Is Paul Ryan an objectivist? If not, then he certainly would like to be. His position on Ayn Rand’s famously self-formulated philosophy is a bit ambiguous. In 2012, after criticism of his social Darwinist budget, he rejected Rand’s philosophy as an atheistic one, because it “reduces human interactions to mere contracts.” However, in a Facebook video from 2009 he seems to express a different emotion:
“And Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this to me is what matters the most: it is not enough to say that President Obama’s taxes are too big or that the health care plan does not work, or this or that policy reason. It is the morality of what is occurring right now; and how it offends the morality of individuals working for their own free will, to produce, to achieve, to succeed that is under attack.”
Objectivism was Rand’s personal philosophy, and she articulated it famously in her political fiction such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. It is basically an ideology of selfishness. Rand believed that “man’s highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness” (from an interview with Mike Wallace). She considered self-sacrifice to be demonstrably evil, as well as the imposition of any belief or morality upon a group of people. This is all very well. People who want to be objectivists (John Stossel, Ron Paul, Rand Paul) can believe whatever they want. However, Paul Ryan has another allegiance.
Ryan claims to be a Roman Catholic, a Christian. And Christianity has a very different view of the rights and duties of man concerning the economy. Ayn Rand lauded the rich and wealthy as the foundation of society and morally forbade helping the poor, or the “moochers and takers” as she called them. But Our Lord said, “Woe unto you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (St. Luke 6:24). Pope Leo XIII, the father of Catholic Social Teaching, wrote about this subject in his encyclical Rerum Novarum:
“Those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles; that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ – threatenings so unwonted in the mouth of our Lord. The chief and most excellent rule for the right use of money [. . .] rests on the principle that it is one thing to have a right to the possession of money and another to have a right to use money as one wills.” (Rerum Novarum ¶ 22)
I’ve noticed a trend among “Christian” politicians recently. They seem very eager to embrace laissez-fair capitalism and American individualism. Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, and the Thrilla from Wasila come to mind. How they square these two opposite philosophies with each other is beyond my powers of reasoning. Christianity is a religion based on self-sacrifice and on redemptive suffering. Objectivism is based on man and his happiness as an end in itself. Self-sacrifice and selfishness: where do Paul Ryan’s allegiances lie? What does he believe? He can’t believe both. Only time will tell whether Paul Ryan is a humanistic laissez-fair capitalist, or a compassionate Jesuist. It’s Jesus vs. Rand now. We all know who wins in the end.