Friday, August 17, 2012

Rand and Ryan

"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... " - Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan

This is quite an interesting quote. It's rather along the lines of saying:

"The reason I got involved in business, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Karl Marx..."

"The reason I got involved in warfare, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Mahatma Ghandi..."

"The reason I got involved in Judaism, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ..."


22 comments:

Xtra Laj said...

To be fair to Ryan, I could say just as much. And you know my respect for her is quite limited.

gregnyquist said...

It's interesting how the left is trying to tag Ryan as Objectivism. It tells me they would rather argue against Rand's ideas than those of Romney and Ryan. But Ryan is not a Randite or an Objectivist. He is actually a devout catholic. As Rev. Randy Timmerman, Ryan's parish priest, has said. "I think Paul has always just found himself closely connected to the life and the heart of what it means to be a Catholic – and trying to bring that into the place of government." Rand would not have been pleased.

Don Watkins, Yaron Brooks coauthor, has written about Ryan: "Ryan’s goal, by contrast, is not to end the entitlement state but to save it. His budget reflects that view: it preserves Medicare, albeit in a less costly form, and it actually increases Social Security spending, from 4.75 percent of GDP to 6 percent, according to the CBO. Although Ryan regularly invokes individual rights, he does not stand by them consistently. Not even on economic issues, where he is best." And Ryan himself has said of Objectivism: "It's something that I completely disagree with. It's an atheistic philosophy.... [Rand] showed how the pitfalls of socialism can hurt the economy, can hurt people, families and individuals and that to me was very ... interesting. But her philosophy, which is different, is something I just don't agree with."

Daniel Barnes said...

I can't see Ryan as an Objectivist either. He's more like one of those people who use Rand as a vague but still powerful inspiration (For example, he claims he uses Francisco's speech on money from Atlas when he thinks about monetary policy). He's like one of these people that you meet on the internet who use Rand as a source of original-sounding, convincing-sounding opinions that also save them the trouble of thinking much about them. That's why I pulled this quote: it doesn't really make sense at any level if you are familiar with Rand's philosophy, as public service is viewed as altruism exercised at gunpoint.

Unknown said...

I can honestly say that the reason I became more altruistic was Ayn Rand.

Michael Prescott said...

I thought Ryan's analysis of Rand's view of personal relationships was quite astute:

"It [Objectivism] reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview."

http://www.drhurd.com/index.php/Daily-Dose-of-Reason/Ethics/Ayn-Rand-Paul-Ryan-and-the-Fallacy-of-Mere-Contracts.html

Although Objectivists have protested (see linked page for an example), this statement seems accurate to me. Especially in Atlas Shrugged, Rand did reduce human interactions to mere contracts. This is particularly obvious in Rearden's otherwise inexplicable reaction to getting dumped by Dagny in favor of Galt - he, and the other characters, seem to take it as self-evident that Dagny will throw him over when she gets a better deal.

The term "public service" in Ryan's quote is somewhat iconic, but his basic point makes sense: he got interested in effecting political change after being inspired by Rand. I'm sure many conservatives and libertarians feel the same way.

Michael Prescott said...

Ironic, not iconic. Curse you, autocorrect!

Echo Chamber Escapee said...

@Michael Prescott: Although Objectivists have protested (see linked page for an example), this statement seems accurate to me.

Indeed. Objectivism does reduce human interactions to mere contracts. Isn't that what the "trader principle" is about? The "values" involved need not be material, but Rand is emphatic that there must be a trade. From the Lexicon (quoting Galt's speech, emphasis in original):

The symbol of all relationships among [rational] men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader. We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved. A trader does not ask to be paid for his failures, nor does he ask to be loved for his flaws. A trader does not squander his body as fodder or his soul as alms. Just as he does not give his work except in trade for material values, so he does not give the values of his spirit—his love, his friendship, his esteem—except in payment and in trade for human virtues, in payment for his own selfish pleasure, which he receives from men he can respect.

Sounds like a contract to me: You have to earn whatever emotional "payment" I give you.

I've heard it a million times, but it just now struck me on writing those words just how bizarre is the whole notion of an emotion as payment. ("Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature" indeed.)

Rey said...

I can't think of a more destructive approach to relationships than the "trader principle."

I've seen it in action and it amounts to one person crediting and debiting (usually debiting) the other person and pitching a fit if other person tries to do the same. The relationship then descends into an absurdist farce of people trying to redeem their emotional receipts, as if a person can serve up discrete units of love on demand.

