Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, and an ideology never challenged
Michael Gerson has written a much-needed conservative Christian take-down of Ayn Rand up in his column for the Washington post: Ayn Rand’s adult-onset adolescence.
It’s an appropriate topic during Holy Week. Gerson outlines the conflict between Christianity and Rand’s “Objectivism” which could not be more fundamental. In Rand’s words, her ethics held “that man exists for his own sake, that his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself for others, nor sacrifice others to himself.” She disdained the Cross: “It is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors.”
Rand's novels sell more than 800,000 copies a year. Her influence goes far beyond “Who is John Galt?” posters and t-shirts at Tea Party rally’s.
Congressman Paul Ryan is a Rand devotee. He calls her “the reason I got involved in public service” and requires his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. Indeed Ryan’s celebrated budget proposal reads like it was written by John Galt himself. It is one grand shrug of the wealthy--combining further upper income tax cuts with slashes to Medicaid and the conversion of Medicare to a shrinking voucher.
It is worth noting that Ryan is Catholic. I wonder if he knows that both his principles and policies are fundamentally opposed to the social teaching of the Church? Perhaps if his Rand-inspired libertarianism leads him to a pro-choice position, his bishop might take note. But otherwise, he will likely not only be free to pedal his society-shredding fiscal policies, he will never be challenged by his Church to consider the profound error of Rands views. This is a profound failure in teaching the faith.
One wonders if he even knows of the existence Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. It’s wisdom sounds so foreign in the contemporary climate.
354. Tax revenues and public spending take on crucial economic importance for every civil and political community. The goal to be sought is public financing that is itself capable of becoming an instrument of development and solidarity. Just, efficient and effective public financing will have very positive effects on the economy, because it will encourage employment growth and sustain business and non-profit activities to help to increase the credibility of the State as the guarantor of systems of social insurance and protection that are designed above all to protect the weakest members of society.
Public spending is directed to the common good when certain fundamental principles are observed: the payment of taxes as part of the duty of solidarity; a reasonable and fair application of taxes; precision and integrity in administering and distributing public resources. In the redistribution of resources, public spending must observe the principles of solidarity, equality and making use of talents. It must also pay greater attention to families, designating an adequate amount of resources for this purpose.
With libertarianism now fully embraced by a major political party and the social safety net being shredded in states following decades of Rand-ian tax cuts, this seems a worthy topic for the exercise of the Bishops teaching authority. Recall Glen Beck’s urging his listener’s to flee any church that preaches “Social Justice”?
One wishes it weren’t such a fantasy to imagine the Bishops Committee on Doctrine responding to such a widely influential ideology.