Now that Paul Ryan has been chosen as presidential candidate Mit Romney’s running mate, the incessant digging into Ryan’s past has commenced. As a part of that digging, the candidate’s beliefs and past speeches are now being vetted.
As relatively young as Ryan is for a vice presidential candidate, the idealistic beliefs he may have held in the past are still fresh enough that they could come into play during the election. This week, the question over whether Ryan is an adherent to the philosophy of Ayn Rand has resurfaced.
In an interview with the National Review in April of this year, Ryan disavowed any beliefs in Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. From the interview:
“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.
The Objectivist philosophy, at a basic level, promotes selfishness as a virtue and rejects altruism. It teaches that individuals should act in accordance with whatever is in their own rational self-intrest. Rand’s beliefs are widespread in Libertarian and some Republican political circles, and mesh well with the promotion of laissez-faire capitalism.
While Ryan’s current sentiments seem clear, it was only seven years ago that Ryan delivered a speech to the Atlas Society in which he praised Rand and credited the woman as his inspiration for entering politics. He even mentions that his staff and interns are required to read Rand’s most well-known novel, Atlas Shrugged. From the speech, which can be heard here:
“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…”
” 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…”
“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 principles are. I always go back to, you know, Francisco d’Anconia’s speech 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…”
Francisco d’Anconia and John Galt are characters in Atlas Shrugged.
It seems as though Ryan is rejecting Objectivism due to its atheistic bent. Ayn Rand described Objectivism as a purely rationalist philosophy, and was outspokenly scornful of religion. Considering the large base of Republican voters who are religious, it is no surprise that Ryan is distancing himself from what appear to have been the beliefs that motivated him to become involved in politics.
(via ABC News)