It destroys mutuality and reciprocity in the name of preserving them by attaching an unspoken price to every loving act.

Anonymous said...

"But Ryan is not a Randite or an Objectivist."

From my point of view, as a person who survived 2 difficult relationships with Ayn Rand enthusiasts, it makes no difference wether Paul Ryan is a Rand Cultist, an "Objectivist" or a Rand Fan Boy. It doesn't matter that he's Catholic, wether devout or cafeteria style. What really matters is what I've learned the hard way about Ayn Rand enthusiasts; they lack empathy, they laugh at other peoples' misfortunes and they do harm to others using gaslighting and other psychological manipulations. They frequently disassociate, not always perceiving or caring about the actual destruction they leave in their paths. Of course, this is just my personal observation. But then others such as Ellen Plasil and Alyssa Bereznak have had similar experiences (and worse) with Ayn Rand enthusiasts. Isn't it interesting how the similarities overlap with these true life stories?

I recognize the smugness. Paul Ryan thinks he's the smartest guy in the room. And he really, really likes Ayn Rand, a lot.

Michael Prescott said...

"What really matters is what I've learned the hard way about Ayn Rand enthusiasts"

I think you're overgeneralizing. I knew plenty of Objectivists when I lived in California. Some fit the description you gave; others didn't. Ellen Plasil's experience took place at the height of NBI cultism, before there were countervailing trends like David Kelley's splinter group.

"I recognize the smugness."

Just about anyone running for high national office is going to think "he's the smartest guy in the room." Obama certainly does (his exceedingly high opinion of himself is well-known), and even a dimwit like Biden has been known to brag about his IQ. A big ego, whether or not it's deserved, goes with the territory. Humble, unassuming people don't run for president (or VP).

Besides, when it comes to budgetary arcana, Ryan probably is the smartest guy in the room. It ain't braggin' if you can do it.

Anonymous said...

Except that they all claim to know how t reduce the budget but the deficiet keeps on getting bigger and bigger...

Rhetoric and reality are like oil and water.

Anonymous said...

@ Michael Prescott

Yes, Michael you are correct that politicians have big egos. My point is that when you combine this type of narcissism with a powerful belief in something that is as flawed as "Objectivism" is, you get unique problems.

Enthusiasts of this subculture have a hard time seeing shades of grey, as this blog has documented. This particular trait won't help Paul Ryan. Ayn Rand's adherents are uniquely fortified with a false sense of confidence fed by a specific kind of utopian apocalypticism. This alone would frighten many people. I remember there was a somewhat obscure book called "Ayn Rand and Alienation". In it, the author (I believe he was excommunicated from the Ayn Rand cult - correct me if my memory is faulty here) wrote of the unhealthy psychological atmosphere and abuses within that group. Yet, in the introduction the author claimed that Ayn Rand's "philosophy" was still the only one that could save human civilization (or words to that effect). Despite his awareness that something was really very wrong, he was still enthralled by the "philosophy" of Ayn Rand. I found it incredible that he could write an entire book about the abuses, compartmentalize the specific abominations and still remain a fan boy. Examples such as this abound.

I know enough about Ayn Rand enthusiasts to know that I am better off without them!




Anonymous said...

The trouble with Randian enthusiasts is that they have no common ground what so ever with anyone else.
Heck you might not agree with communism but you can sure have a drink down the bar with a commie.
But with objectivists they won't touch you if you don't agree with them on anything and everything.

Michael Prescott said...

"Heck you might not agree with communism but you can sure have a drink down the bar with a commie.
But with objectivists they won't touch you if you don't agree with them on anything and everything."

I think it depends on the individual. Some Objectivists I've known have been rigid ideologues, and others have not. While I haven't had much interaction with communists, I imagine the same is true of them. There's one difference, however: As far as I know, Objectivists haven't used violence to advance their aims, while some communists have done so.

Though I'm not an Objectivist and have posted online essays critical of Rand, I still think I'd get along better with reasonable Objectivists like David Kelley or Bob Bidinotto than with, say, the militant Maoists who make up part of the Occupy movement. (On the other hand, I might get along fine with an academic, nonviolent Marxist.)

I agree that there is a greater tendency toward antisocial attitudes among Objectivists than some other groups, but I don't agree that antisocial attitudes are universal among them.

In any event, Paul Ryan is not an Objectivist anyway. He's just someone who likes Rand's novels, as many people do. It's possible to enjoy an author's fictional world without accepting his or her entire worldview. Ryan seems to be a conservative-leaning pragmatist who found youthful inspiration in Rand's paeans to individualism.

