Friday, August 31, 2012

Paul Ryan is no Objectivist

As soon as Paul Ryan was chosen to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate, there was dialogue in both parties about how he was supposedly quite libertarian, to the point where he was inspired by Ayn Rand. If Paul Ryan was inspired by Ayn Rand, it is likely that upon finishing the reading of Atlas Shrugged he said "I want to grow up to be just like Wesley Mouch."

The weaker version of this argument comes from Republicans. They act as if simply mentioning that Paul Ryan has read Atlas Shrugged is sufficient to convince Ron Paul voters to abandon all principle and support the Romney/Ryan ticket, even though it is far from sufficient and Ron Paul supporters are not buying it. Then there are those who should know better. The Ayn Rand institute has an article on various statements made by Paul Ryan that would indicate that he leans that way, ignoring the rich history of conservatives saying one thing and doing another. Objectivism does not advocate ignoring reality, and the reality of Paul Ryan's voting record is something that should not be ignored.

There is a slightly stronger version of this argument from Democrats. Many of them also act as if simply mentioning that Paul Ryan has read Atlas Shrugged is sufficient to tar him as libertarian. But there are a few who are making a very interesting argument to try to support that accusation.

Their argument is based on the principle of rational self interest. They argue that, even though Paul Ryan’s voting record is antithetical to Objectivist principles, that same voting record is exactly the series of choices a person would make if he had the goal to rise through the ranks of his party.

It is true that, given a particular goal certain choices become inevitable if one actually wishes to achieve that goal. But there is a problem with that interpretation. Objectivism does not allow for seeking power over others as a rationally chosen goal. Nor would it advocate any goal that would lead to the choice to violate the rights of others as a means to achieve that goal.

Assuming the best about Paul Ryan, an assumption he does not deserve, the character then to compare him to would be Doctor Robert Stadler. In the novel, Dr. Stadler decided that the use of ignoble means was appropriate to achieve noble ends; specifically, to use politics to advance the quest for knowledge. It was that contradiction that eventually led to Dr. Stadler's downfall. But since Paul Ryan isn't up to the level of a Dr. Stadler, he has more in common with the Eugene Lawson, Chick Morrison, Wesley Mouch, and Mr. Thompson characters. One could say that Wesley Mouch made all the choices one would rationally choose if the desire is to become "economic dictator of the economy." But becoming "economic dictator of the economy" is not a rational choice.

Also, by that same logic, one could argue that Barack Obama made all the choices one would rationally choose if the desire is to rise through the ranks of a political party. He made all the right choices given his situation for one desiring to become president. But yet the argument is not made that Barack Obama is an Objectivist for that reason, and is in fact refused. The fact that the argument does not work both ways is proof that there is no genuine substance behind it, and that it is only a rationalization instead of a proof.

1 comment:

Richard said...

When I heard Ryan himself referring to his love of Rand (except of course that she was wrong about god...) and that he hands out copies of Atlas Shrugged to his interns, I thought - how curious that he could be in such fundamental disagreement with her and still publicly claim to be and adherent or advocate of her ideas.
But Ryan is pure politician. He, like Barack Obama, shares the aspirations of all people - the 'American Dream' and has lived it himself (so they claim).
He knopws all about achievement, having watched his mother succeed.
It's too bad neither of them ever found a way to become productive or enterprising. We would have gained in two ways:
neither would be interested in being president.
both would be doing something useful.
Your point is well drawn. Thanks.