Monday, 13 August 2012

Romney, Ryan … and Rand?!

Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his VP candidate has already brought out from Obama worshippers the new leftist talking point with which they hope to smear both Ryan and Romney: Paul Ryan is an Ayn Rand worshipper!

Take a look: the “meme” is s already all over Twitter.

Ryan the extremist!  He’s  picked Ayn Rand as his running mate! Don’t forget Paul Ryan’s obsession with Ayn Rand!

As they say, a lie goes right around the world while the truth is getting its boots on.

This about a man who voted for both TARP bailouts and Bush-era expansion of Medicare drug program.  True enough, he did give copies of Atlas Shrugged as Xmas presents, and he once credited her with inspiring his “interest in public service.” Suggesting, perhaps, he hadn’t read it too well himself.

Look, it’s not hard to explain Ayn Rand’s appeal to the better part of better people. Truth is however Ryan is at bottom just another confused Catholic conservative who said only recently,

“I reject her philosophy. 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…Don’t give me Ayn Rand." 

As the quote suggests, whatever enthusiasm he has for her novels, he has little understanding of Rand’s philosophy (no, Virginia, Rand’s philosophy does not reduce human interactions down to mere contracts). Still, as the head of the Ayn Rand Institute says, the controversy that’s going to go all the way to November is sure as hell great publicity for them.  (Here, for instance, is one of the first “attack ads” along these lines, featuring great footage of the great woman.)

And as Michael Hurd argues, “this conflict within Paul Ryan is a good case study in the whole problem with “conservatism” as we know it.”

Ultimately, conservatism is, like leftism, based on fear. Leftists are afraid of personal responsibility, sometimes for themselves and always for people in general. Conservatives are afraid of being punished by God, and all religions (including Paul Ryan’s Catholicism) teach sacrifice of the self to the deity.
    My question for Paul Ryan and others is: How do you justify a society based on individualism and individual rights by starting with an epistemology of supernaturalism?

He’s right, you know.


  1. He is not right, "you know", and it is a cartoonish understanding of both conservatism and Christianity.

    The quote about "supernaturalism" is particularly naive.

    One would better ask, how can one justify a cosmos with the sort of moral order that would allow for individuals and their rights to exist with out recourse to God?

    Certainly a delusional "pragmatic materialism" cannot possibly account for ir.

    The writer here (and evidently you) thinks he is making some sort "profound" point, and quite snottily too I might add, but he is really just spouting a rather shopworn and sophomoric understanding of morality and being in the world.

    Beyond that, the Conservative movement in America is not particularly religious in nature nor is it based of "fear', least of all "fear of God". It is in fact a affirmation of the essential nature of man; this is what it chooses to "conserve" after all.

    This characterization of conservationism is pure Marxist propaganda.

    You seem to be touting some sort of materialist, libertaitan "philosophy here, and imagining it to be some how a sophisticated, obvious and pragmatic truth. In truth, it is as far from the reality of man as is socialism. I suggest you try to understand what conservatism is and what is it not before you start inadvertently echo others who would slander it.

  2. The Republicans (who gave the world the Bushes) are so useless, it doesn't matter who runs with whom.
    If Trevor Louden down here in NZ could dig up Obama's communist connections, you'd think GOP could have pre last election.
    Obama gave a speech last year where he blatantly says wealth has been due to governments; capitalism just doesn't work; anti individualism - and there was no opposition
    {search Osawatamie, Kansas speech 6 December 2011

  3. Anonymous: One need not "justify" something which exists. Rand explained clearly why individual rights are critical to the success of human beings, because individual rights are rational. It is rational for human rights to engage voluntarily with each other, allowing each other to have control over his life and property, because only by having such a civilisation can human beings spend the time and energy into making their lives better - otherwise they would spend most of their time fighting off each other.

    The "essential nature of man" is as a thinking, reasoning being who must apply reason to his environment in order to survive, unlike animals which act based on instinct (and only show the barest elements of reason in latter mammals in the "cause-effect" sense).

    Meanwhile, the story of man throughout the ages has been to have an ever decreasing circle of concepts and events that are attributed to that which is not evidence based - i.e. the supernatural. From the climate to earthquakes to disease, shamans of the supernatural have been quick to blame evil spirits and to treat man as if he angered them, and to deny man's essential character as a reasoning being (i.e. Galileo) or as a passionate being (i.e. sexuality).

