Joe Carter is More Optimistic Than I Am

Joe Carter is More Optimistic Than I Am May 3, 2014

…about the lack of influence the satanic Enemy of God Ayn Rand has had on some very significant Catholics in the Public Square, but he is on the side of the angels in warning people away from this deeply evil woman and her work.

For instance, this very public Catholic, lionized as a great hero and thinker by discernment-free conservatives, looks to Rand as *the* great moral inspiration for his life and work:

Here are some quotes from this man, which Catholics bent themselves into pretzels to deny, lie about, “contextualize” and ignore during the 2012 election, an election that could have, if conservatives had had their way, put this worshipper of the Enemy of God Rand a heartbeat away from the presidency:

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


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.”


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.”

Once the heat got to him, Ryan compounded this egregious moral blindness, not by repenting it, but by lying that St. Thomas, not Rand, was his real guiding light, and by pretending the public record of his enthusiasm for Rand was an “urban legend”.

And as he did so, the response of a huge number of Catholics was to float the absolutely ridiculous lie that Ayn Rand was Aristotle to Ryan’s Aquinas: a brilliant diamond in the rough whom the brilliant philosopher politician was polishing into a great servant of Catholic political philosophy the way the Dumb Ox harnessed the Stagirite to the service of the gospel.

If you believe that, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. Any Catholic who looks admiringly to Rand, or to a politician whose chief intellectual formative influence is this philosopher deeply admired and promoted by the author of the Satanic Bible?: That Catholic has a screw loose and is stone blind to common sense.

Glad to see Joe Carter warning people away from her toxic, misanthropic, God-hating junk.

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs. — John Rogers

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  • Dave G.

    I guess the main thing I’ve learned over the years is that we’re all educated enough to explain why it’s OK when we do it (admire and even support people at odds with Church teaching), but so darn bad when others do it.

    • peggy r

      Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

      Next time we see a claim of something worthy from a person who dissents otherwise…well, we’ll see…

  • Who is joe carter? Besides the guy who hit that home run?

  • Humphrey

    Family of libertarians moved into my neighborhood and know i hear strange noises every night and my cat disappeared.

  • Ben Hammer

    Honestly, you can’t separate her moral short comings, from her economic theories? Are you that fearful of free enterprise? I’m just at a loss on how liberty is so at odds with Gods teachings? He gave us Ten Commandments, and warned of all the many hundreds of rules that the Pharisees had set up. In the end, with exasperation, Jesus proclaimed, if nothing else, love one another. Where is the love in dragging a dead person through the mud? Calling her satanic, no less. Are we not commanded to pray for these people? Thankfully, you are not my judge when I die,

    • Edwin Woodruff Tait

      I don’t think her personal shortcomings are the issue (though in some cases they did perhaps reflect the flaws in her view of the world). The point is that her philosophy is evil. That’s not a judgment on her soul, upon which may God have mercy. Its a judgment on her ideas. I doubt that right-wing American Christians would have any problem with this kind of language being used about, say, Marx. It’s a double standard to accuse Mark of a lack of charity because he uses strong language about an influential author’s ideas.

      God did not give only Ten Commandments, by the way. But “liberty” isn’t the issue here.

      • The problem with your analysis is, unfortunately, its lack of discernment. Objectivism as a complete project is, on balance problematic. Some elements *are* evil such as its denial of the existence of God. Others are not.

        Sorting that out and giving an accurate assessment of the philosophy is much more useful than blanket condemnations because it immunizes you from the real problem of philosophical overlap. If Catholics and Objectivists actually share certain ideas, this creates no difficulty for anyone who has engaged in a nuanced criticism of Objectivism. But for the blanket condemner, there is a very real problem, that you have condemned as evil a point which the Church also supports, which makes your critique also a condemnation of the Church.

        • Alexander S Anderson

          Her “philosophy” was always very sloppy, and she made it far worse by characterizing any objections as nothing more than proof of the objector’s evil. Any points that she made that were of value have been made better by more disciplined thinkers that are far easier to engage and far more interesting! So please don’t fault people for not taking seriously a philosophy that isn’t taken seriously by hardly any academic philosophers.

          • Benjamin2.0

            As much as it pains me that this defends Miss Rand as a consequence (I claim double effect!), I am honorbound to note that your argument that she “isn’t taken seriously by hardly any academic philosophers” hits the scholastics pretty hard as well.

            • Alexander S Anderson

              The scholastics are taken more seriously than she is, which is pretty damning. (Also, the scholastics tend to be taken far more seriously in the continental tradition than in the analytic tradition which is dominant here in the states. Which is pretty funny because analytics often read like late scholastics.) And usually the scholastics are assumed to be rigorous, but wrongheaded. Rand lacks rigor and simply has nothing interesting to say, skimming over contentious and complicated issues with half-baked arguments and refusing to do anything but scream at the objector when she’s called out on it.

              • Benjamin2.0

                Color me corrected, then. I’m glad to have that weight off my shoulders.

                • Alexander S Anderson

                  Part of it is that the scholastics really are getting a better shake recently than the had for about 400 years, so your claims weren’t baseless. I still contend that the scholastics tend to not be taken seriously when they haven’t been read, while Rand is often not taken seriously because people have read her.

          • We’re talking because Mark *is* trying to treat Objectivism seriously, even if he is often misidentifying it with libertarianism.

            My preferred outcome is for serious Catholic philosophers to tread the same ground and come up with a better philosophical defense of capitalism than Rand did, which would have the happy effect of reducing her influence. She’s a flawed tool and a crooked timber. As I said above, a lot of what she asserts is problematic. I also note that it is influential in the world of practical affairs and academic philosophers’ stuck up attitude towards Rand is a contributing reason for the declining influence over the past few decades of academic philosophers.

