The Catholic Right's Ayn Rand Economics
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 02:03:29 PM EST
GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan has been playing up his Catholicism on issues such as abortion and stem cell research while seeming to throw his economic hero, Ayn Rand, under the bus.

His effort to be part-Randian, part-Catholic, while pretending not to be,  has worn thinner and thinner as the election campaign has worn on.

If we compare the Ryan of 2005 when he more openly embraced Rand, to the Ryan of 2012, after his recent denunciation of the notorious atheist author it is clear that he still embraces much of her core economic outlook, which can be summarized, in her words, "This god, this one word:  I."

Speaking before the Atlas Society in 2005. (as recently exposed in America magazine), Paul Ryan said:

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. I always go back to, you know, Francisco d'Anconia's speech (at Bill Taggart's wedding) on money when I think about monetary policy. And then I go to the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end, and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I'm believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism...

But in an August 14, 2012 interview with Fox News, he declared,

"Later in life I discovered what her philosophy was; it's called Objectivism.  It's something I completely disagree with; it's an atheistic philosophy."

If, as he claims, Ryan has been reading Rand since he was a teenager, he couldn't miss the atheism. The line in Atlas Shrugged  for example: "...the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind."

But atheism is not all there is to Objectivism. The Atlas Society says Objectivism "rejects the ethics of self-sacrifice and renunciation."  That is also a rejection of Catholic economic principles.

What Ryan calls "later in life" may be translated as political visibility, as the author of the Republican budget plan. As recently as three years ago Ryan praised Rand's economic "morality."   But as much as the Ryan of 2012 would like to, it is difficult to separate  Rand's "moral philosophy" from her particular variety of atheism, which is integral to Rand's phrase, "This god, this one word: I."

Rand's sect of self  eschews commonly held values of altruism which are also shared by many non-believers. Unsurprisingly perhaps, Ayn Rand equates any notion of commonality with the authoritarian and lopsided collectivist vision of the old Soviet Union.  Rand and her fellow Objectivists ignore that among the tenets of  liberal economics is that the component of personality is preserved by the realization of private property with the further understanding that even everyday workers require a sturdy government that will protect their ability to acquire property in a meritorious way. Rand's view is atomistic, arrogant and unattractively selfish.

Consider Paul Ryan's 2012 GOP convention speech:

None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers -- a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.

Such a view echoes Rand:
"The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap."

This echoes the aforementioned 64 page rant by  Atlas Shrugged's John Galt:

This much is true:  the most selfish of all things is the independent mind that recognizes no authority higher than its own and no value higher than its judgment of truth. You are asked to sacrifice your intellectual integrity, your logic, your reason, your standard of truth-in favor of becoming a prostitute whose standard is the greatest good for the greatest number.

Ryan and Galt share a disdain for those who believe in a system where they receive the benefits that maintain the quality of life - especially towards the end or while enduring disability when the means to support oneself - often becomes difficult. It is not just "I" as "god;" it is "I the superior human, made so by wealth" who would be "god."  It is a ruthlessly cold calculation.

While Atlas Shrugged is sometimes described as part science fiction, it is also in at least equal parts, also economic fiction, if not outright historical revisionism disguised as fiction. The book describes a middle-twentieth century world that never was. For example, although part of the American Marshall Plan was intended to help rebuild the industrial base of post World War II Europe, this is a far cry from making Europe dependent upon it foreign aid. Nor was the profit motive ever banished; it was just made more equitable - at least for a few decades.

That is not the only  way in which fiction substitutes for history in the self regarding mind of Ayn Rand, who once wrote,

"Whoever claims the right to redistribute the wealth produced by others is claiming the right to treat human beings as chattel."  
This idea, which we see drawn upon by Ryan and others on the Catholic Right, reveals much about the Randian economic fallacy.

What's more, the very idea of redistribution as a means of achieving justice comes not originally from Marx, but from Rand's own hero-philosopher, Aristotle.

Putting aside Rand's avoidance of Aristotle's teachings on distributive justice, she also missed one of Aristotle's ultimate ends of justice: a good quality of life for a society's citizens. Indeed, when the wealthiest hoard a share of profits beyond their contribution, provided skills and taken risk, that may trigger the ancient thinker's other concern: Rectificatory Justice.

Rectificatory justice is the preventing or correcting injustices within transactions. It comes into play whether the transaction is mutually agreeable or forced.

It becomes an object of contention when seemingly voluntary transactions are in fact, forced -- such as when one side consistently holds the upper hand, and therefore able to extract greater value than what has been given in return.

This is also evidenced in much of Catholic neoconservatism -- such as Michael Novak's excuse for deregulation, that capitalism is "for sinners."

This is illustrated in Atlas Shrugged when John Galt was a asked how to fix the economy and he said simply, "Get the hell out of my way."

This view assumes that parties all come to a negotiation of their own free will, free, ready to deal fairly and squarely. But that is rarely the case, because the laissez-faire version of capitalism contains no beforehand mechanisms for preventing fraud or malfeasance -- nor for rectifying such injustices afterwards. It is much like claiming that football games would be more efficient without the rulebook and referees.

But Ryan and Novak are not the only Catholic Right characters who have embraced Randian buccaneer capitalism.  Novak , who equates taxation with confiscation, for example, joins Father Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute who bemoans a positive role for government and Robert P. George who share's Ayn Rand's goldbuggery and zombie economics.

