The Inspiration For Paul Ryan's Profoundly And Explicitly Anti-Christian Budget
Thursday Wisconsin's nihilistic governor, Scott Walker, wrote a glowing paean to political ally Paul Ryan for Time Magazine's top 100 people of the year contest:
Paul Ryan, 41, came of age down the road from me. Although we didn't know each other at the time, it's clear now that growing up in south-central Wisconsin during the Reagan years had a lasting impact on both our political philosophies. Like our 40th President, Paul has always stuck to his core beliefs: in limited, effective government; individual liberty; and making the hard decisions so our children will inherit a country at least as great as the one we did. Overnight, his economic plan has redefined the nation's conversation about public spending.
It has been said that there are two types of people in politics: those who want to be somebody great and those who want to do something great. Paul Ryan is the latter, and our country is better off because of that.
What is the great cause for which Ryan wants to devote his political life? Unkind critics point to the unprecedented-- at least in Wisconsin politics-- gushers of money Ryan has solicited from the Wall Street sector and detect a correlation between the bribes he takes and the policies he espouses. And since there is nothing that holds his voting record-- huge, unjustifiable bailouts for Wall Street banks coupled with the dismantling of Medicare and unconscionable tax breaks for the richest Americans coupled with privatization of Social Security-- other than obeisance to a garden variety Big Business agenda, this interpretation has become widespread. What people may be missing, however, is a parallel influence on Ryan-- one not unrelated, but not identical either: his devotion to the adolescent philosophy of Ayn Rand: "the virtue of selfishness," a more direct-- if somewhat off-putting to non-beleivers-- description of a philosophy known as "Objectivism." Like Ron Johnson, Wisconsin's new senator and Ron and Rand Paul (as well as Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Alan Greenspan), Ryan has embraced Ayn Rand's anti-Christian doctrines as a replacement for religion. Inverted Christianity-- and inverted Marxism-- is the best way to describe a political philosophy that stopped growing somewhere in Ryan's sophomore or junior year of college.
The April 18 edition of Newsweek carried an interesting article. According to author Jonathan Chait, it explains “How the GOP came to view the poor as parasites and the rich as our rightful rulers.”
Regarding novelist Ayn Rand, Chait wrote “her novel Atlas Shrugged, expressed Rand’s inverted Marxism... In 2009 Rand began popping up all over the tea party movement.”
Congressman Paul Ryan has been a fan of Rand’s philosophy for a long time. According to Chait, “Ryan once appeared at a gathering to honor her philosophy, where he announced ‘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.’ He continues to view Rand as a lodestar, requiring staffers to digest her creepy tracts.”
Chait also mentions that part of Ryan’s budget proposal about Medicare includes “imposing huge cuts on anybody who retires starting in 2022.”
We know how Ryan wants to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs for the middle class and the poor. Perhaps now we know why.
Reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead will help you understand the
The philosophy, such as it was, which Rand laid out in her novels and essays was a frightful concoction of hyper-egotism, power-worship and anarcho-capitalism. She opposed all forms of welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. She also insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts were the only appropriate arenas for government, and that all taxation should be purely voluntary. Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between "moochers" and "producers," with the small group making up the latter generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy, the successful, and the titans of industry. The "moochers" were more or less everyone else, leading TNR's Jonathan Chait to describe Rand's thinking as a kind of inverted Marxism. Marx considered wealth creation to result solely from the labor of the masses, and viewed the owners of capital and the economic elite to be parasites feeding off that labor. Rand simply reversed that value judgment, applying the role of "parasite" to everyday working people instead. On the level of personal behavior, the heroes in Rand's novels commit borderline rape, blow up buildings, and dynamite oil fields -- actions which Rand portrays as admirable and virtuous fulfillments of the characters' personal will and desires. Her early diaries gush with admiration for William Hickman, a serial killer who raped and murdered a young girl. Hickman showed no understanding of "the necessity, meaning or importance of other people," a trait Rand apparently found quite admirable. For good measure, Rand dismissed the feminist movement as "false" and "phony," denigrated both Arabs and Native Americans as "savages" (going so far as to say the latter had no rights and that Europeans were right to take North American lands by force) and expressed horror that taxpayer money was being spent on government programs aimed at educating "subnormal children" and helping the handicapped. Needless to say, when Rand told Mike Wallace in 1953 that altruism was evil, that selfishness is a virtue, and that anyone who succumbs to weakness or frailty is unworthy of love, she meant it.