            • Alexander S Anderson

              No, really, it’s not the stuck up attitude of academic philosophers (many of which are admittedly stuck up) that causes them to not take Rand seriously. The “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology,” arguably her most philosophical work, shrugs off serious problems of epistemology as nothing more than the fever dreams of people who aren’t “rational” enough (you know, the giants of philosophy that formulated them.)

              Anything remotely worthwhile that Rand has said has been said far better by either Robert Nozick, F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Hobbes, Nietzsche, or a dozen other philosophers. (Even though Rand herself denied any inspiration beyond Aristotle) Why don’t you redirect Shea to them instead?

              • The answer to your question is that I do not think that it would do much good. But it’s not that Mark needs to be redirected so much as that Ryan et al need to be redirected because they’re the ones flirting with her in their youths.

                We really need someone who can write better tales than Rand, gets the economics at least as well as Rand, and is philosophically closer to the truth with a reconciliation between the free market and God. The elements are all there, major pieces having been written by all the people you reference and a few others besides, but nobody seems to have come up with the total package to trump Objectivism’s mass appeal. Mark’s critique will only have the effect of discouraging the emergence of such a competitor.

  • Andy

    In my youth – I was attracted to and believed that Ayn Rand presented an element that would allow me to be me – surprise – not so much – her philosophy is based on egoism – an over-inflated sense of self-worth. ALthough it took many years – more than I want to think about and feelings of worthlessness when I wasn’t meeting her philosophy I came to realize that we are not our egos, we are tied to ether in ways that are mystical and practical.
    Back to Rand – She also tied her philosophy so that “in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute” (Rand 1957)”. Very appealing – not terribly Christian nor terribly tied to others. It makers man an isolated used of resources for his own happiness, based on his own thought processes. Much like what Paul Ryan speaks of when he speaks of makers and takers. The makers strive for their own happiness based on their one productive achievement – except that happiness is based all to often on the labor of others without recognition of their importance.

    One has only to listen to the discussions about the minimum wage, and the reasons for not raising it, see the tax breaks for business, but no support for foster children, and see that for many they have embraced that sense of ego – I am the most important. Its tough because that is not what Jesus – love your neighbor as yourself – damn – if I am to love my neighbor as myself, I better make sure he has what I have or is taken care of – hardly the way of the US right now. It also means that all are our neighbors, not just those who look, live and have the same interests as us. Not just those who we do business with, those who attend church with, but those with whom we have not contact.
    As I look at the slow demise of the US – it has lost its place on the hill as a shining beacon – I see that the way Rand’s philosophy has so shaped our politicians, and business mind is at the root of this slow demise.

  • Steve

    Mark, I’m no fan of Ayn Rand either, but when you start calling people “satanic” and “enemy of God” you are starting to sound like a crazy, raging fundamentalist. That and it just makes you sound laughable.

    • KM

      Did you read the linked article? Mark is correctly calling out Ayn Rand’s philosophy as anti-Christian. Mark is not calling “people” as a group satanic, just Ayn Rand as the linked article points out.

      I have a dear friend who admires “Atlas Shrugged” and who treats it as a Bible. When I pointed out that Ayn Rand was an atheist who hated Christianity, he was surprised. I’m surprised that many people don’t seem to know this.

      • LFM

        It is possible that Ryan, lacking philosophical formation of any kind, was equally unaware of this element of Rand’s work. Some quite intelligent people simply do not see the implications of certain ideas.

    • Dan13

      I think Mark is often prone to hyperbole, but I believe he is right on this matter. If I were to call any mode of thinking “satanic” objectivism would be it.

      Let’s look at the catalyst for original sin:

      “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

      In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”. (CCC paragraphs 397-98)

      Or perhaps we could quote Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Also note that Cain was a tiller of the ground, a “maker” who did not credit God as the ultimate creator.

      Or perhaps we could look at how the Catholic Church summarizes the “new law”: “The entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the “new commandment” of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us.” (CCC paragraph 1970).

      From the website of the Ayn Rand institute:

      “What Rand advocates is an approach to life that’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. Selfishness, in her philosophy, means:

      Follow reason, not whims or faith.

      Work hard to achieve a life of purpose and productiveness.

      Earn genuine self-esteem.

      Pursue your own happiness as your highest moral aim.

      Prosper by treating others as individuals, trading value for value.”

      Rand rejects God and urges men to become their own Gods. One’s life isn’t geared towards God, our creator, but rather in their own accomplishments. Like the serpent, she implores us to find meaning in our actions, not our relationships with God or our neighbor. Like Cain, she urges us to reject charity (we are not our brother’s keeper) and only place value on people in what they can do for us, “trading value for value.”

      Like Satan and the misguided St. Peter (who Jesus swiftly corrects, “Get behind me Satan”), Rand tells us to build a earthly kingdom for ourselves. By taking the place of God as creator and rejecting our duty to love our neighbor, Rand is putting a 180 degree spin on Christianity. If that isn’t satanic, then I don’t know what is.

      Further, unlike other forms of atheism, objectivism is a full rejection of God and what God stands for (truth and love). For all of their faults, scienctism and secular humanism are at least misguided attempts to search for truth and charity. Objectivism is straight-up evil by both rejecting God and our neighbor and by putting ourselves in their place.

      • Steve

        I’m not disagreeing with your analysis of Objectivism. I hate it as much as the next guy. I disagree with labelling any human being as “evil” like Mark did (unless you are pointing out how we are all evil to some extent). Condemn ideas, condemn actions, condemn events, but one should not condemn fellow human beings. Not even Ayn Rand.

    • Dan C

      Have you made any noise when the same words are used about Saul Alinksy?

      • Dave G.

        Let’s wait and see. Who knows, perhaps he did.

      • Steve

        I am sorry, but I do not read Mark’s blog regularly enough to have commented on that. I can only comment on what I read.

      • Dave G.

