Must Read of the Day: Benjamin Wiker on the Paul Ryan-Ayn Rand Connection

On the National Catholic Register site:

Approximately 37 seconds after the announcement that Paul Ryan had been chosen as Mitt Romney’s VP, the media began to murmur — and then shout — about Ryan’s outspoken praise of the novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged. (See, for example, Newsweek’s take on Ryan’s devotion to Rand as revealing a coming “War on the Weak.”)

Is Ryan waging a “war on the weak,” using Ayn Rand as his inspiration?

No, I do not think so at all. But Ryan needs to make clear what he accepts in Rand and very, very clear about what he rejects. Rand was an atheist, a devout enemy of Christianity, and she rooted her entire philosophic affirmation of capitalism in pure selfishness.

So, what could Ryan possibly find attractive in Ayn Rand?

As it turns out, that’s exactly what I asked Paul Ryan about two years ago in a personal interview on Capitol Hill.

Before we get to that, here’s a little important background.

Before the interview, I had just published Ten Books Every Conservative Must Read, Plus Four Not to Miss and One Impostor. The “impostor” was — you guessed it — Ayn Rand. In my chapter on Rand, I tried to be as fair as possible. Before showing why she must ultimately be rejected, I offered an account of what’s good in Rand’s philosophy. That’s important because a whole lot of people — including Paul Ryan — have found Rand’s philosophy (called “objectivism”) very attractive. We need to understand why because her dark side is really dark.

I gave Ryan a complimentary copy of my book. During the interview, I said to him: “Ayn Rand has been a great influence on you, but there’s dark and light in her.”

He replied: “I am by no means an objectivist; I am a Catholic, you know. I am nothing close to an objectivist, but I do think Ayn Rand did a service, did a great job of outlining the morality of capitalism, of making the moral case for freedom, free enterprise and capitalism. You don’t have to buy into all the objectivist stuff to appreciate what she did on that front.”

Read the entire, excellent piece, which makes some points similar to those I made here, but in much more detail. 

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About Carl E. Olson 1217 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.