Paul Ryan And Ayn Rand

Paul Ryan, speaking to the Atlas Society in 2005,

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.

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.

(Note – in Randian language “collectivism” — community, society, recognition of the interdependence of people (“we built that”) — means democracy, or “gang rule” as Ayn Rand words it. Ayn Rand: “Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights” “Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom . . .”)

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.

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.

(Note – here Ryan complains of “statism” another Randian cult term, as well as “collectivism” – community and democracy. Rand says “statism” – government and its laws and taxes – is “the political expression of altruism.” She says it is a “monstrously evil theory” to allow democracy, or “gang rule” to have the power – law – to make people do things or as she calls it, “the power of brute force.” This is the idea behind the right’s slogan “taxes are theft” and the general right-wing complaint that all taxes and government are forms of “socialism.”)

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…

(Note – Francisco d’Anconia’s speech, money is the true measure of achievement, proof of nobility. “Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men.”)

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 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.

I suspect that this right-wing complaint about “uncertainty” is a complaint about democracy. There is no corporate council completely in charge yet able to determine all policy, and democracy can still rear its ugly head and ask for minimum wages, health care, things like that, which means there is “uncertainty” about whether policies will all be completely corporate-centered, etc…