PAUL RYAN'S AYN RAND BUDGET: Given that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is the lead architect of the GOP's 2012 budget plan, his own devotion to the ideas of Atlas Shrugged and its author are worth noting. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat has dismissed the connection as Ryan merely saying some "kind words about Ayn Rand," which simply isn't a plausible characterization given what we know: Ryan was a speaker at the Ayn Rand Centenary Conference in 2005, where he described Social Security as a "collectivist system" and cited Rand as his primary inspiration for entering public service. He has at least two videos on his Facebook page in which he heaps praise on the author. "Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism," he says. All of which reflects a rather more serious devotion than a few mere kind words. So it should come as no surprise that Ryan's plan comports almost perfectly with Rand's world view. He guts Medicare, Medicaid, and a whole host of housing, food, and educational support programs, leaving the country's middle-class and most vulnerable citizens with far less support. Then he uses approximately half of the money freed by those cuts to reduce taxes on the most wealthy Americans. By transforming Medicare into a system of vouchers whose value increases at the rate of inflation, he undoes Medicare's most humane feature -- the shouldering of risk at the social level -- and leaves individuals a nd seniors to shoulder ever greater amounts of risk on their own. But if your intellectual and moral lodestar is a woman who railed against altruism as "evil" and considered the small pockets of highly successful individuals to be morally superior, it's a perfectly logical plan to put forward.
Yesterday, Ryan's hometown newspaper, the Janesville Gazette ran a review by Michael Gerson of the FreedomWorks' propaganda film based on Atlas Shrugged, calling it Ayn Rand's adult-onset adolsecence. They should save it for when they decide on whether or not to endorse Ryan's reelection bid in 2012. "A work that lectures us endlessly on the moral superiority of heroic achievement is itself a model of mediocrity. In this, the film perfectly reflects both the novel and the mind behind it." Sounds like Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman describing Paul Ryan's relationship to economics. Gerson notes that "None of the characters express a hint of sympathetic human emotion-- which is precisely the point."
Rand’s novels are vehicles for a system of thought known as Objectivism. Rand developed this philosophy at the length of Tolstoy, with the intellectual pretensions of Hegel, but it can be summarized on a napkin. Reason is everything. Religion is a fraud. Selfishness is a virtue. Altruism is a crime against human excellence. Self-sacrifice is weakness. Weakness is contemptible.
“The Objectivist ethics, in essence,” said Rand, “hold that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.”
If Objectivism seems familiar, it is because most people know it under another name: adolescence. Many of us experienced a few unfortunate years of invincible self-involvement, testing moral boundaries and prone to stormy egotism and hero worship. Usually one grows out of it, eventually discovering that the quality of our lives is tied to the benefit of others. Rand’s achievement was to turn a phase into a philosophy, as attractive as an outbreak of acne.
The appeal of Ayn Rand to conservatives is both considerable and inexplicable. Modern conservatism was largely defined by Ronald Reagan’s faith in the people instead of elites. Rand regarded the people as “looters” and “parasites.” She was a strenuous advocate for class warfare, except that she took the side of a mythical class of capitalist supermen. Rand, in fact, pronounced herself “profoundly opposed” to Reagan’s presidential candidacy because he did not meet her exacting ideological standards.
Rand cherished a particular disdain for Christianity. The cross, she said, is “the symbol of the sacrifice of the ideal to the nonideal. … It is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used. That is torture.”
Yet some conservatives marked Holy Week by attending and embracing “Atlas Shrugged.” Reaction to Rand draws a line in political theory. Some believe with Rand that all government is coercion and theft—the tearing down of the strong for the benefit of the undeserving. Others believe that government has a limited but noble role in helping the most vulnerable in society-- not motivated by egalitarianism, which is destructive, but by compassion, which is human. And some root this duty in God’s particular concern for the vulnerable and undeserving, which eventually includes us all. This is the message of Easter, and it is inconsistent with the gospel of Rand.
Many libertarians trace their inspiration to Rand’s novels, while sometimes distancing themselves from Objectivism. But both libertarians and Objectivists are moved by the mania of a single idea-- a freedom indistinguishable from selfishness. This unbalanced emphasis on one element of political theory-- at the expense of other public goals such as justice and equal opportunity-- is the evidence of a rigid ideology. Socialists take a similar path, embracing equality as an absolute value. Both ideologies have led good people into supporting policies with serious human costs.