worth following. The basic philosophy seems to be “the government shouldn’t tell me when I’m wrong, and neither should the church”. All of Mises, all of Rand, even all the economics of Thomas E. Woods, stems from this basic assumption- this basic mistake.

  • Telemachus

    Mark, do you feel a need to write posts like this so that people won’t start criticizing you overly much for your past support of Ron Paul, or accusing you of taking up libertarianism? Are the “distributists” really the people that you think we should be listening to?

    I stopped being able to take the “distributists” seriously when they started openly coming out in support of OWS. That said, it was partially distributism as an idea that piqued my intellectual interests as I was coming back into communion with the Church, and broadly-speaking I don’t reject distributism as an ideal. However, I’ve yet to seen any realistic prescriptions from the distributists to reach the ideals claimed. “What do we want? Distributism! How we gonna get it? We don’t know!”

    Anyways, I don’t think Paul Ryan ever qualified as “libertarian,” interest in the crap written by Ayn Rand notwithstanding. Ron Paul is a libertarian, but so what? He has good ideas about what needs to be done to start deconstructing our monster federal government. That’s all that matters right now: end the wars and get the federal government off our backs.

    God bless,

    • The Deuce

      From what I’ve been able to tell, distributism isn’t an actual economic system or system of government in its own right. Rather, it’s what you would get when you combine a capitalistic economic system with a very moral population that takes Christian social teaching seriously. I’ve seen a number of self-described distributivist point to America’s agrarian past as resembling something like the society they envision, but our economic system was *more* capitalistic and free market then than it is now! It’s the people that were different.

      “Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could have some land and capital of their own, and they took care of each other in their local communities” is a wish, not an economic system. If you want to accomplish that wish, you must evangelize and give charity yourself, in hopes that peoples’ beliefs and behaviors may change accordingly to reflect Christian charity. You will never accomplish it with *any* mere economic system alone, but one based on socialistic redistribution will make it impossible to accomplish.

      I think some distributists realize this, but a lot of self-described distributists are actually just socialist utopians who don’t want to admit that they’re really following an essentially atheistic and materialistic utopian political ideology, so they seek to color it with a superficial gloss of Catholic social teaching, and to convince themselves that they are motivated by that rather than by the same utopian longings that motivate other socialists.

      • Hezekiah Garrett

        Yeah, back when corporations could be regulated out of existence by the State, if needed, for the commonweal. Yeah, our agrarian past looks like a ramped up version of our present.

        Circlin’ the drain…

        • The Deuce

          Do you have an actual example of corporations being regulated out of existence by the federal government back then?

    • Ted Seeber

      Here’s my sad, little suggestion to enact distributism in the United States:

      Take all the failed ghost towns currently under the Bureau of Land Management because nobody wants to own them anymore. *Every single one of these* is actually better land than most of the third world- that’s why they were settled to begin with. They often failed because they got tied to a single industry that for other reasons went away.

      Give everybody over the age of 18 the chance to apply, based on past unemployment of over 25% of their working life, for three acres of one of those ghost towns to do with whatever they wish.

      Allow *groups of people* to also obtain, at a rate of three acres per capita, ghost towns and BLM Land, to form intentional communities made up of a *single religion* and *single culture* for those who can’t handle modern multiculturalism. And grant them FEZ status- the right to form their own militia, protect their own borders, create their own banks and their own money supply, and arrange their economics as they will.

      THAT is small, strong government. Not the *weak government* the libertarians want, though that is possible under this model as well for individual towns out in the middle of nowhere; but true subsidiarity.

      • Martial Artist

        If you think that what you are describing is “weak government” as desired by libertarians, you are very sadly mistaken. What you are describing in amazingly accurate detail is one implementation of Austrian economist Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s ideas detailed in his book Democracy, The God That Failed. The principal difference I note is that you are limiting it to small sections of what is now called the United States.

        Pax et bonum,
        Keith Töpfer

    • Vickie

      The OWS movement seemed sympathetic at first. But in DC some came to harass the March for Life folks. They, food coops and distibutists know what they want, but don’t know how to get there. When they come up with something, and put in the labor to try to get it going, I’ll give them a listen.
      Selling out our faith and culture for the pottage of European Social democracy doesn’t seem all that attractive.