The Analyst said...

"gregnyquist said...
It's interesting how the left is trying to tag Ryan as Objectivism. It tells me they would rather argue against Rand's ideas than those of Romney and Ryan. But Ryan is not a Randite or an Objectivist. He is actually a devout catholic. As Rev. Randy Timmerman, Ryan's parish priest, has said. "I think Paul has always just found himself closely connected to the life and the heart of what it means to be a Catholic – and trying to bring that into the place of government." Rand would not have been pleased."

The problem, of course, is that "the left" isn't just running against his effusive praise for Ayn Rand, they're also running against his budget plans (which many voters find too extreme to actually believe that a politician would propose them). I mean, if a Devout Catholic Democrat offered effusive praise for Karl Marx do you think "the right" wouldn't use that against them?

I will admit that Paul Ryan is a bit of ignorant of Randianism, given that he thought she provided a "good case" for the "morality of democratic capitalism" (she was utterly opposed to democracy of any sort).

Anonymous said...

Spot on Analyst. They don't believe in elections or revolutions in a traditional sense of the word. I suppose they believe that the World will turn objectivist after a mental revolution, as opposed to a popular uprising which deposes a hated regime.

Yet they have a nerve to call this a republic. a republic without elections? The man at the top, and it would be a man, a Rand did not believe a woman could handle the top job, would basically be despot, king, emperor call it what you will.

As for Karl Marx...well he didn't believe that the capitalist state could be reformed to work in the interests of the masses. So, the lefties, if they had any sense would opt out of the debate on cutting/increasing the budget. Because the size of the state and state spending has nothing to do with marxism.

Michael Prescott said...

Some of the comments this blog gets are pretty bizarre. What in the world would possess anyone to think Rand was against elections? One of the books she most recommended was Isabel Paterson's The God of the Machine, which describes how the US Constitution is ingeniously structured to preserve individual rights within the context of a strong (but limited) central government. Rand also heaped unstinting praise on the Founding Fathers.

You can find "vulgar Nietzschean" passages in her early works and youthful diary entries which might support the idea of despotic rule by a strongman, but these are absent from her mature work.

It seems as if some people are so angry at Rand, they feel the need to create caricatures of her positions, when the real ones are vulnerable enough.

Anonymous said...

Check out the AR lexicon entry on democracy at the ARI website and decide for yourselves what Ayn Rand thought of democracy.

Michael Prescott said...

Oh, jeez. Those quotes make it obvious that she was against unlimited majority rule, which is the technical definition of democracy - not that she was against holding elections!

She was in favor of a constitutional republic, as distinct from a democracy. A constitutional republic is the system our founders set up, even though we sloppily and inaccurately refer to it as a democracy in casual speech.

The quotes - especially Peikoff's - make this crystal clear.

If you're going to attack Rand, fine; I've done it myself. But this kind of criticism is open-mic night at the Improv.

gregnyquist said...

The problem, of course, is that "the left" isn't just running against his effusive praise for Ayn Rand, they're also running against his budget plans (which many voters find too extreme to actually believe that a politician would propose them). I mean, if a Devout Catholic Democrat offered effusive praise for Karl Marx do you think "the right" wouldn't use that against them?

I'm more interested in what all this says about Rand (and perhaps Marx as well) then what it says either about the left or the right. That no mainstream figure would wish to be associated with Rand's philosophy is an indication of where Objectivism stands in the public eye.

As for opposition to the Ryan plan, well, that also seems rather pointless, given that the Ryan plan is now dead. Even so, I haven't been impressed with the left's opposition to the Ryan's now defunct plan. The best criticisms (although far from perfect) I've run across of the plan comes, not from the left, by from David Stockman, formerly Reagan's budget director.

Anonymous said...

so the Ryan budget it dead in the water?

When ever I hear of a politician that has a plan ot cut the budget, I'm reminded of a Private Eye cartoon, of two people having a conversation at a dinner party.
One gentleman says to the other "I'm writing a novel" and the other one replies "Neither am I".

So when a politician stands up at a party conference and says "I'm gonna cut the budget" and everyone cheers and his party colleagues smile and clap and think "Oh no you're not!"

Anonymous said...

That no mainstream figure would wish to be associated with Rand's philosophy is an indication of where Objectivism stands in the public eye.

And the crappy ticket sales of the kooky "Atlas Shrugged" movie! Free market principles dictated that a sequel had to be made!