“Give me Thomas Aquinas…don’t give me Ayn Rand”

Paul Ryan disavows Rand’s “atheist philosophy”; cites Pope Benedict

In an interview with National Review Online’s Robert Costa, Rep. Paul Ryan denies that he is, as Paul Krugman claimed in the New York Times, “an Ayn Rand devotee,” calling such descriptions of his political philosophy “an urban legend”:

“I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”

“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

Ryan also mentions Pope Benedict XVI’s statements on global economics in defending his proposed budget:

Ryan cites Light of the World, a book-length interview of Pope Benedict XVI, as an example of how the Catholic Church takes the global debt problem seriously. “We are living at the expense of future generations,” the pope says. “In this respect, it is plain that we are living in untruth.” Ryan takes those words seriously. “The pope was really clear,” he says.

Today Ryan delivered a high-profile lecture at Georgetown University—after being criticized by more than 90 members of the university’s faculty for his “continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few.”

The letter from the Georgetown faculty also links the Ryan budget with Randian thought, stating “In short, your budget appears to reflect 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.”

At the National Catholic Register, Ryan gives a detailed defense of his budget, particularly against charges that it is contrary to Catholic social teaching:

Our budget ends welfare for those who don’t need it, but strengthens welfare programs for those who do. Government safety-net programs have been stretched to the breaking point in recent years, failing the very citizens who need help the most. When solidarity and subsidiarity are in balance, civil society is revitalized, not displaced. We rightly pride ourselves on looking out for one another — and government has an important role to play in that. But relying on distant government bureaucracies to lead this effort just hasn’t worked.

Our budget averts the looming debt-fueled economic crisis, which would hurt the poor the first and the worst. It lifts the debt and frees the nation from the constraints of ever-expanding government. And it promotes economic growth and opportunity, with bold reforms to make the tax code fair and equitable and a credible, principled plan to prevent a debt crisis from ever happening.

Our budget has been criticized for giving tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of the poor. It does no such thing. Instead of taking more and more from the paychecks of working Americans, the House budget proposes a comprehensive reform of the tax code to make it fair, simple and competitive. We would lower rates for everyone across the board. But revenue would still rise every year under our budget because our economy grows and because our budget proposes to eliminate special-interest loopholes that go primarily to the influential and well-off. Washington should not micromanage people’s decisions through the tax code. Basic economics and basic morality both tell us that people have a right to keep and decide how to spend their hard-earned dollars.


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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.