WARNING: Reading this post may result in some slight identification with Ayn Rand. Don’t worry. It will quickly subside.
Paul Ryan may be backing away from his devotion to Ayn Rand, the woman who inspired him to enter politics. But there are some things that the 20th century’s most prominent prophet of selfishness would have probably appreciated about the Republican’s soon-to-be nominee for vice president.
In fourteen years in Washington D.C., Ryan only passed two bills—one naming a U.S. post office in his hometown, the other giving arrow makers a tax break. This abject uselessness on behalf of the American people is about as close as an elected official can get to “going Galt.” Being a star member of the most unproductive Congress in 65 years might also have impressed the author who saw the only purpose of government as protecting citizens from physical violence.
Rand might also admire Ryan’s desire to eventually zero out nearly every program that helps the poor and his desire to help rich people become richer with massive tax breaks. But there’s much about the Congressman from Wisconsin that she certainly would consider abhorrent. As Rand scholar Jennifer Burns said, “If Mr. Ryan becomes the next vice president, it wouldn’t be her dream come true, but her nightmare.”
Here are five reasons why Ayn Rand would have quickly shrugged off Paul Ryan.
Jack Kemp was a favorite of Ronald Reagan. The ex-football star, Congressman, and 1996 running mate of Bob Dole, Kemp gave Paul Ryan his first job in politics as a speechwriter. A prime requirement of such a job would be the ability to praise the Gipper slavishly and constantly, something Ryan has been doing ever since. Ryan says that Republicans need to offer the kind of “boldness and clarity that Reagan offered in the 1980s.” Rand would disagree. She hated Reagan with a boldness and clarity that few liberals can match. In 1976 she wrote, “I urge you, as emphatically as I can, not to support the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. I urge you not to work for or advocate his nomination, and not to vote for him. My reasons are as follows: Mr. Reagan is not a champion of capitalism, but a conservative in the worst sense of that word—i.e., an advocate of a mixed economy with government controls slanted in favor of business rather than labor.”
A “conservative in the worst sense of that word” may be the single finest phrase she ever wrote.
His Anti-Abortion Rights Stand
Paul Ryan is as anti-abortion rights as any modern politician can be. He authored the Protect Life Act, which would deny an abortion even to save the mother’s own life. Rand’s stand on abortion rights was equally firm in the opposite direction. In her book Of Living Death, Rand wrote, “Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered.” The idea that a woman possesses ownership of her own body even after one of her eggs has been fertilized is certainly one concept of freedom that has not been transmitted to those on the right like Ryan, who publicize her philosophy.
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In his first speech as Mitt Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, a practicing Catholic, said “Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.” He clearly hoped to soothe any doubters on the religious right who might worry that he is too influenced by Rand’s writings. A militant atheist, Rand believed the source of all rights came from simply existing. “The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man,” she wrote. About faith, a fundamental aspect of Catholicism, Rand wrote: “Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought.” It isn’t hard to believe that Rand would consider Ryan to be a walking manifestation of that enemy.
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Ryan Relies on the State
Paul Ryan’s great grandfather started a company called Ryan Incorporated Central that has been contracting with the government for over a century. Ryan himself famously used his Social Security survivor’s benefits to pay for his college, which was easy to do considering that his father also left him a substantial share of his estate. And you’re well aware that since he began serving in Congress back in 1999, Paul Ryan has been enjoying government health care. Ayn Rand preached self-reliance and her heroes were always self-made—unlike Ryan and Romney, both of whom enjoyed extraordinary financial stability and connections coming out of college. These luxuries made Ryan insensitive to the troubles faced by typical Americans and the need for a safety net, which Ryan likes to call a “safety hammock.”
Some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple. Ryan is standing on third base wondering why the batboy is being so lazy. Not exactly a heroic stand.
Paul Ryan Would Take Away Her Medicare
For all her ranting about the limits of government and the need to be independent, Ayn Rand benefited from Medicare. After decades of smoking, she needed surgery for lung cancer. And where did she turn? The evil of collectivism. Her supporters argue that “she paid into [the Medicare system] her entire life. Why shouldn’t she accept the benefits?” I agree. But all the people under 55 who would get a vastly different version of Medicare under Ryan’s plan have paid their dues, too. Lao Tzu said, “Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” Whatever Ayn Rand’s beliefs or intentions, her character provided a real testament to the virtues of government that promotes its citizens’ general welfare.
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