    Indeed it has been the mosques, churches and the like where denial of man's mind and shame over man's body have been at the apex throughout most of history. The Marxists and fascists of the 20th century both embraced denial of the mind (by claiming collective consciousness and identity to justify a jackboot in the face of any who didn't fit it).

    For it is the denial of reason that is at the source of the atrocities of humanity.

  4. "Rand explained clearly why individual rights are critical to the success of human beings"

    An explanation that doesn't entirely fit the facts. How many empires were built on the backs of slaves? Were they not "successful?" how many kingdoms fought to expand their boundaries?

    Here's the kicker, capitalism can't exist without an initiation, or at the very least a display of force.

    Nothing can be produced without raw materials. Nothing can be traded for unless ownership has already been established. How has ownership been decided? Someone stuck a flag in the ground and said, "this is mine, try and take it from me", and more often than not someone did.

    Unless the ownership of all property is decided upon through a democratic consensus, all forms of capitalism, including laissez faire, are based on violence.

    Natural selection provides the only objective measurement of any philosophy.

  5. Daniel Coleman14 Aug 2012, 10:47:00

    Rand said the atrocities commited against the American Indians were justified. I guess this is an example of the denial of reason.

  6. @Daniel: She certainly would say something about someone like yourself committing an atrocity against the facts.

    Other than that, she certainly had suggested that there was nothing to apologise to North American Indians for. About which I agree.

    But that is very far from justifying atrocity.

  7. @David S. : You are talking about the "success" of tribes and collectives--rights relate to the success of individual human beings, and is the only moral basis on which slavery for example can be (and historically was) argued against and abolished.

    Your "kicker" is only another stubbed toe, I'm afraid.

    Certainly, the protection of individual rights cannot happen without sufficient force--legalised force--to protect them. But the only force that's required is to prohibit the taking of the rights or property of others by force.

    This is what makes civilisation possible. Yet instead of recognising this you smear the distinction between force used by aggressors and force used to defend against aggression--which in your view both constitute "violence."

    No capitalism is not based on violence. It is based on protection of individual rights. Which is right.

    You appear also to lack understanding of how resources are created. Certainly, property rights are involved. But resources are not just found and claimed--they have to be created. A producer has to understand the human need this stuff can fulfil; discover or identify the causal connection between the stuff and human need; and identify and establish the means by which the stuff may be profitably brought into conjunction with that need.

    That's more than just sticking a flag in the ground. It's actually the bringing into being of a whole new value, which rightfully belongs to the person or persons who bring it into being.

    Yes, there were cases in early history where property was taken by conquest rather than in trade, and that property is now in hands other than those in ancestral line from those it was taken. Adherents of individual rights like George Reisman have argued that, in a country recognising freedom and individual rights today that might however have a record of violent appropriation in the past, "there is a powerful force at work which operates to steadily wash away all stains of past violence. This is the fact that in such a society production is carried on for the market and that property is gained or lost to the degree that one produces to the satisfaction of the market." (You can read the full argument on page 317-318 of his book "Capitalism," which you can download in PDF from his website, www.capitalism,net.)

    Yet there are cases today where property is still being violently appropriated by government--most recently and on a large scale in Christchurch--yet your philosophy embracing violence and abandoning rights has nothing to say about such theft.

    Whereas with a philosophy embracing individual rights we can decry both, and explain where to go from there.

  8. @David S: Another answer to your objection would be to agree that every *initial* property rights claim involves seizure of property, though I don't think that's correct. However, "as no property rights exist before property rights are founded, there can be no endless chain of clear-title property rights conveyance."

    In other words, as I suggested before, we can only decry the lack of property rights then because we have property rights now.

    But if you reject property rights, then you have nothing to complain about when property rights are taken.

  9. @Anonymous (yes, of course you're Anonymous, who wouldn't be embarrassed to leave a name under slop like that), you asked: "how can one justify a cosmos with the sort of moral order that would allow for individuals and their rights to exist without recourse to God? Certainly a delusional "pragmatic materialism" cannot possibly account for it."

    First question would be, "which god?" There are around 2,800 to choose from, and that's without making up your own. So which one, and why?

    But more fundamentally, what "moral order" are you talking about? There is no "moral order" in the cosmos, there is just reality and the way it is.

    In reality, things are what they are, and the job of moral philosophers is not to find "moral order" on tablets in the sky, but to accept reality as it is, and determine how humans should then behave.

