“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." - Rep. Paul Ryan (R - Wisconsin)
This Paul Ryan quote came from a 2005 gathering in Washington that honored the author and libertarian philosopher Ayn Rand, the woman who he acknowledged had had an enormous impact on his life and his career. The woman whose philosophy had, in fact, inspired him to go into politics and to try to remake the world in her image. Ryan was famous for requiring his interns to read Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, and for giving the book as a Christmas present every year. In countless interviews, he was very open about her influence on his life.
Accordingly, as the Republicans' point man on budget matters, he wrote budgets which were completely draconian in their punishment of the powerless poor and middle class and their distribution of largess to the richest and most powerful among us. For this, he was heaped with praise by his fellow Republicans and by Washington pundits who anointed him as a Very Serious Person.
Recently, though, some people - other than Paul Krugman who's been there all along - have begun to point out some of the flaws in Mr. Ryan's budgetary philosophy. And now the Catholic bishops have denounced the budget on religious grounds, calling it un-Christian. Apparently the bishops have noticed that sticking it to the poor is not really what Jesus would have done. And this criticism from the bishops, it seems, has been the final straw for the Catholic Mr. Ryan. Suddenly, he has decided that he doesn't really admire that atheist philosopher Rand after all!
It sounds to me as if Ryan has been taking lessons from the Etch-a-Sketch candidate, shaking everything up and trying to reset it. So will we now see him renouncing his budget which is the very embodiment of Rand's morality and political perspective? I won't hold my breath.
Whenever I think of Ryan and his slavish adherence in his political life to the philosophy expressed in Atlas Shrugged, I'm always reminded of blogger Kung Fu Monkey's take on it:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.Personally, I was always enchanted by the orcs, elves and hobbits and never was enticed to the dark side by Rand/Sauron.