Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) may be publicly rejecting Ayn Rand’s philosophies, but the folks at The Atlas Society have never been bigger fans of the House Budget Budget Committee chairman and his policies.
“His general approach to the budget — especially the budget — is very much in line with the direction that we stand for and would like to see the government go,” The Atlas Society CEO David Kelley told Raw Story.
Ninety Catholic faculty members at Georgetown University recently wrote to Ryan that his budget reflected “the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
“Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love,” they said.
The faculty members saw Ryan’s plan to cut programs for the poor and give tax breaks to the wealthiest as a product of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, which holds that the greatest purpose in life is one’s own self interest or happiness.
The Wisconsin congressman responded by telling The National Review that he rejected the author’s philosophy.
“It’s an atheist philosophy,” he said. “It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.”
On Monday, The Atlas Society attempted to set the record straight by releasing audio of a 2005 speech Ryan gave to the group.
“I grew up on Ayn Rand, that’s what I tell people,” the congressman said at the event. “I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged.”
“But 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. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism,” he added. “It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are. … And then I go to the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end, and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I’m believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism.”
Speaking to Raw Story on Monday, Atlas Society director of advocacy Edward Hudgins, who has known Ryan for years, declined to say that the House Budget Committee chairman had moved away from Rand’s philosophy.
“He told me, quite frankly, before he gave that talk that he disagreed with Ayn Rand on a number of issues, but he likes her on other things,” Hudgins recalled. “I don’t know that there are inconsistencies. He’s been quite clear about the fact that he’s a Catholic and, therefore, he rejects Rand’s atheism and some other aspects of her philosophy. On the other hand, he likes the free market parts. He likes notion of — the celebration of innovation.”
“I speak at a lot of tea party events,” he continued. “And most of the people at the tea party events are Christians. … I guess I tend to be an optimist and say, ‘Well, they’re halfway there, they’re two-thirds of the way there.’ So, I should be very pleased that they appreciate, for example, that it is a virtue to be productive, it’s a virtue to take responsibility for your actions and to take responsibility for your life.”
“I find a lot of overlap when I look at [Ryan’s] ideas, for example, on free markets and the importance of free markets, on personal responsibility, on the notion that individuals should not — the fact that when you achieve something of your own efforts, you should not apologize for it.”
In short, Hudgins’ appreciation for Ryan has not been diminished by the public rejection of Rand.
“As an individual, I would not hesitate for a minute to vote for Paul Ryan,” he explained. “I’d love to see a Paul Ryan [presidential] administration someday because that’s how much I think of the man, his integrity, his attempts, for example, to come to grips with the debt problem.”
“To me, that is a man who is thoughtful, he’s mature, he’s doing something that so few people do in Washington, and that is he’s trying to look at reality and judge it as it is and see what he can do to move the country in the right direction. I’d say that’s Objectivistic.”
Hudgins added that he would also give Ryan’s budget “very high marks.”
“I absolutely applaud what he’s trying to do and wish him the best and, you know, maybe I’ll be in a Paul Ryan administration someday.”
Listen to this audio of Rep. Paul Ryan speaking to The Atlas Society, recorded in 2005.
Photo: Flickr user Medill DC.