    This is not "pragmatic materialism." This is the basis of genuine ethics.

    The basis of an ethics based on reality-as-it-is--not some set of shopworn rules based on the fictitious pronouncements written by non-existent beings on mythical tablets of stone.

    Because one of these ethical approaches is immature and sophomoric and based on nothing but fantasy. And it's fairly obvious which one.

  10. The above philosophical disagreements aside, I can still say as an atheist that I'm very encouraged by Ryan's selection. He should bring to the debate a principle that's been absent for decades - the idea that there needs to be a specific *limit* on the size of the welfare state. If the welfare state is to be wound back, it's only going to happen via incremental change like this. It may not go as far as what Objectivists ultimateley want, but surely everyone in favour of limited gov't, religious or not can agree this is a step in the right direction?

  11. The ARC link on American Indians says they were protected from 'undeserved harm'. So I guess this implies that the women and children given smallpox blankets somehow deserved this.

    Might as well link to the Homer Simpson Institute next time

  12. Its not hypocritical for Ryan to vote for TARP etc even tho he's a "Randist" because the first rule of Randism is personal success is not just the most important thing its the only thing.

    Ryan felt those votes were the right thing for his career so, fiscally conservative or not, they were the Rand (right) thing to do.

    Same with the Christianity thing. No one can be elected to high office in the US without appearing to be a committed Christian. Publicly putting Christ above Rand is right for his career so it is rand.

  13. @ Daniel C; No, it doesn't. Kindly try your smears elsewhere next time.

    @Boge: Ryan is not a "Randist,' just a bloke who quite liked one of her books. He's no more a "Randist" than you liking JK Rowling makes you a "Rowlingist."

    Even so, there's nothing "Randist" about acting against your principles-about faking reality in other people's eyes to achieve your values.

    No real values are acquired that way.

  14. @Peter

    I've seen a clip of Ryan saying Ayn Rand has influenced his life more than anyone or anything - that's good enough for me. I'll find the clip if you don't believe me.

    And I'm also going to have to disagree with the second part of your answer. Randism isn't about acquiring "real values" - whatever they might be - its about acquiring whatever it is that you desire by whatever mean you see fit.
    Lying to win the presidency (or VP) is definitely Randian (and of course all candidates do it - to varying degrees).

  15. @Boge: If you can find it, good for you. I don't claim to be an expert on Ryan, simply observing what I've heard said--which (him as a fan only) is entirely consistent with his standing as a Catholic conservative.

    Disagree all you like with the second part of my answer, but you are completely on the wrong track.

    Again and again in 'Atlas' and elsewhere, her characters insist that no real values may be obtained by faking reality in any way at all. So you're just off base to suggest otherwise.

    In any case, Ryan is not faking anything-or no more than any other politician: he is simply a Catholic conservative, with all that implies, who happens to have enjoyed her novel.

    In which case, he's a better person than he would have been otherwise, but he's still a a Catholic conservative.

    (And by the way, she named her philosophy Objectivism, not "Randism." As she told Mike Wallace, "I don't like that word.")

  16. Quote from

    In that speech, Ryan said, "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."
    He went on to say that "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."

    A bit more than a fan I'd say.

    I don't think we're getting anywhere though. You think he's a catholic conservative who happens to like Atlas. I think he's a selfish c**t (which I also think is the product of Randism) who's amping his Catholic conservative image because he's a republican trying to win an election.

  17. Boge you are wasting your time trying to reason with PC.

    Despite all his talk about rational objectivity he is just another bigoted idealogue.

  18. @Boge, yes, if you read the post on which you're commenting, you'll see I quote and link to that very speech--a fan talk he gave to the Atlas Society's celebration of 'Atlas Shrugged.' Just the sort of speech you've been invited to give at such a function.

    @Dave; Thanks for your time. Feel free to leave more insightful comments here whenever you can.

  19. If you think objectivism or "Randism" is all about shitting on people to get whatever you want then you are completely off base.

    A far better simplification is that it's about *not* shitting on others, and quite reasonably expecting the same back from them.

    It's about putting in effort to get what you want, with the expectation that you are able to enjoy the fruits of that effort without having people who have decided not to similarly expend effort being able to forcefully take it off you.

    It's about cause and effect, versus getting something you haven't earned.

    Might pay to actually read the book if you can put up with the poor prose.

