Home » Culture » Paul Ryan’s Mentor: Ayn Rand, the Mother of Modern Conservatives

Paul Ryan’s Mentor: Ayn Rand, the Mother of Modern Conservatives

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On April 30, 2012, The Atlas Society published a piece called “Paul Ryan And Ayn Rand’s Ideas: In The Hot Seat Again.” 

In it they talked about the close association then vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, had drawn between Ayn Rand and his own political philosophy. Publicity surrounding his views were prompted by a National Review article entitled, “Ryan Shrugged” which characterize as an “urban legend Ryan’s alleged connections to Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. While Rep. Ryan may never have expressly indicated he embraces her Objectivist philosopy, he is clearly a fan of Ayn Rand‘s ideas and requires his staff to read Atlas Shrugged. (See National Review’s “Ryan Isn’t a Randian” for more along these lines.)

How closely Paul Ryan and other conservative associate themselves with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is important because it shines a light on the heart and soul of their political objectives.  Ayn Rand, a staunch believer in individualism and foe of collectivism in any form, believed altruism and any form of self-sacrifice was evil.  She meant this literally, and any institutions based on such collectivist notions were also evil.  This included churches and all major religions. Ayn Rand was obviously an atheist.  This is an inconvenient truth for Ryan and many evangelical Christians who have adopted Rand’s ideology with respect to the behavior of  corporations  and the formulation of government business policies.  Rand’s Objectivism philosophy has become, ex-post-facto, the underpinning for today’s very aggressive brand of capitalism.   In fact, the incompatibility of Rand’s value systems applied to business behavior and Christian values applied to human behavior is the great paradox of our time.  Objectivism and Religion antithetical belief systems.  (To hear a little more about Ayn Rand in her own words, listen to her interviewed on the Phil Donahue Show back in 1979.)

In the article the Atlas Society released an audio recording of a 2005 speech mand by Paul Ryan at the organizations “Celebration of Ayn Rand” event. That audio file is posted here below along with the following excerpts [highlights are mine].

Congressman Paul Ryan on Ayn Rand

(1:45) I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and [in] the fight we’re engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that’s what I tell people. You know everybody does their soul-searching, and trying to find out who they are and what they believe, and you learn about yourself.

(2:01) 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.

(2:23) But 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. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.

(2:38) In almost every fight we are involved in here, on Capitol Hill, whether it’s an amendment vote that I’ll take later on this afternoon, or a big piece of policy we’re putting through our Ways and Means Committee, it is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict: individualism vs. collectivism.

(2:54) And so when you take a look at where we are today, ah, some would say we’re on offense, some would say we’re on defense, I’d say it’s a little bit of both. And when you look at the twentieth-century experiment with collectivism—that Ayn Rand, more than anybody else, did such a good job of articulating the pitfalls of statism and collectivism—you can’t find another thinker or writer who did a better job of describing and laying out the moral case for capitalism than Ayn Rand.

(3: 21) It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are. I always go back to, you know, Francisco d’Anconia’s speech (at Bill Taggart’s wedding) on money when I think about monetary policy. And then I go to the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end, and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I’m believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism… [To better understand Ryan’s references here go to David Weigel’s commentary in Slate from August 13, 2012 ]

(6:53) Is this an easy fight? Absolutely not…But if we’re going to actually win this we need to make sure that we’re solid on premises, that our principles are well-defended, and if we want to go and articulately defend these principles and what they mean to our society, what they mean for the trends that we set internationally, we have to go back to Ayn Rand. Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.



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