Ryan and Rand

Just a quick note on Paul Ryan’s views on Ayn Rand. He’s expressed enough admiration for her in the past to get both the Religious Right and the Religious Left mad at him. However, according to National Review Online in April of this year, he’s said of Rand, “I reject her philosophy. It’s an atheist philosophy.”

Perhaps he’s had a change of views. Perhaps his earlier interest was exaggerated. Perhaps when Romney first suggested he might be a vice presidential candidate, he had a religious conversion of convenience. I don’t know enough about him to decide, but I hope that people won’t assume the views he expresses in the campaign reflect Objectivist positions.

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9 Responses to “Ryan and Rand”

  1. Eyal Mozes Says:

    If Ryan has ever expressed admiration for Rand’s atheism, or for any principles of her philosophy outside of political philosophy, I am not aware of it. There are many libertarians who admire Rand’s political philosophy while rejecting the more basic principles of her philosophy; I see no evidence that this was not always also Ryan’s approach to Rand, or that he’s had any change of views or any inconsistency.

    Those statements that Ryan did make about Rand – for example this video – show a much better understanding of her ideas than you usually see, either from her opponents or from her professed admirers.

    I hope that people won’t assume the views he expresses in the campaign reflect Objectivist positions

    I hope so too, of course. People should always go to Rand’s own statements to decide what does or does not reflect Objectivist positions. Leonard Peikoff, for example, has made many statements grossly inconsistent with Objectivism while expecting people to take it as reflecting Objectivism, and I very much hope people don’t fall for it. But I find it extremely unlikely Ryan could possibly say anything nearly as bad, and I don’t see cause for concern here.

    • Gary McGath Says:

      That would fall under exaggeration, then. (I haven’t had a chance to watch the video yet.) The articles I found with a search cited religious groups that attacked him for his supposed support of Rand’s views on ethics and religion, but left it to implication that he actually supports them.

  2. twwells Says:

    This article seems to do the situation justice. As I read it, Ryan admires only Rand’s political views, and has otherwise never approved of the rest.

    That said, as I said in my blog, Ryan is just a typical politician, who makes mouth noises about freedom while trying to take away freedoms.

    • Gary McGath Says:

      I just went looking for some specifics and found this page on Ryan on the issues, which lists a number of his votes (though without links or bill numbers to check). There are some good votes, but really horrific positions on abortion and intrusive government.

    • Gary McGath Says:

      Looking at the Huffington Post article a little closer, I noticed this from Ryan: “I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build the moral case for capitalism.” If he never understood that Rand’s moral case is based on the ethics of egoism, then he did pretty poor job of reading Atlas Shrugged.

      • Eyal Mozes Says:

        I certainly haven’t seen any evidence that Ryan doesn’t know Rand advocated egoism.

        There have been many libertarians who praised Rand for her moral case for the producer’s right to his own products, while rejecting the ethics of egoism. Rand’s basic criticism of the libertarian movement was that the moral case for capitalism and individual rights can’t stand without her more basic philosophy, specifically reason and egoism. Ultimately I think she was right; these libertarians are inconsistent, and so is Ryan. But I see no reason to regard Ryan’s approach to Rand as any worse, or showing any less understanding, than any non-Objectivist libertarian who’s agreed with her defense of capitalism.

        • Gary McGath Says:

          Many libertarians say good things about Rand’s political positions but claim that her ethics aren’t the right moral foundation for them. There’s nothing inconsistent about saying that as such, though they may be inconsistent in presenting their own ethical case. But when libertarians or conservatives specifically say they admire her moral case for capitalism while rejecting her ethics, as Ryan does, that’s seriously inconsistent.

          • Eyal Mozes Says:

            Gary, I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here. As far as I can understand, you’re saying that there’s nothing inconsistent about agreeing with Rand’s positions on politics, detached from all the arguments she used to support them; but that anyone who finds value in any of Rand’s arguments, without accepting her entire philosophy, is being seriously inconsistent.

            If that’s what you’re saying, then I would note that even if you’re right, it is still a gross over-statement to say that anyone who finds value in some of Rand’s arguments while rejecting others necessarily “did pretty poor job of reading Atlas Shrugged”.

            I would also note that your statement would apply to a very large portion of non-Objectivist libertarians. There are many libertarians who say they found value in many Rand’s arguments, without agreeing with her on everything. Specifically the argument praised by Ryan – her defense of a producer’s moral right to his product – is one that many libertarians regard as important and valuable.

          • twwells Says:

            “But when libertarians or conservatives specifically say they admire her moral case for capitalism while rejecting her ethics, as Ryan does, that’s seriously inconsistent.” (emphasis added).

            Of course it is. And no person with an undamaged intellect could fail to see it. Ergo, Ryan is lying or he has some sort of intellectual deficit.

            Yes, the latter is possible—once a person accepts a principle that directly undercuts their rationality, such as believing that faith can lead to knowledge, he has in fact damaged his intellect, perhaps irreparably.


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