        “Just for the sake of clarity, Alinsky was not a “quasi-satanist”. He was an old school Comsymp lefty rabble rouser. His dedication of Rules for Radicals to Lucifer was as much “satanism” as eating devil’s food cake is a blasphemous sacrament offered to the prince of darkness. He was an atheist who liked sticking it to the man and who naturally sided with rebels in any fight. Lucifer is the biggest rebel of them all, so he offered a tongue in cheek encomium to Old Scratch. ”

        That’s from a March 10, 2011 post. Most of the posts I found focused on the Right’s overplaying the importance of Alinksy or focusing on some on the Right for imitating Alisnky while simultaneously condemning him, rather than on Alinsky himself. So at least on this blog, unless there’s a post I missed, I’m not seeing the the same words used for Steven to compare.

        • Dan C

          I am sorry. I missed this discussion and could have cleared something up.

          I know Mr. Shea has had little to say about Saul Alinsky, but over the past 5 years conservatives have had much to say, with a big claim through major outlets that he was a Satanist, etc.

          My suggestion is that the complaint that Mr. Shea makes his complaints wrongly is often predicated on the groups he talks about. Speak harshly about conservatives or some of their more questionable attachments and he is criticized for how he states his case.

          He is as harsh on liberals with just cause, and few comment on the technique of his criticism when he makes it.

          That’s all. Does anyone wander over to Fr. Z’s blog and critique his messaging about liberals?

          • Dave G.

            It’s impossible to say. I don’t go to most blogs anymore. I still come here because of sentimental reasons. Others might be the same way. For some, it might be harshness versus subject matter. It’s one thing to blast someone for supporting abortion or torture. It’s another to aim the same degree of vitriol at someone over economic theories or beliefs about clothing styles. Some might actually just feel that there are times when it is inappropriate. As a general rule, my view is that there are scant few times fire and brimstone should be used, because using them can be habit forming. Not to mention it should be consistent. Or there should be a dandy reason for inconsistency. And who knows, perhaps those who complain are being consistent. Usually the charge ‘do you complain when X does it’ simply deflects from whether anyone should be doing it at all.

    • capaxdei

      What is laughable about the statement that Ayn Rand was an enemy of God?

      • Alexander S Anderson

        Heck, she herself would applaud that statement!

    • He’s sounded like that for a very long time. When I followed him more he was pretty consistent in using basically dehumanizing language about virtually all viable candidates for national offices. He probably still won’t admit it, but his standard basically means he thinks Catholics shouldn’t vote for viable candidates to national office. (I’d be happy if he can name a Senator, Congressperson, or President past or present who a Catholic could have voted for. The only one I recall was Ron Paul and I assume that might no longer be true)

      That being said Ayn Rand, by essentially rejecting love of both God and neighbor in a way that was accessible to readers (Nietzsche is comparatively inaccessible), is about the most evil philosopher I can think of from a Christian perspective. It is fair to call her as opposed to God so “enemy of God” is an accurate if maybe inflammatory way of saying that. (That being said by being so “evil” I think she’s actually a bit less of a force for evil than if she’d been a bit more sensible sounding.)

      • capaxdei

        Again, what is inflammatory about the statement that Ayn Rand was an enemy of God? Rand was an evangelical atheist. Being an enemy of God is part and parcel of objectivism.

        • Maybe “inflammatory” is the wrong term, but it is slightly dramatic way of saying she was an evangelical atheist. Also “enemy of God” could make it sound like she was something grander than she was in reality. It’s not like she was a real threat to God or belief in God.

          • capaxdei

            It’s time we correct the misapprehension that “enemy of God” is a dramatic or grand title. There has never been any shortage of enemies of God, as both Old and New Testament attest. The Twentieth Century was certainly not an exceptionally virtuous one.

  • Dan C

    Christ who comes through the poor has been made manifest to Paul Ryan. It is up to Ryan now to respond. He is flirting with Christ in the poor. I am interested in how this turns out.

    • Guest

      I think people can enjoy Ayn Rand for her condemnations of socialism’s injustices without embracing her exultation of the Dollar Sign in place of the Cross. Since Rep. Ryan seems to be earnestly seeking ways of helping the poor which actually help the poor, I believe that he embraced the former polemic without the latter heresy.

      • HornOrSilk

        But they are embracing her exultation of the dollar sign, and selfishness, as can be seen in their actions, especially since her condemnation of socialism is based upon such false premises (individualism, selfishness, greed). Those who enjoy her false premises are going to follow along her path, which is evil. And, though I hate to bring up the “Hitler card” because of stupid people on the net think it means something, but I am sure most would be upset if people said “I enjoyed Hitler for his condemnations of socialism.”

      • Dan C

        Not true?

        1. Ryan is highly contaminated with her teachings. He was a speaker at the Heritage Foundation less than a year prior to his nomination as VP candidate. His talk was infused with Rand- all Makers and Takers.

        2. It is clear he is moved by the poor, but he has translated none of this into policy. He has tried to do nothing yet and he has offered nothing but the usual- program cuts, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc.

        3. Rand’s condemnations of collectivism ranged far afield from condemnations of Soviet totalitarianism. She labelled as collectivist Social Security (which she would collect) and for her socialistic criticisms would be identical to Tea Party’s free ranging concerns that call every entitlement program (except ones that they could benefit from) “impending socialism.”

        Rand is toxic. Every sentence.

        • HornOrSilk

          Basically, her condemnations of socialism were often based upon goods within socialism (solidarity, as an example), instead of what was wrong with it.

  • Dan C

    McKay Coppins over at Real Clear Politics has a charitable article on Paul Ryan. I say good for him.

    Joe Carter…I suspect this is propaganda or an attempt to bridge the cognitive dissonance that a movement he passionately loves (libertarianism) could be so infected by the writings of an atheist. He is wrong- one gets public testimonials all the time to the positive influence of Rand on Catholics in the comboxes and the sentimental attachment many have to her since she led the commentator back to their Catholic faith. I have read this point from several lapsed and returned as libertarian Catholics.

