Why do lefties keep accusing Rep. Paul Ryan of making Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged required reading for his staff?
Maybe because he said, "It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff," and now we can hear him say it. When Ryan called it an "urban legend" that he was a Ayn Rand devotee -- "I reject her philosophy," he told the National Review -- it was part of an effort to take Ryan more mainstream, and now here he is…Romney’s running mate.
A profile in The New York Times tried humanizing him, revealing that the congressman is a Rage Against the Machine fan and gym rat. But The Atlas Society, the group devoted to Rand that recently hosted a Paul Ryan talk, is making the mainstreaming more difficult by posting the audio of his address. Kind of embarrassing actually.
You listen to the whole clip, but as the quotes from the audio below show, in 2005, before it seemed like an immediate possibility that his national ambitions could be fulfilled, Ryan was proud to be a total Ayn Rand fanboy:
- "I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and [in] the fight we’re engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that’s what I tell people."
- "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. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well."
- "But 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 when you look at the twentieth-century experiment with collectivism—that Ayn Rand, more than anybody else, did such a good job of articulating the pitfalls of statism and collectivism—you can’t find another thinker or writer who did a better job of describing and laying out the moral case for capitalism than Ayn Rand."
- "It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are."
- "Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works."
The congressman posted a video talking about the author on his Facebook page in 2009; he said Rand's thinking was "sorely needed right now." Maybe Ryan looks back on his Ayn Rand fandom the way most of us look back on our Rage Against the Machine phase -- as a slightly embarrassing but amusing youthful indiscretion. One that lasted until he was 39.