  • Andy

    I am not sure that Ryan wants to “get the federal government off our backs”, he, like many of the current crop of republicans and some democrats merely want to move it to a different part of the back, but that is a political argument. I am more concerned about Ryan ignoring that even in the concept of subsidiarily there is a role for the government and in so doing ignore the teaching of the church. From the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church “355. Tax revenues and public spending take on crucial economic importance for every civil and political community. The goal to be sought is public financing that is itself capable of becoming an instrument of development and solidarity. Just, efficient and effective public financing will have very positive effects on the economy, because it will encourage employment growth and sustain business and non-profit activities and help to increase the credibility of the State as the guarantor of systems of social insurance and protection that are designed above all to protect the weakest members of society.

    Public spending is directed to the common good when certain fundamental principles are observed: the payment of taxes [739] as part of the duty of solidarity; a reasonable and fair application of taxes;[740] precision and integrity in administering and distributing public resources.[741] In the redistribution of resources, public spending must observe the principles of solidarity, equality and making use of talents. It must also pay greater attention to families, designating an adequate amount of resources for this purpose.[742]”.
    In my humble and perhaps, not always well thought out understanding subsidiary requires the state to allow the least centralized entity to deal with issues. However, in our current economic condition and the rampant rise in prices for health care, for food that is healthful, and shelter that is livable and the like local entities do not have the capacity to respond. Private agencies do not have the capacity to respond.
    The reduction of taxes at the expense of the weakest and the transmitting the requirement to support those who are weakest to the local level, is far from the teaching of the church

    • Martial Artist

      I would humbly suggest that the various levels of government and private agencies which do not now “have the capacity to respond,” are in that state because of the increasing economic depradations of the State (particularly the Federal State) on the productivity of its citizens. This is readily demonstrable by comparing the size of the annual budget deficits to the size of the annual GDP, and then allowing for the fact that the suggested comparison is still wildly optimistic because of the manner in which GDP is computed.

      There are two large distortions in the calculation of GDP:

      • GDP does not count intermediate production, only the value of the final good or service.

      • GDP includes all government spending as “product,” whereas government, with certain rare and generally small exceptions does not produce anything that can be sold at retail. Government is an inherently consumptive economic actor.

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

  • Perhaps, instead of just accusing him of hypocrisy and ritual uncleanness , you would just point to something resembling a primary citation where Ryan “says Ayn Rand is his guru”? (And not either, like LeBlanc above, saying that he has stopped beating his wife.)

  • Greg V.

    I have to say I don’t think much of the Distributist Review for its economic acumen.
    But I do think highly of Paul Ryan for realizing that we have a duty not only to current generations but future ones as well. And that we have limited resources that have to be allocated against almost unlimited wants and needs.
    Government, particularly the federal government, cannot be all things to all people. Only Christ can. We need to rely less on government and more on Christ.

    • Dan C

      And with such comments come still no medicine or care for the ill poor. What you fail to understand is that the poor are Christ. We are to rely on them for entry into the Kingdom.

      • Greg V.

        Dan C,

        Have we ever met? If not, how can you say I don’t understand that the poor are Christ? How do you get that from my comment when it implies the opposite? And no medicine or care for the ill poor? Really? Absolutely none?
        I agree we must treat the poor and ill as Christ, and rely on them for entry into the Kingdom. I don’t see how supporting government programs necessarily helps in that regard. It can be one means, I suppose. Does it have to be the only way?

      • Greg V.

        Dan C,

        One other thought. Our federal government is close to default. If it goes bankrupt, will that help anyone?

        • Dan C

          It is all based on the economic theory you believe and trust.

          I do not trust conservatives in thrall to Norquist. I have followed this man since the 1980’s and he is has been a poison.

          What I want to hear is the truth out of the mouth of conservatives. I want to hear that they are going to sacrifice lives, and it is lives for real-children and old people who will live and die in misery who are now not having this happen. Everything comes at a price. I want to hear that conservatives are willing to sacrifice these Americans who will suffer sickness, debilitation, and disease. These Americans who now receive services and care provided by the federal government and then will no longer receive such services need to be informed that their lives are the price of our (not their) future prosperity.