  • I view Ayn Rand as an indictment of the Church of her day in that the Church left a moral vacuum for someone like her to occupy. What we have learned with regards to the creation of wealth demanded a more serious response than was given. Capitalism is still not fully recognized for the good it does in many quarters of the Church.

    • HornOrSilk

      Capitalism is still not fully recognized for the evil it does in many quarters of the Church, as well. Any evil act has some relative good associated with it (see Augustine) which is used to promote that evil (see Augustine). I don’t think those who are critical of capitalism in the Church ignore the good, but rather, point out the evils and suggest that whatever good you claim is found within Capitalism needs to be reorganized in a holistic approach with the goods you have ignored (so we can recognizes markets, but not absolutize them as idols, as an example)

      • While I recognize that one can absolutize markets as idols, I have seen this much more often in condemnation of capitalism than occurring in actual living, breathing human advocates. That latter phenomenon is hardly in existence at present. Instead the vast majority of policy choices is between adding or reducing market elements within a more permissive or strict regulatory regime.

        Time after time I see accusations of market absolutism as a propaganda technique in proposals that are, objectively, not advocating markets as an absolute value. When this is, by orders of magnitude, the more common use case (vis a vis actual market absolutism), we have an obligation to recognize that imbalance and not go along with the propaganda effort to promote lies.

        • HornOrSilk

          I love it how you call people’s criticism “propaganda,” but you constantly use propaganda as your calling card. You continue to ignore the Church. Woe, is all I can say.

          • Benjamin2.0

            I love it how you call people’s criticism “propaganda,” but you constantly use propaganda as your calling card.

            I don’t know how to take this, being as it is a critique which doesn’t actually address the argument or individual premises Mr. Lutas has presented. You’ve stuck yourself on the end of your own petard, again.

            A: “Anticapitalist propagandists bash a straw man when they argue against a market absolutism no capitalist actually supports.”

            B: “[Unsubstantiated, self-incriminating tu quoque]!”

            Dr. Zachary Smith: “The pain! The pain!”

            • HornOrSilk

              The problem is, his claim was not a refutation — and so there was no need to “address the argument or individual premises” when they were not there. “Address the premise it’s all propaganda.” Seriously? I was ridiculing the very notion of using that as a response, and he was the one ignoring a logical rebuttal. But as is always clear with you, reason is not your strong point. Which is why you always make ridiculous statements which have nothing to do with what was said, either.

              So as a Catholic I don’t think the Pope is merely reciting propaganda when he wrote, “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

              • Benjamin2.0

                If you look up, he countered your argument by suggesting that the evil you associate with the free market is a straw man (an evil he was forced to assume you were talking about because you didn’t specify (he must’ve been right given the consequences, vide infra (or supra, for that matter)). You then merely called him a propagandist for doing so. I think you jumped the gun on the empty ridicule.

                Which is why you always make ridiculous statements which have nothing to do with what was said, either.

                I remember saying something about petards…

                So as a Catholic I don’t think the Pope is merely reciting propaganda

                I’m probably a bit more sympathetic to your cause than you suspect. The Catholic one, not the particular arguments you use, of course. If there were arguments for libertarianism going unchecked (to my satisfaction), you’d get to see it firsthand. For instance, watch one go nuts when you say something like “A just law can forbid evil and/or mandate virtue.” They hate that last part!

                • HornOrSilk

                  You still show yourself clueless, such as your equivocation of free market with capitalism. That’s as far as I will continue with your nonsense because you keep coming up with non sequiturs

                  • Benjamin2.0

                    You still show yourself clueless, such as your equivocation of free market with capitalism.


                    That’s as far as I will continue with your nonsense because you keep coming up with non sequiturs

                    At last! We can agree.

                    Keep it Klassy, Mr. Silk!

                • A law mandating virtue may be just or unjust. What exactly are you talking about?

              • In what country do markets have absolute autonomy in a capitalist system? In no country is that state of affairs the law. Can you come up with an example?

          • This is a content free set of insults. I try to be a good Catholic. I do not challenge your fidelity to Christ. Were I the propagandist you paint me, it would be an obvious move. I refrain because what I am doing is actually not libertarian propaganda.

            • HornOrSilk

              Much of what you give is “content free set of insults.” You are so blinded by your own idolatry. I gave a discussion on evil from Augustine which you entirely ignored, because it points exactly as to the problem behind your argument. All you gave in return was anyone who criticizes capitalism is giving propaganda. Oh, and the Church’s “moral vacuum” because it didn’t support your idol.

              • At this point, I was just hitting the responses to my own comments.

                In the note I responded to, you did not mention Augustine nor forward any other argument. You just went for the cheap hit. I was not involved in the subthread where you referenced Augustine or claimed to reference him. I simply hadn’t read that post. I also have little idea as to what you’re trying to say with that vague reference because Augustine talks about charity in multiple places. Which one is the one you’re talking about escapes me. A clearer reference would promote understanding.

                As for the Church, when Galileo started going around insisting that the Church teach heliocentrism, the response that this was not in Galileo’s remit as a layman and that the Church would preserve its teachings and permit both so long as the evidence was not fully in. Of course we know today that both models are false in a scientific sense but that heliocentrism is closer to the actual truth. The Church took the issue seriously and did the right thing (no matter that Galileo infuriated them into error on a minor point of his trial the main strategy was sound).

                I bring up that because I do not see the Church seriously addressing capitalism. After centuries of development Church responses should at least share enough terminology so that sound documents like the Aparecida document use terminology that is virtually incomprehensible to capitalists and earn unjustified criticism by using inflammatory categorization. It is not that the behavior condemned is excusable. Despoliation of the poor is not excusable. It is that the bishops mischaracterized this as part of capitalism, when it is an abuse by capitalism’s own rules.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      I do not consider it wise to judge a system only by its external effects and not by its internal justice.

