Great graphic making the rounds, reminds one of a lawyer joke. “What’s the difference between a lawyer and a catfish? One’s a scum-sucking bottom-dweller, and the other’s a fish.” Be that as it may, a lot of thoughtful people are thinking wrongly that Paul Ryan is an avowed disciple of Ayn Rand. Whatever one’s politics, it’s best to deal in facts, and the fact of the matter is that that claim is not true. More precisely, Ryan has expressly disavowed Rand’s pseudo-philosophy of Objectivism. As I blogged some months ago at Mere Comments, drawing on a National Review piece:
It’s a common misconception on the left and on the right that Congressman Paul Ryan, architect of the GOP’s de facto budget and entry on every pundit’s vice-presidential short list, is a devotee of Ayn Rand and her philosophy of “objectivism.”
Were this true, it would be deeply unsettling, given that Rand’s philosophy (such as it is) is desperately wicked. As Whittaker Chambers wrote in National Review in 1957, “From almost any page of [Rand’s novel] Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ‘To a gas chamber — go!’” Rand’s ultimate hatred of the human race should have no place in the governance of the nation.
But it’s not true that Ryan follows Rand. National Review Online reports on a conversation with Rep. Paul Ryan, in which he disowns her (having never really owned her) and speaks of his devotion to Thomas Aquinas:
“‘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.”
The whole piece is worth reading. It’s good to know that regardless of whether one approves of Rep. Ryan’s budget or politics, there are yet a few in Washington trying to wrestle with the issues of the day appropriating substantive philosophies.