          Just man up and say it will cost lives and suffering. Stop hiding and pretending these budgetary death panels aren’t true, but this time of conservative authoriship. Man up and tell the poor and the sick and the old they need to “take one for the team” to ensure some (not all) middle class children have this ridiculous prosperity.

      • Martial Artist

        If what you write is accurate, and I have no doubt that it is, being based on the words of Christ in the Bible, then some folks commenting on this thread really need to re-examine their diatribes and screeds against Dr. Paul. In his career in medicine he never turned any patient away. He treated people but NEVER accepted government payment for his services, instead he treated them for reduced fees and if they couldn’t even afford that, he treated them for free. I would ask anyone here criticizing him as a Randian to match their concrete corporal works of mercy for the poor and suffering to his! I know that I have often failed to live up to a standard which he imposed on himself.

        He also has declined to participate in the very, very generous Congressional pension system and each year returns all unspent funds from his Congressional office account to the U.S. Treasury. I doubt that any other candidate lives to the standards he willingly applies to himself.

        Pax et bonum,
        Keith Töpfer

  • Andy s

    Ok…Ryan was a big fan of Rand at one point and now, with maturity and more clarity about her overall worldview, isn’t a devotee any longer…Is that hypocritical or something? I consider it growth and, probably, flows from a deeper understanding of his faith.

    If our government and economy collapse, because we run out of other people’s money, my guess is the poor in America will be in even worse shape.

    • Mark Shea

      I consider it growth too. He should be ashamed and embarrassed. And I consider it a lie when he says that his infatuation with Rand is an “urban legend” as though there is no basis in the record for it.

    • Dan C

      At one point was October 2011.

  • Judith M.

    I think it’s a lie to say Ryan is currently an adherent of Ayn Rand’s, and that is precisely what progressives are doing to discredit him. Ryan has admitted that he was greatly influenced by Ayn Rand initially, but now understands where she was wrong. That’s progress in my book, and I don’t know what more you expect from him? Self-flagellation, perhaps?

    • Dan C

      No. You ignore what people are saying. Paul Ryan said it is an “urban myth” to say he was ever an adherent to Ayn Rand. And he 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.

  • Martial Artist

    Equating the philosophy of Ayn Rand with the totality of libertarianism verges on being a category error. I recognized the distinctions between the two without ever having read philosophy or a philosopher when I was still in high school and read Atlas Shrugged for an English assignment, when I was still a Missouri Synod Lutheran, about 4-1/2 decades before I became (in 2010) a Catholic.
    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  • Thorny

    My biggest complaint in all of this argument is that Ryan is being accused of doing something he simply doesn’t do: Cut the budget.

    According to his proposal, as shown on his congressional website (, the amount of money spent by the government will continue to rise over the long term. Discretionary funds fall in FY 2014 & 2015, but are rising again in FY2016 and by FY 2021 return to FY2013 levels. Medicaid and other health spending does go down in FY2014 by $3B, but this corresponds to significant savings realized by elimination of redundant programs as identified by the GAO and others. By 2015, Medicaid spending is larger than FY 2013 and continues to grow. Social Security and Medicaid never go down. Most of the savings come from “other mandatory”, which is unfortunately never fully defined. However, again the GAO has found significant savings simply in eliminating redundant programs totalling $400B over the next decade. The one thing he does do is eliminate the planned increase in budgets–I sure would like to be able to decree that my spending will increase 12% every year like Congress does.

    Additionally, Ryan has proposed significant increases in revenue by eliminating loopholes mostly exploited by the top taxpayers. He pretty much endorses the Simpson-Bowles deficit committee suggestions on tax reform.

    I tire of the entire “he’s a diciple of Rand” argument mostly ignore the real numbers he is forwarding. He isn’t eliminating needed aid for the poor. Rather, he is trying to make government more efficient and eliminating the cronyism so rampant in this administration. Is everything he says right? No, but it’s a whole lot better than any of the alternatives I have seen, even within Catholic the constraints of Catholic social teaching as I understand it. I do know that adopting the Ryan budget won’t mean children dying in the streets, like many of his detractors (including many Catholics who should look up the meaning of the word calumny sometime–and I don’t mean you, Mark) are suggesting.

    Funny how the left never gets into crucifying their leaders if they aren’t ritually pure.