      • That’s a fair criticism in theory but there’s not enough meat in it to see what you’re driving at.

        Capitalism is an economic system. It is, in its internal justice, not totalitarian and leaves broad swathes of human endeavor for other things to resolve. Do you have concerns about Capitalism’s internal justice or some non-economic plug-in that comes from elsewhere?

        I fully sign on (as do the vast majority of capitalists) to Pope Francis’ critique that without those other system plug ins, capitalism *is* totalitarian and this is a bad idea. But without significant numbers of people on the other side, it’s kind of an academic critique.

        • Alexander S Anderson

          I’m tempted to say that being “not totalitarian” is a rather weak justification. However, that would be rather unfair. I do think that Capitalism, like the the liberal framework that justifies it, is not not nearly as morally neutral as it pretends to be. I’ll direct you to David L. Schindler’s (the former dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family) work “Heart of the World, Center of the Church,” which makes the point far more eloquently than I could, especially in a combox:

          The other point is that “Capitalism” is a rather slippery word, and Adam Smith’s market of a large amount of suppliers competing for a large amount of producers often becomes a stand-in for the actual current system of a small class of people controlling the majority of the means of production for the sole purpose of obtaining more capital. The two aren’t equivalent, but for many generations many seem to mistake defense of one as defense of another. On the contrary, we have GK Chesterton: “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.”

          • Since the other major 20th century options heavily feature totalitarian options and do seem to devolve into totalitarianism quite often and the current Pope recently noted that ignoring the important holes in a non-totalitarian system makes it totalitarian, I thought non-totalitarian was worth mentioning. In our fallen world have we really achieved better than that? I’ve not seen it in a system that actually achieves economic progress at a faster clip than capitalism.

            The liberal project is worthwhile because it permits a close encounter with non-christians in a neutral framework where christian witness can freely do its work without the need for a lot of spilled blood. Every interest group within the liberal project is attempting to tilt the playing field, just a little and when neutrality is achieved, it is dynamic, not static.

            You’re going to have to demonstrate your point that those in control of the means of production create more “for the sole purpose of obtaining more capital”. I don’t think you can because I don’t think it’s true. Like most humans, the rich engage in status competition but they do so on multiple fronts and philanthropy is one of those fronts. Conspicuous consumption is another front.

            When the Church starts hosting startup weekends for the poor, we will have turned a corner.

    • Elmwood

      I don’t think the Church has fully recognized the evil it does in many of its quarters. Look at Fr. Sirco and the Acton Institute, who as far as I can tell, is promoting a very narrow vision of catholic social doctrine.

      • Some people have a broad vision and pursue it. Others specialize and focus on a speciality. Neither are doing evil per se by their decision of how much to focus so long as neither attempts to block others who choose different paths.

        Extremists (which includes Rand) flourish when they can successfully find an ignored truth, and attach it to their evil. So long as nobody else is providing a better presentation to handle that truth or series of truths, they flourish. When mainstream people adopt their good ideas and condemn the evil, they falter.

        For a successful US example, you can look at the death of the Dixiecrats. The Democrats and Republicans picked away at them and whittled them down so their only distinguishing features were segregation related and that was the end of them as Gov. Wallace noted.

        This is not what the Church is generally doing with Rand. It is something that Mark, in this post and others, is specifically working against. I don’t think that he understands that he is strengthening her appeal and will be horrified if he ever figures it out but I do believe that this is what he is doing in practical effect. This does not make Mark evil or a sinner. It does make him a poor strategist and someone whose actions in this vein I feel I must criticize.

  • anna lisa

    Well…My Libertarian Dad thinks Ayn Rand is a jerk. Back in the day, when he had a subscription to her newsletter, he wrote to her about something he didn’t agree with. Instead of addressing the glaring conflict of reason he brought to her attention she suspended his subscription without refunding his money. –Not too libertarian, eh?. Ayn Rand was just another megalomaniac cult leader who demanded lockstep obedience. She was a complete tyrant and anybody who reads history knows it.

    • HornOrSilk

      How was it not libertarian for her to do as she wished with her own newsletter and the money people gave to her? Libertarians are always defending this when it’s big business and the markets, saying the government has no authority to intervene. This is exactly what happens with libertarian ideals. Notice how you said previously your father also doesn’t do as he “preaches.” This is always the case, except I would say, libertarian thought does do what it preaches, but changes where the power is had.

      • I’m not a fan of libertarianism, but there is a difference between Libertarianism and Randianism.

        A Libertarian can, and many do, support voluntary-community and personal selflessness. They feel these things should not be “coerced”, but philanthropy and individuals choosing to help the poor is admirable for many or most libertarians.

        Randianism says that you must live for yourself. Living for others, altruism, only causes them to become dependent or you to become resentful of the sacrifice. So Randianism is, in my experience with Randians, generally hostile to voluntary charity as well as “the welfare state.” Some things make me think a Randian may help people if it makes them happy to do so, but to “put yourself out” for another is not within their ideal so far as I know.

        • HornOrSilk

          That doesn’t answer my question as to how Rand’s actions to her father is anti-Libertarian. That was the question.

          As for things not be “coerced,” they say that, in regards to government, but they LOVE to coerce people all the time with their economic power.

          More importantly, the fact that some Libertarians might “voluntarily” give charity is good, but that doesn’t mean they all do, and many follow Rand in selfishness – to say someone is selfish isn’t a way to say they can’t be Libertarian. However, even then, those who give charity, if they want to keep an unjust system in place, really are not giving charity after all, but rather, want to find a way to prop themselves up with pretend charity (Augustine explains this in his discussions on charity). That’s the problem with this rejection of justice, which is the end product of the rejection of government’s power to “coerce.”

