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Paul Ryan does not represent Ayn Rand's philosophy

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  • Center Left
    Denton, TX
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    I have read both of the controversial novels of Ayn Rand, being "The Fountainhead" and of course "Atlas Shrugged". I have actually read "Atlas Shrugged" 3 times over the last few years and find countless positive themes that align with my ways of thinking about ... life. I believe them to be highly impressive works of fiction that were written in order to demonstrate her personal philosophy in action ; her strong views on both life in general and what she sees as an ideal persona in a human being.

    That being said, I do not believe that Paul Ryan demonstrates, lives, or even in any way represents Rand's philosophy well, at all. While he can tout "Atlas Shrugged" as being super influential to him throughout his early political career, I think he needs to reread her book if he chooses in anyway to be the new poster child for Objectivism (which is the official name of Ayn's Rand philosophy, coined by herself decades ago).

    In my opinion, Republicans latch onto this book for the wrong reasons. And, liberals condemn her writings for these same wrong reasons.

    I see Atlas Shrugged as a book trying, for the most part, to show one very simple thing: that every human being has the inate ability to be heroic. To elaborate, I think that the message being conveyed in Atlas and The Fountainhead is that every person has the ability to make his/her own way in the world based upon fair principles of ability and effort given by all. And, when its not fair, that the "game" should not be played anymore.

    Where I think that the conversation takes a wrong turn is where people don't read the book and realize how good, and caring, and generous, and understanding, and helping the main characters (that carry her torch) are to every other character in the book that is willing to make an honest effort and is not JUST simply looking for a handout. And to bring down the strong and capable for all the good of all the weak that would not survive otherwise.

    I do not believe that her philosophy is being fairly considered by liberally minded individuals. Strong and capable does NOT equate to rich, munipulative and powerful people or corporations of today that "play the game" all too well and screw over a great majority of the middle and lower class of us in the process (myself very much so included). I do not think that Atlas Shrugged is highly political. In fact, very little actual politics are discussed in the book. Its an idea she has that's more fundamental than politics. Its an idea that speaks about human nature. One that speaks of the strong, smart, willing and all too capable being leached upon by the weaker, hanger-ons in their life, that guilt them into supporting them or making their life easier with unfair concessions to make the "playing field" more friendly to men with less than good intentions and inferior ability/product.

    Its simple enough. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are not exactly political books. They are philosophy books, presented with engaging, fictional stories. The main characters are highly idealistic, strong men and women that have to learn to overcome the way that some people make it in this world, by abusing the system in place and making the end result of productivity (in her word's 'man's highest aspiration and reason for leaving' (paraphrasing)) worse.

    I will close with this. Ayn Rand did many things well. Where I think she didn't explain herself well enough is that she is not saying there are only 2 kinds of people in this world. And, that these heroic men and women that she has so eloquently created are actually good, caring people. There problem is that they have actually cared too much, for too long. Atlas Shrugged is a story saying that if you are strong, and there are people in your life that are taking advantage of you, simply 'shrug' and the 'game' will no longer happen. It takes two to tango.

    The books don't address everyone. But, I think she does talk to a certain section of people very, very effectively; individuals that may not fundamentally realize, or didn't realize before they read her book, that it actually is OKAY to shrug.

    All this being said, given Paul Ryan's whiny, childish nature, that alone does not align with Rand at all. And, he should be ashamed to be the poster boy for Atlas Shrugged. And, everyone should hopefully realize that Ryan and Rand are NOT synonymous.

    Do you agree?
  • Liberal Democrat
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    Another way to think about Ayn Rand (or any author) is to just focus on her books and not her personal viewpoints which get more politicized. And look at them in the context of the time period in which her books were written and popularized which is the mid 1940s to the 1950s. And note the specifics beyond her philosophy which Republicans like to distort to the extreme.

    Dagny Taggart is the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged and is the smart\competent person who actually runs the company while her brother is incapable. This is a book with a woman CEO during the 1950s & 1960s sexist "mad men" era.

    Ayn Rand is an Atheist and Atheism is a theme in her books. The religious right really does not like this. Also note that between her writing the Fountainhead & Atlas Shrugged, this was a period of McCarthyism in which Atheism was really disliked in the U.S. because of Communism. The Pledge of Allegiance, originated in 1892, did not have a reference to god until 1954 when the "Under god" part was added. And here you have an openly Atheist writer in the 1950s.

    Ayn Rand's books mostly really are against Communism if you look at them in the context of her life and when they were written. She uses extreme more allegorical examples to make her point which I think helps make the point they are more philosophy.

    Ayn Rand would also be against large corporations using government influence for their gain. This is a lot of the Wall Street influencing legislation stuff. And big corporations getting advantages over the smaller entrepreneurs. It's also things like the three-tier alcohol distribution system that hurts small business craft breweries (and Sarah Palin got a nice fee to give a speech in support of). It's also huge in the defense industry where so much money is waste due to corruption & government influence.

    Note the protagonists in Atlas Shrugged and other novels are individuals. Entrepreneurs. One of the antagonistic themes she writes about is actually other corporations using their government influences to gain advantage despite being poorer quality.

