Ryan’s Ayn Problem

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 11 2012 @ 3:19pm

by Chris Bodenner

Jane Mayer reviews the record:

As my colleague Ryan Lizza noted in his terrific biographical Profile of Ryan, Rand’s works were an early and important influence on him, shaping his thinking as far back as high school. Later, as a Congressman, Ryan not only tried to get all of the interns in his congressional office to read Rand’s writing, he also gave copies of her novel "Atlas Shrugged" to his staff as Christmas presents, as he told the Weekly Standard in 2003. Two years later, in 2005, Ryan paid fealty to Rand in a speech he gave to the Atlas Society, the Washington-based think tank devoted to keeping Rand’s "objectivist" philosophy alive. He credited her with inspiring his interest in public service, saying, "[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.

This video from 2009 says it all. Then this year, in a reversal that would make Romney blush, Ryan told NRO:

"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.

And of course no mention of the atheist Russian philosopher aboard the USS Wisconsin today; Romney instead emphasized Ryan's faith and selflessness:

Paul is in public life for all the right reasons — not to advance his personal ambitions but to advance the ideals of freedom and justice; and to increase opportunity and prosperity to people of every class and faith, every age and ethnic background. A faithful Catholic, Paul believes in the worth and dignity of every human life.

Naturally voters on the left already abhor the teachings of Rand and the influence they have on the Ryan budget. So it will be much more interesting to see how Rand's blend of Social Darwinism and atheism will play out in the minds of Christian Republicans already skeptical of Romney's Mormonism and Bain background. If Democrats can effectively brand Ryan with the mark of Rand, a deep wedge could finally open up between free market Republicans and socially-conscious Christians, such as the young man in the above video.