Rand and Ryan: Symbiosis, Not Soul Mates
August 12, 2012 - 6:41 am
This is not quite the antithesis of Rand, who also believed reason led to knowledge, but obviously Rand’s atheism precluded an understanding and acceptance of the divine as a basis for moral action. It may be a political convenience for Ryan to de-emphasize his admiration for some of the tenets Rand’s Objectivist philosophy — including those that celebrate the notion that capitalism is the only way to ensure human freedom — but that doesn’t mean that Ryan is turning his back completely on her.
Rand is seen as a prophet by many conservatives. She is also seen as evil incarnate by many liberals. The attacks are already coming from the left highlighting Ryan’s “dalliance” with the ideas of Rand, and taking some of the philosopher’s more problematic statements about the poor out of context. Writes Jane Mayer:
While Ryan may be distancing himself from Rand now, the Democrats will surely argue that her views on the virtues of selfishness have left a more lasting legacy in the policies that he and Romney embrace. In his début today, Ryan stressed that “We promise equal opportunity—not equal outcomes”—a philosophy that telegraphed a tough message to those who are worst off. Ryan also signalled a Rand-like celebration of the winners, and dismissed complaints from the losers, saying, “We look at one another’s success with pride, not resentment.” Rand’s language was tougher still. She used words such as “refuse” and “parasites” to describe the poor, while celebrating millionaire businessmen as heroes. She abhorred government social programs, such as Social Security, at least until she reached the age of eligibility, and reportedly signed on for both its benefits and those of Medicare.
Rand’s rejection of “ethical altruism” as a basis for government assistance to the poor will no doubt be thrown in Ryan’s face as the left desperately seeks to portray the Wisconsin congressman as a heartless monster, willing to leave those less fortunate behind. But, in truth, Ryan himself has eschewed much of the hard-edged social philosophy of Rand, embracing her defenses of individual rights and capitalism in the abstract rather than as a concrete or literal interpretation of her writings. This makes Ryan a symbiote, not a soul mate, of Rand.
Expect to see a lot of quotes from Rand’s writings juxtaposed alongside Ryan’s statements in the next few weeks. This will be a rich vein to tap when attacking the nominee, but it ultimately will fail. Ryan is no more an Objectivist than he is a heartless radical willing to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class.
The problem is, everyone knows that it’s easier to win votes if you present yourself as Santa Claus and paint the other guy as Scrooge. And that’s a game the Democrats have always played very well.