          • Okay. Yeah her action there is fitting with libertarianism. However I think some of the actions in her organization were coercive and therefore not libertarian. People were expelled and possibly members told not to associate with them, but I’m not sure on that.

            • HornOrSilk

              But the problem is, libertarians are very coercive but they ignore it when they do so: people are “free to die, or take this slave labor job” is an example of such force, with a pretend “freedom” which is no true freedom. The people with the resources dictate to those who do not, and libertarians do this ALL the time. And don’t tell me libertarians never “fire” anyone, because that is being “expelled” and the threat of being “fired” is coercive as well.

              • I’m not sure what to tell you or what you’d like me to say. I’m not a libertarian. I think the whole idea of libertarianism is basically theoretical, anarchist, and maybe couldn’t exist in any real society. And I agree that libertarianism seems like it would lead to coercion by corporations because there wouldn’t be enough oversight to stop that. (Exempting maintenance of contracts, but that might not be enough to limit corporate restrictions on individual liberty)

                However I think some of what you’re saying about it is unfair. A great many libertarians believe, or wish to believe, that work is a voluntary association. That in a truly libertarian society you might get fired, just as your girlfriend or boyfriend might break up with you, but another job can present itself. That if you have any skills or talents at all you’ll survive. And if you don’t have any of those things someone will pity you or, for the harsher libertarians, maybe it’s better to “die free” than “live under bureaucracy.” They oppose slavery and assume the market will pay workers what they deserve to be paid and if they earn a pittance it’s because that’s what they’re contributing.

                It’s in many ways a ridiculous and hypothetical belief system. I’d say it’s also mostly appealing to able-bodied men, and sometimes women, unaware of some of the realities of others. (I don’t agree on libertarianism being a philosophy of people without kids though as too much contradicts that.) But I think you don’t have to turn it into something it ideally doesn’t wish to be in order to disagree with it. As much of my online experience is at science fiction forums I’ve met many kinds of libertarians. Some are like what you say, but some definitely are not.

                Again this is likely not what you, or maybe the host, want to hear but that’s life sometimes.

                • HornOrSilk

                  Even contracts, however, are often based upon force, where the one with the greatest power dictates the shots.

                  Libertarians “want” to believe work is a voluntary association. They want to be DELUDED into thinking “right to work” junk has any validity. But the thing is, work is not entirely voluntary, we have to work to live, and the people with the power to create jobs know this, which is why they are constantly pushing workers to lower and lower wages. “Get a job elsewhere or die if you don’t want to work” is the kind of mentality which goes with this position (they might not say “or die” but that is the ultimate end when they reject the social safety net and government intervention for justice). So the problem is that libertarians only give those with the might the power, and their “freedom” is at the expense of those under them, who have an illusion of “freedom.” But the arguments used by libertarians can turn on against them: You are “free” to disobey the government, and take the consequences (government force), but then they, again, cry up to the heavens for persecution when that “freedom” is given to them.

                  • HornOrSilk

                    Example from the CST:

                    302. Remuneration is the most important means for achieving justice in work relationships.[659] The “just wage is the legitimate fruit of work”.[660]

                    They commit grave injustice who refuse to pay a just wage or who do not give it in due time and in proportion to the work done (cf. Lv 19:13; Dt 24:14-15; Jas 5:4). A salary is the instrument that permits the labourer to gain access to the goods of the earth. “Remuneration for labour is to be such that man may be furnished the means to cultivate
                    worthily his own material, social, cultural, and spiritual life and that of his dependents, in view of the function and productiveness of each one, the conditions of the factory or workshop, and the common good”.[661] The simple agreement between employee and employer with regard to the amount of pay to be received is not sufficient for the agreed-upon salary to qualify as a “just wage”, because a just wage “must not be below the level of subsistence”[662] of the worker: natural justice precedes and is above the freedom of the contract.

                    Libertarians would say that the “agreement” was just if the worker “agreed,” but ignore that circumstances often force them to “agree” just to survive the next day, whether or not it is just. And thus, as the CST points out, natural justice precedes — even contracts — but libertarians ignore that, because they love to use contracts as metaphorical swords against others.

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      A Libertarian might counter that a truly free market (as opposed to the cornered market you present as a caricature) would be less prone to this consequence than an artificially restricted one. Shirley, you must have seen such a counterargument.

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      I a afraid that argument has roots in a philosophy that claims that all people, if left entirely to their own devices, will necessarily act with justice and righteousness. This negates the Fall of man, or original sin. Many people will do bad things if they can get away with it, it is just “human nature”. That is probably one of the things Mark means when he says that libertarianism is pursuing an utopia.

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      A valid counterargument with one qualification: a libertarian will argue that each acts for his own good, not necessarily the common good or transcendental goodness. It’s a minor quibble, really, in that it leads to the same place.

          • jroberts548

            Most libertarians believe in freedom of contract, and would like to see contracts reoccupy some of the space taken by regulation and tort. Most libertarians still want contracts to be backed by the government. Breaking a contract by unilaterally canceling a subscription undermines freedom of contract.

            • HornOrSilk

              But what exactly was the subscription contract? And forcing contracts to be backed by the government is self-contradictory. But thanks for showing how libertarians use coercive force when it suits them.

              • jroberts548

                Nearly everyone believes contracts should be backed by the government. That’s what contracts are. If you’re in a contract with someone, and they breach, you can go to court and the court will make them either perform the contract or pay you for the damages caused by their breach. I’m sure there may be some self-described libertarians who don’t believe contracts should be backed by the government. These people would be better off describing themselves as anarchists, as lunatics, or as idiots.

