A hilariously ignorant new meme has arisen amongst the left-wing chattering class: Paul Ryan is apparently covertly trying to smuggle Ayn Rand’s radical philosophy into the federal government. Robert Costa of the National Review summarizes the claims:
‘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.
Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, recently called Ryan “an Ayn Rand devotee” who wants to “slash benefits for the poor.” New York magazine once alleged that Ryan “requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged,” Rand’s gospel of capitalism. President Obama has blasted the Ryan budget as Republican “social Darwinism.”
Ryan, of course, has actually read Ayn Rand’s major works, unlike Paul Krugman. So he knows how to dispel this myth with ease:
“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.
It’s not really fair to Ayn Rand to say that she reduced human interactions to “contracts” — a self-described ‘romantic realist,’ Rand was interested in big ideas, and was deeply dedicated to the pursuit of noble, productive activities.
But when it comes to the contrast in motives, Ryan is dead-on. And the differences between the two couldn’t be clearer: While Ryan claims that his Catholic faith helped inspire his budget plan, it’s likely that Ayn Rand would have refused to support his proposal for just that reason. She repeatedly wrote that religious conservatives were aiding the downfall of capitalism through their futile, counterproductive attempts to tie it to religious faith. Her philosophy insists that Christianity and capitalism are incompatible. This is why she rejected Ronald Reagan — and the Republican Party:
What do I think of President Reagan?
The appalling disgrace of his administration is his connection with the so-called “Moral Majority” and sundry other TV religionists, who are struggling—apparently with his approval—to take us back to the Middle Ages, via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics.
The threat to the future of capitalism is the fact that Reagan might fail so badly that he will become another ghost, like Herbert Hoover, to be invoked as an example of capitalism’s failure for another fifty years.
Observe Reagan’s futile attempts to arouse the country by some sort of inspirational appeal. He is right in thinking that the country needs an inspirational element. But he will not find it in the God-Family-Tradition swamp.
This woman is the secret inspiration behind the Republican Party’s policies?
Besides her ardent atheism and opposition to Christian ethics, Rand was strongly pro-choice. She opposed the widespread anti-sodomy laws of her day. She despised both the War on Drugs and the Vietnam War.
Paul Krugman wants us to think that the woman who believed these things is the oracle of contemporary conservatism.
If we’ve learned anything from this dust-up, it’s that leftist economists like Paul Krugman do not find it necessary to know anything about the subjects they’re discussing. Anyone who takes one step off of the far-left platform is lumped into the same category: lunatic extremists who take personal delight in watching the poor suffer. Paul Krugman doesn’t have the motivation — or the brains — to differentiate between varieties of free-marketers. But we already knew that, didn’t we?