  20. So a rich politician who's aim is to lower his own tax rate and pays for it my increasing the lower bracket rates, is he not both putting "effort into getting what he wants" and also "shitting" on non-rich?

    IE, in many cases the best way to get what you want is shitting on someone.

    I haven't read the books but I've seen a few docs about her with plenty of interview footage and never heard her suggest that "shitting on people" was a bad thing. She seems to sum her philosophy up with "complete self-interest is the only logical approach to life"and treats that as a absolute.

  21. @Boge: We began our disagreement over this by you objecting to my assertion that Rand railed against faking reality. Which she did. John Galt, for example, says to the heroine when she arrives in Galt's Gulch: "No one stays here by faking reality in any way whatsoever."

    Indeed, in his summary of the Objectivist ethics, philosopher Leonard argues that evading reality is one of the worst "sins" a person can commit--i.e., one of the most destructive things they can do to themselves.

    Despite this, you can continued to object to this assertion: that according to Rand's philosophy, real values and real success may not be acquired by faking reality.

    Yet this is just what you yourself have continued to do here -- to fake reality to "win" your arguemt -- i.e., to misrepresent what Rand said, and then criticise your imagined straw man rather than what she did say.

    Which I realise is probably much more fun than addressing a real argument, but also much less difficult--and basically no objection at all to her actual philosophy.

    Basically, if you don't actually know what she did say (as you admit), then can I suggest you either read what she actually did say and criticise that, or stop pretending that you can summarise it all in ten words or less.

    Because what you're doing now just makes you look like an idiot.

  22. " many cases the best way to get what you want is shitting on someone."

    It might be, but that's not Objectivism.

    And at risk of confusing the issue or giving ammunition to those who don't want to understand, "lowering your tax rate" isn't shitting on someone, in much the same way as putting an electric fence around your property to stop burglars isn't shitting on your neighbour who hasn't done the same.

  23. Objectivism is all about shitting on people as long as it is in your rational self interest.

    An example would be wealthy international companies saving a fortune by dumping their chemical waste off the coast of Somalia.

  24. What thieves like "anonymous" are too stupid and greedy to realise is that shitting on people is not rational, therefore isn't a tenet of objectivism.

    But then what would anon care. All he wants is unlimited access to loot other people's property and call them selfish for wanting to keep it.

  25. "And at risk of confusing the issue or giving ammunition to those who don't want to understand, "lowering your tax rate" isn't shitting on someone, in much the same way as putting an electric fence around your property to stop burglars isn't shitting on your neighbour who hasn't done the same."

    The thing is, everyone in our society make use of the public services yours taxes pay for (schools, roads, firestations etc).
    So protecting your wealth from being taxed really is shitting on the hand the feeds you (or at the least "fed" you).

  26. A tiny fraction of tax is used for actual "public services", most of which could be provided much better by people taking their own money and paying for what they want.

    The rest goes into a big slush fund to pay for stupid TV commercials, pork barrel projects, and worthless crap like people telling you you aren't allowed to do things with your own property.

    More than 50% of the population has an effective tax rate of less than zero, yet they squeal like stuck pigs when they're asked to pay for what thay have voted for.


    A brief look shows that more than 50% of taxes goes to superannuation, health, education, transport and defence. You don't care about these? Or do you think 50% is a "tiny fraction".

    P.S. A lot of the other 50% is quite important too

  28. Superannuation, health, education, and transport are private (ie theoretically one to one) services, which have been turned into public ones. You therefore pay your money, they throw it in a pot with a big hole in the bottom, shake it around, and if you're lucky, a fraction of the value you put in comes back to you.

  29. Yeah I've heard that a lot.

    "I'd be happy to pay taxes if the government wasn't so inefficient."

    Well good luck Randians, you've got a hell of a job ahead. Maybe you should start a party? Act's the closest thing you have now and they staring death in the face.

  30. Ah, no, I'd be happy to be left to manage my life for myself, because I believe I can make choices that suit me better than other people can. Not that much to ask is it?

  31. Obviously depends on what those choices are.

    You can choose to paint your house red.

    You cannot choose to f**k your dog.

  32. I haven't got a dog.

    But there's plenty of cities out there where the council will tell you what colour you're allowed to paint your house.

  33. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  34. What's the matter? Does that zoophilia chestnut throw a spanner in the works of Libz policy?


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