Lefty Attack: Paul Ryan is a Follower of Ayn Rand

-By Warner Todd Huston

It was only minutes after news broke that Paul Ryan was Romney’s likely pick for Vice President that leftwingers on Twitter began to needle Ryan as a follower of that mean ol’ Ayn Rand, the famed objectivist philosopher of the middle of last century most famous for writing Atlas Shrugged and for being a proponent of what the left says is a less than compassionate philosophy on humanity.

There is a mistaken belief on the left that Paul Ryan was somehow programmed by Ayn Rand and that his entire budget plan, his Roadmap For America’s Future, is somehow one great Randian, or worse Darwinian, exercise in the survival of the strongest. The left also chides him for later turning his back on Rand and pretending his ideas really aren’t driven by what they consider to be Ayn Rand’s mean-spirited philosophy.

Neither claim is true.

The whole discussion began in 2005 when Paul Ryan gave a presentation before The Atlas Society, an organization dedicated to the ideas of Ayn Rand. Ryan was quite effusive about Rand’s work, for sure. A full audio for the meeting is posted at the Society’s website and on it you can hear Ryan really expressing a great enthusiasm for Rand.

One of the things Ryan said is that he requires his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged.

I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.

From this the left went off like a dog with a bone imagining that Ryan was claiming to be a full-on Randian.

Then, this year, Paul Ryan gave an interview to National Review and there he disavowed being a strict devote of Ayn Rand.

As Ryan told the National Review:

“I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

This, the left said, proves he is a flip flopper or a liar. But, again, none of it is true.

First of all Ryan does not disavow being a fan of Ayn Rand’s work. He fully admits that as a young man he was influenced by her economic theories and her energetic apologia for capitalism. But he has never, ever said he was enamored of her objectivist ideals. There are no quotes from him accepting Rand’s strict philosophy.

Another area where Ryan parts company with Ayn Rand reveals a key difference between them. Rand was a vehement opponent of religion — all religion — as well as its moral strictures. But Paul Ryan is a committed Catholic. As he stated in the quote above Ryan has never signed onto her anti-religious ideals. Ryan’s compassionate Catholicism is what makes it impossible for him to be a full-throated Randian.

Still, the left claims that Paul Ryan’s budget policies are intended to throw grandma out on the street and that he intends an Ayn Rand-like destruction the welfare state. But the truth is, his Roadmap For America’s Future goes out of its way to save the welfare state by paring it down to an economically sustainable form. Ryan is not proposing any end to the welfare state.

Ayn Rand was not nearly so kind. She called the welfare state an imposition of complete immorality on a polity and opposed its construction. What ever you think of her philosophy there is no evidence that Paul Rayn ever signed on to all of her ideas.

So, it just isn’t true that Paul Ryan is some wild-eyed “objectivist” ready to tear down grandma’s safety net. Paul Ryan is clearly a fan of Ayn Rand in many ways. But he is not a Randian objectivist. And he never was.


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  • Re Ryan / Romney budget:

    I hope that you didn't require federally subsidized loans to attend college, and that your family won't need them, either, and that you have sufficient assets to buy private health insurance when you are 80, because under the Ryan plan, that's what you'll have to do, and I'm sure it will be really affordable individual coverage for old people, and if there is a fire at your house, I hope you intend to put it out yourself, and I am guessing you don't use the interstate highway system, or fly anywhere, because you couldn't do that without the government created by the taxes that we, the people, pay.

    Instead of joining the bandwagon of "personal freedom" versus government, perhaps you should make a list of the myriad ways in which you, and the rest of society, benefit from the government's role in our lives. You know that little thing called the internet, which enabled you to post your views, developed out of government supported research. In fact, most of high tech benefited enormously from government supported research in silicon valley in the 40s and 50s, you know, when real patriots were proud to pay taxes, and valued the government initiatives that improved all of their, and now our, lives. And I hope you never get cancer, because you couldn't possibly accept treatment that might have been developed through research funded by the federal government.

    The list goes on. Maybe you should consider living on a deserted island somewhere. Lots of personal liberty there.

  • In reply to SMMcMahon:

    There should be NO federal govt involvement in education. None. Sip, zero, nada. As to the false claim that the govt is responsible for the Internet, no it was PRIVATE companies that made the Internet what it is. The govt wanted to keep the Internet as a single purpose technology not open to commerce and the public but was convinced by provate enterprise to abandon that idea. The govt would NEVER have made the Internet what it became. So, no, the govt IS NOT responsible for the success of the Internet.

    Still, I know you have a disdain for freedom. After all you are a leftist, SMMcMahon. ALL you leftists hate freedom with a passion... well, unless it is freedom to bugger little boys. You LOVE that part of freedom.

    But, I have an idea. If you want a communist-like, centrally controlled govt, why not move to Cuba? Heck, we wouldn't miss an un-American type like you, anyway.

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    So why doesn't he require his staffers to read Thomas Aquinas? Too deep?

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    Aquinas believed in duty to the community, compassion for the weak & poor, and so on.
    Here are some Ayn Rand quotes:

    "[Faith] is a sign of a psychological weakness . . . I regard it as evil to place your emotions, your desire, above the evidence of what your mind knows. That’s what you’re doing with the idea of God."

    "You couldn’t really understand it because there is no way in which you could justify, nobody has ever given a reason why man should be his brothers’ keeper, and you have every example, and you see examples around you of men perishing by their attempt to be their brothers’ keeper."

    "Man's standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith. The purpose of man's life is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question."
    I would be interested to know how Paul Ryan can be a Catholic and an Ayn Rand fan too. Maybe I don't understand modern conservatism

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    How about his statement "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."

  • In reply to SADave:

    Can you show me ANYWHERE where Ryan ever said that her anti-religious ideals are his? No you can't. On the other hand I CAN show you where he rejected er anti-religious views.

    The fact is, it is possible to like parts of what someone says, it possible to agree with only SOME of a person's ideas, WITHOUT having to agree 100% with EVERYTHING they say.

    Or are you so simple minded that you disagree with that statement?

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    In reply to publiusforum:

    For many Christians, it's hard to separate Rand's religious views from her political views, because the latter so clearly evolved from the former.

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    Audio Surfaces of Paul Ryan's Effusive Love of Ayn Rand
    by Elspeth Reeve


  • In reply to John Fontaine:

    Um, I linked to the ACTUAL source of the audio in my piece above, Mr. Fontaine. You, on the other hand, linked to a left-skewed "journalist's" idea of what was said. I gave the original source. You gave spin.

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    Atlas Shrugged Part 2 will be in theaters October 12th, 2012.

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