                • HornOrSilk

                  But how do the contracts come to exist? If you study Catholic Social Teaching, it has a lot to say on contracts, especially unjust contracts where there is great inequality in the parties, allowing one to call all the shots. These kinds of contracts libertarians not only defend, but promote. But the fact of the matter is, if you call the government in to defend contracts, then you admit government has a role in creating a just society, and when you do that, then it is not just contacts. This is, again, where the self-contradictory, wanting the cake and eating it too, comes about with libertarians: they cry to the heavens if they are being “forced” to do something they do not want, but they ARE willing to have the government force others when it suits them. The point is, when you admit contracts (which have a lot of question of coercion when talking about how they come about, which libertarians always forget), then you admit coercion itself isn’t inherently evil, and if you do that, then a lot of their arguments fall away. And it ends up basically: do as I want.

                  • jroberts548

                    If you’re coerced into a contract by your counterparty, it’s a voidable contract.

                    Does anyone really think all coercion is inherently evil? Are there any actually existing libertarians who take that position and call for a world with no cops at all? I hope not; I hope no one is that profoundly stupid. You can’t have a system of property and contract rights without coercion. A coercion-less world isn’t libertarianism; it’s insanity. Even the insane, satanic ravings of Ayn Rand require coercion, without which there are no property rights.

                    At worst, coercion is an evil to be tolerated in some instances, like side effects of drugs are evils. Bringing the coercive power of the state to bear to everything is bad. Bringing the coercive power of the state to bear on nothing is bad. Anyone who disagrees with those two statements is insane.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      The thing is, by the way contracts are made, with the parties not being equal, the weaker party is coerced. That’s what you constantly ignore, and is a major point: when there is no level playing field for contact making, the one with all the cards, makes the field itself.

                    • Ed

                      So how do you propose to prevent all contracts between unequals? For that matter, whom are you going to have decide on inequality?

                    • Marthe Lépine

                      One example: A poor and unemployed person “contracting” to work for a corporation at a poverty wage because there are few other jobs available – vs – a union representing several workers discussing a collective contract with the same corporation. That is a way to reduce the inequality between contracting parties, and, interestingly, there are very strong efforts to eliminate unions on the part of people claiming to be conservative – because of the market…

          • Catholic Fast Food Worker

            HornOrSilk, only an intellectual coward would suspend the subscription (without an explanation or attempt of civil discourse) of a simple hard-working American man simply because he dares question her crazy selfish philosophy. Ayn Rand literally thought of herself as the center of the universe, well, obviously, she was wrong. She had (& still has) a large fan base- even though she treated many of her followers like crap. Viva Cristo Rey

            • HornOrSilk

              I am not supporting Rand. I am asking how her position was anti-libertarian. Her position is completely immoral, because it is about selfishness. She did what her position expects. That’s the point of how wrong her view is. However, libertarians follow through with that position, all the time; they constantly argue against the moral solution (justice by the state) for the sake of their own selfish desires all the time.

      • anna lisa

        My father places his Catholic faith first and foremost in his life. He serves his community tirelessly. He gives until he no longer has anything else to give. When I laughed about running his own welfare state, it’s because even the people that he loves have exploited him by tapping into his bottomless charity. What makes the man livid is when the long arm of government reaches in and informs him how his charity must manifest itself. (HHS mandate anybody?)
        To answer your question directly, yes, Ayn Rand had every right to cancel his newsletter, but the morality of confiscating the money he paid for a full subscription is a no brainer.
        I’m not a libertarian. I won’t defend being one, but I do *fear* the long arm of the government. If push came to shove, my father would admit to not really being one either–not a purist anyhow.
        (and really, Mr. Horn, after reading the thread might I add that you don’t have to express your opinions with so much rudeness?)

        • HornOrSilk

          Still didn’t answer my question. How were her actions non-libertarian?

          Second, if he placed his trust in the Catholic faith, he would know that it is not “charity” but JUSTICE which the Church says the state must engage, and that justice is to make the situation just. The constant confusion of helping people through justice as charity shows the people LACK charity, as St Augustine once wrote (those with charity would want every possible means to help those in need accomplished, so they won’t need charity).

          Oh, and “morality” is not an answer to the libertarian question, because libertarian views counter morality.

          • Josh

            Don’t be an asshole, man. She was just saying “Rand was a jerk,” not looking to DEFEND libertarianism from SCOLDS like you.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

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

    Because filling your unpaid workers stockings with coal just isn’t as fun as it used to be.

    • Catholic Fast Food Worker

      Good one! But on a serious note, what a sick gift for the Celebration of our Lord’s Birthday/Nativity. I’ll take the coal lumps instead, Rep. Ryan!

  • KM

    It is fashionable for today’s conservative elites, like Alan Greenspan or Paul Ryan, to follow Ayn Rand, but it wasn’t that way among conservatives (such as William Buckley) of yesteryear:

    “…one of Ayn Rand’s early disciples, Alan Greenspan, [became] chairman of
    the Federal Reserve, the ultimate technocrat of the financial caste, if
    not of industrialists and engineers.” (From “Conservatives Once Ridiculed Ayn Rand” at Salon magazine)

    Ayn Rand’s philosophy is fashionable among our elite because it is “conceited Nietzschean elitism.”

    • Alexander S Anderson

      It’s so conceited that she doesn’t even acknowledge Nietzsche as an influence!

      • KM

        Whitaker Chambers wrote as much in his scathing 1957 review of Atlas Shrugged:

        “Miss Rand acknowledges a grudging debt to one, and only one, earlier
        philosopher: Aristotle. I submit that she is indebted, and much more
        heavily, to Nietzsche. Just as her operatic businessmen are, in fact,
        Nietzschean supermen, so her ulcerous leftists are Nietzsche’s “last
        men,” both deformed in a way to sicken the fastidious recluse of Sils

        “It is, in sum, a forthright philosophic materialism… Like any consistent materialism, this one begins by rejecting
        God, religion, original sin, etc. etc. (This book’s aggressive atheism
        and rather unbuttoned “higher morality,” which chiefly outrage some
        readers, are, in fact, secondary ripples, and result inevitably from its
        underpinning premises.) Thus, Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made
        the center of a godless world.”