    Another theme? Sex. The religious right would not like how she writes about sex. Where woman can want sex for pleasure just as much as men and for that to not be immoral. Remember these books were written in the 40s & 50s where mainstream America had an extremely socially conservative viewpoint on sex. It's why another book that broached similar subjects around the same time, The Catcher in the Rye, is still so popular.

    So, anyways, another way to look at her books as I think a lot of people take for granted the way things are now and when the books were written. I am one who dislikes any pure ideology and think the fastest way to failure is to adopt any rigid philosophy or belief. You need balance. But in expanding upon the original premise of the post, there is a lot that liberals can support in Ayn Rand. And a lot that Republicans would dislike or be hypocritical of.

    I think the best way to look at Ayn Rand is the context of the 1940s & 1950s when her books were written and not the hyperpartisan world we are in now where people will cite anything to score a political point.
  • Democrat
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    Any Rand was nothing but aissed off Russian aristocrat
  • Center Left
    Denton, TX
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    I completely agree with everything you wrote.

    There are several contexts to be mindful of outside of the direct text of her writings. Ayn Rand did live in a different time than today. I do wonder what she would have to say if she were around today. I wonder...

    I'm a big fan of the writers than came out of that era (the 20's through the 60's is the broad era I'm talking about). In my opinion, that was a golden age of writing; a groundswelling of novel thought really. Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand, George Orwell, James Joyce, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Isamov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke... these are the writers that have made the biggest impact on me. And, they all seemed to really have something BIG to say. They all wrote prophetically about the future, and they were all right about many things. Many of the authors that came out of this time period set the stage for many things we have today, both in literature and in general pop culture, as well as technology with the advent of true, modernized sci fi.

    Ayn Rand is polarizing. It's difficult to find anyone that knows anything about her, or her books, that is on the fence about her. You either agree or disagree. You either love or hate her. I started this forum to open the conversation about what I perceive to be a growing misconception over Rand that has become a stereotypical, pop culture norm and an after thought; Ayn Rand is a modern day Republican. A Tea Party supporter. A staunch conservative that hates all Democrats, wants complete anarchy and would basically slap anyone down that ever needed an honest helping hand. While I think that there is much truth in those statements, I do not think that it is that black and white. Rand wrote in her time, about her world, and was fueled by the world she started in, communistic Russia. There's no doubt that she hated with a fiery passion the tenants of communism. And, that disdain launched her Objectivism philosophy, as well as Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Anthem and most all her other novels as well.

    Truth is, we will never know what Ayn Rand would have to say about the world we live in today. That's why I like to think about Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead as philosophy books, and not political fiction. It helps me at least consider what she is saying on an individual level and not just on a broad social scale. That is where I find value. I think of the reaction to communism during that time as sort of an Affirmative Action-like outcry. A way of trying so hard not to go in the direction of communism, that sometimes the baby did get thrown out with the bath water. But, I don't fault novelists like Rand for this. For, if Rand and others like her didn't speak up and speak up so loudly, what kind of world do you think we might be living in today??
  • Libertarian
    Laredo, TX
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    I agree with what y'all have written. When I read Atlas Shrugged I fell in love with Ayn Rand's thought, and my love grew when I read The Fountainhead, but like all loves that are too emotional, it declined as I learned more. Rand was right about some important truths. She exalted man, and woman, as the noble beings that we are. She identified pity and envy as negative emotions, and rightly condemned social systems founded upon envy and pity. She followed after Aristotle in lauding admiration as a good quality. Unlike the egalitarians of the world who would pull everyone down to the same lowly level, Aristotle and Ayn Rand teach that every individual should strive to realize his or her potential. Some individuals have more potential than others. Those with less should not envy them, but rather admire them. Admiration is a good thing; it is a form of love, and it makes us better. I am a better man when I admire someone above me and try to become like him, instead of envying my betters and trying bring them down to my level. Ayn Rand was great, but she was not perfect.

    Rand claimed to love reason and called her philosophy objectivism, but she was actually a very emotional person, and some of the things she said come from pure anger without much intelligence. What is more, though she claimed to love reality, she rejected an essential part of human reality: the family. Human beings are not born autonomous adults. Everyone of us begins in his or her mother's womb, and cannot possibly be autonomous for at least ten years. There are two alternatives to the family: the state, and death. Either governments raise children, which would be much worse than families raising them, or children can be left to die, which would be the worst of all. There is this big gaping hole in Ayn Rand's philosophy that any truly realistic thinker cannot ignore.

    Now I want to mention something: I am handicapped. Ayn Rand is sometimes criticized because she did not encourage social programs that might help handicapped people. I, however, know from my own life and also from the other handicapped people whom I have known, that social programs claiming to help handicapped people often make us survive like animals, and prevent us from living like adult men and women. What I want as a handicapped man is not social programs to take care of me, but freedom to live as best I can. I have had some failures in my life, but they did not kill me, and I am happy. I do not envy those who have more than I do, and I do not want anyone to pity me. I want to live, and I hate those who would harm me by trying to make me live according to their notions about what is good for the handicapped. In conclusion, I say that though Rand was an incomplete philosopher, and her personality was disagreeable, yet her enemies were my enemies, and she admired the same type of individuals whom I admire, so I am a fan of Ayn Rand, and I think that Paul Ryan is similar to myself in this way.

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