With the selection of Paul Ryan for V.P. The Democratic Strategist is reissuing several posts about his political philosophy. This post by James Vega is from April 25th 2011
Paul Ryan is unusual among politicians because – unlike most — he is actually committed to a specific, explicitly formulated social philosophy – the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Here are three facts that make the depth of his commitment unmistakably clear:
• Paul Ryan was a speaker at the Ayn Rand Centenary Conference in 2005, where he cited Rand as his primary inspiration for entering public service. “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,” he said.
• He has at least two videos on his Facebook page in which he heaps praise on Rand. “Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism,”
• He distributes copies of Rand’s books to his staff and requires them to read them.
So is Ryan really a committed and genuine follower of Rand? Let’s try just a little bit of intellectual honesty here. Just replace the name Ayn Rand with V.I. Lenin and imagine a Democrat trying to get away with doing the things listed above without being labeled a hard-core Leninist fanatic.
OK, so let’s accept that Ryan is a serious, dyed-in-the-wool Ayn Rand-ian. So what? Well, listen to these quotes from Rand about ordinary working people:
“The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all their brains…
…Wealth is …made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools, by the able at the expense of the incompetent, by the ambitious at the expense of the lazy….
“What are your masses but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?”
No, these are not out of context, uncharacteristic remarks and no, they are not referring only to people on welfare. They are the core of an organized philosophy that glorifies the wealth-creating businessman and dismisses the ordinary working stiff as a dumb and lazy parasite whose mediocrity is his own damn fault and who lives off businessmen’s productivity like a blood-sucking leech. It’s the philosophy at very heart of “Atlas Shrugged” the book that made Rand a right-wing hero.
Now here is Ayn Rand on God:
Every argument for God and every attribute ascribed to Him rests on a false metaphysical premise. None can survive for a moment on a correct metaphysics.
Ayn Rand on Faith:
…. The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought.
Ayn Rand on Christian Compassion:
Now there is one word–a single word–which can blast the morality of altruism out of existence and which it cannot withstand–the word: “Why?” Why must man live for the sake of others? Why must he be a sacrificial animal? Why is that the good? There is no earthly reason for it–and, ladies and gentlemen, in the whole history of philosophy no earthly reason has ever been given. It is only mysticism that can permit moralists to get away with it. It was mysticism, the unearthly, the supernatural, the irrational that has always been called upon to justify it… one just takes it on faith.
Ayn Rand on the Cross:
“It is the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the non-ideal. . . . It is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture.”
“Mysticism” and “superstition” were two of Ayn Rand’s favorite derogatory terms for religion and her dismissal of Christ for sacrificing himself for his “inferiors” ties together her contempt for both ordinary working people and Christianity at the same time. There are in her works countless statements that literally drip with scorn and loathing for the weak, the helpless, the needy – the people Jesus called “the least of these”. Her “Virtue of Selfishness” described such people as contemptible failures and parasites — inferiors to be despised, not comforted.
Many conservative Christians who take their Christianity seriously do face up to the genuinely creepy and sinister “uber-mensch” (superior man) and “unter-mensch” (inferior man) elements of Rand’s philosophy and reject it categorically.
Here, for example, is Michael Gerson:
Reaction to Rand draws a line in political theory. Some believe with Rand that all government is coercion and theft — the tearing-down of the strong for the benefit of the undeserving. Others believe that government has a limited but noble role in helping the most vulnerable in society — not motivated by egalitarianism, which is destructive, but by compassion, which is human. And some root this duty in God’s particular concern for the vulnerable and undeserving, which eventually includes us all. This is the message of Easter, and it is inconsistent with the gospel of Rand.
But Paul Ryan doesn’t believe this at all – he considers Rand his hero and inspiration – and it’s really vile and contemptible that so many conservatives who claim to be both devout Christians and great defenders of the average American are happily snuggling up under the covers and making goo-goo eyes with a guy whose philosophy should make them gag up their lunch and run to take a shower. Politics may make strange bedfellows, but this slimy and perverse union is particularly grotesque.