        • Alexander S Anderson

          Whitaker Chambers’ review of Atlas Shrugged may be the best book review ever written.

  • Reading and believing in Rand (more Fountainhead than Atlas Shrugged because I was artsy) as an adolescent American male was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I was warned by a very wise professor but didn’t listen. I’m convinced it set back my moral and spiritual development by years if not decades.

    • Catholic Fast Food Worker

      Mr. Lee Potts, you’re not the only one. I was encouraged by a family acquaintance to read Ayn Rand’s book as a child (I was & still am a bookworm). As a middle schooler, I had no idea who Ayn Rand was when this lady gave me a book by her, nor did I realize the spiritual harm that I had undergone from reading the books she gave me from Ayn Rand. I regret it; Ayn Rand’s books only serve to isolate individuals from other people. They make one react repulsively at the command from our Lord our God to “Love HIM and your NEIGHBOR (not your ‘selfishness’) with all your heart, soul, mind, will.” Her literature is seductive but very infantile in maturity level when you think about it. As GK Chesterton says, “Angels fly because they take themselves so lightly, demons sink because they take themselves so seriously.” Ayn Rand makes a demon out of you, if you know what I mean. Thank God, He saved me from her messed up philosophy. I’m free now.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    I read Ayn Rand and thought she was totally amazing. Then I turned fourteen…

    • Nordog6561


      That’s some funny stuff right there.

      On a serious note, it took three tries for me to finally finish Atlas Shrugged. I first attempted to read it in my early 30s. The book was turgid dreck. The “love” scenes were rape fantasies.

      I do find that Ayn Rand is spot on regarding some very important points about the nature of tyranny and abuses of the state.

      Having said that, she was most certainly pernicious in her ideas about the nature of man.

      And I fear that the bad aspects of her works far outweigh those good insights.

      In short, despite some exceedingly insightful observations, she put forth a wicked and repugnant philosophy.

  • KM

    What I don’t get is how Catholic conservatives can simultaneously admire and defend Ayn Rand — who believed and wrote that abortion was “a moral right” and that embryos have no right to life — yet condemn all liberals for the Democratic party’s support of abortion. These conservatives are willing to set aside their moral principles and accept parts of Rand’s odious philosophy that fit their beliefs while ignoring its rotten foundation.

    • Mark S. (not for Shea)

      Rand was dozen kinds of crazy. An immigrant who hated immigrants. Wrote against the poor sucking off the government teat, yet she lived off Social Security. A classic case of do as I say, not as I do.
      Rand is kind of the anti-Marx. Most of what Marx wrote about the faults and evils of industrial capitalism was absolutely correct. A great diagnosis of the disease. But his proposed cure was crazy, evil, and stupid. Rand’s criticisms of communism are a lot like that, which is why Republicans love her. Great diagnosis of the disease, but her proposed cure is crazy, stupid, and evil. A viper might do a great job of getting the rats out of your house. But you better not sleep easy if you’ve got a viper loose in your house.

      • HornOrSilk

        Actually, I think her diagnosis of the disease was wrong, which is a part of the problem. She viewed anything not promoting selfish-individualism as communism, so anything which didn’t promote that ideal was part of her diagnosis. Thus, she would often label legitimate goods of the state (justice, common good, solidarity) and even actions we commit (charity) as a part of the disease. This is not viable and ends in the self-destruct mode we see with her and many others following her principles. Just because she rejected communism doesn’t mean her reasons were right: she attacked most of what was good within it, and thus, her followers do too, whenever the church promotes it. The Popes have given better diagnosis for communism, in part, because they see it is on the same coin as her ideology.

    • sez

      Ayn Rand opposed communism, so she must be a prophet.

      I don’t understand why people cling to their gurus, even when the guru is so obviously wrong. But I see it over and over again: people embrace everything the guru says, just because the first thing they heard about the guru sounded so correct. I think this is called the halo effect. I call it lazy, bit-brain thinking. (Where “thinking” is very loosely defined as requiring a bare minimum of actual brain activity… at some point in the past.)

    • wineinthewater

      I think it reveals one of the significant problems on the Right. Too much of the right doesn’t actually care about abortion, they care about getting the pro-life vote. And it seems that the more a Conservative cares about fiscal issues, the more likely they are to admire Rand and the less likely they are to really care about the pro-life movement beyond a voting bloc. (generalization caveat emptor)

  • Neihan

    That John Rogers quote is fantastic. I don’t understand how any faithful Catholic could embrace Ayn Rand’s philosophy, let alone anyone (Catholic or not) think it at all compatible with Catholicism. It makes about as much sense as a faithful Catholic embracing Margaret Sanger or Nietzsche.

    Still, is this really some sort of epidemic infecting a “huge” number of Catholics? I ask that sincerely. The diocese in which I live tends to suffer from very different sorts of heresies, but that’s just one tiny corner of Christendom so maybe it’s more pervasive than I know.

    Either way, obviously, it should be combated as all falsehood and evil should be. I’m just not sure it’s “huge” in the same sense as the apparently wide-spread rejection of Church teaching regarding the Real Presence, Theology of the Body, Church authority, etc.

    • sez

      It becomes “huge” in election season. Given the public forum that its followers take and from which they preach, it attracts & disinforms many. Even one is too many.

  • Tony

    I agree with your critique of Paul Ryan’s love of Ayn Rand, what I don’t agree with is that you have offered none of Ryan’s recent quotes on how Pope Francis is changing the way he views the poor. He may be lying, but I think its at least fair to assume the best about people

  • jaybird1951

    Mark may have more insight into Paul Ryan’s moral conscience and actions as a Catholic Christian but I am not aware that Ryan has lived his life according to the principles of Ayn Rand.

  • chad

    Up until 5 minutes ago I thought Mark might be overreacting too the actual influence of Ayn Rand… until I saw these responses to a question from a State Senator