The Randian notion of the primacy of "the producers" finds its way into neocon George Weigel's dismissal of the 2009 papal encyclical "Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) when he complained that there is "...more in the encyclical about the redistribution of wealth than about wealth-creation ...".

Even Rand's use of the terms "moochers" and "parasites" - at one time used only by her closest devotees, has found its way into the lexicon of such Catholic Republican operatives as Mary Matalin.

Paul Ryan in his speech at the GOP convention in Tampa said, "...even presidents need reminding, that our rights come from nature and God, not from government."  Joseph McShane, S.J., the Jesuit biographer of Monsignor John A. Ryan provides the best retort to such an insufficient thought. He reminded us, as well as Paul Ryan, about the influential the American Catholic economic philosopher's view of such things, and what our own Declaration of Independence acknowledges, "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

Catholics of Paul Ryan's political persuasion tend ignore that inconvenient detail - as did Ayn Rand.  Her "morality" is devoid of equity or, as it is known in Christian theology epikia. Beyond that, whether it be called Objectivism or miscast as representative of the Church's doctrine of subsidiarity, it is hardly Catholic. Writing recently in the Jesuit journal America, theologian Vincent Miller described Ryan's Objectivist-tinged vision:

This philosophy leaves no room for Catholic notions of Government in service to the common good, there is no room for a social conception of the human person.  Rejection of Rand's atheism notwithstanding, Ryan's policies are based on a political philosophy completely at odds with the principles of Catholic Social Doctrine.  "Prudence" is an insufficient measure of his proposals and the threat this philosophy poses to the Catholic faithful.

Like Paul Ryan, the many Randians on the Catholic Right have learned to reject Rand's atheism as a cover for heartily embracing her narrow definition of liberty as the right to make money. And in so doing, they have replaced the cross with the dollar sign.




Display:
It makes sense. Far more innocent people have been crucified on the dollar sign than on the cross.

by Rey Mohammed on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 08:59:53 AM EST
I could envision Ryan prostrating himself in worship before the all-powerful statue of the dollar sign. We've been down this road before, and the results are ugly.

by khughes1963 on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 12:51:00 PM EST
Parent


It's deeds that matter.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 04:26:46 PM EST

This is another fine explanation of the flaws in the Randians' thinking. Bill Lindsey also notes another perspective in his comments on Phyllis Zagano's article about the duty to care for the "least of these." Bill notes the GOP is in thrall to the individualistic evangelical faith that warps Calvinism to view personal wealth as a sign of salvation, and poverty as a sign of condemnation. As Bill notes, it's a form of Christianity that doesn't at all see a need to help one's neighbor, and he notes the bishops are going to deeply regret their involvement with it for the sake of political power. As I commented above to Rey Mohammed, I could see Paul Ryan (and the Randians in general) prostrating themselves before a giant statue of a dollar sign.

by khughes1963 on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 12:55:18 PM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Real Religious Liberty is Not Oppression
This is a reposting of an op-ed I recently published at LGBTQ Nation -- FC Real Religious Liberty is not Oppression FREDERICK CLARKSON Senior......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Houston Mayor Ignites Fervor of Religious Right
The best take on Houston Mayor Annise Parker vs. the churches in her city is the story written by Marv Knox in the Baptist......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
Four Stories
LGBTQ Nation   In my first bi-weekly column on religious liberty, I discuss how  "Religious liberty is a progressive and liberatory value, over which......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Christian Right Voter Mobilization -- The Season Finale
One of the secrets of the success of the Christian Right over the years has been that opponents have taken the movement with insufficient......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Sins Of Omission: When Religious Right Leaders Speak, The Whole Truth Is Often Left Behind
When an individual doesn't feel like being absolutely truthful, there are a couple of things he or she can do. One is to simply......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Bishop Finn Under Vatican Investigation
Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has long been a symbol of the ongoing institutional intransigence in addressing......
By Frank Cocozzelli (4 comments)
"The $1-Billion-a-Year [Religious] Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven't Heard Of"
In honor of the 2014 incarnation of the event known as The Gathering, I've given an interview with Jay Michaelson, writing for the Daily......
By Bruce Wilson (5 comments)
(Un)Fantastic Five: A Remembrance Of Values Voter Summits Past
The Religious Right's annual "Values Voter Summit" (VVS) takes place this weekend. Americans United staffers Simon Brown, Sarah Jones and I will be there.......
By Rob Boston (7 comments)
The Christian Right's Voter Mobilization Strategy for 2014
My latest post at Political Research Associates is about how this weekend's Values Voter Summit fits into the Christian Right's wider electoral strategy for......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
NYT's David Brooks to Speak at Antigay Luncheon of Billionaires Who Fund Racist Preacher
Recently, government-encouraged outbreaks of mob violence against LGBT persons in countries from Uganda to Russia, and draconian new anti-gay legislation in those countries too,......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
D'Souza's Downfall: Religious Right Favorite Sentenced For Campaign Donation Violations
Yesterday conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza was sentenced to five years of probation and a term of community service for violating federal campaign laws. He......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Short Takes -- Taking Action Edition
Banned Books Week is being celebrated this year from Sept. 21-27.  Yes its time for the annual celebration of the Freedom to Read, sponsored......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Archbishop Schnurr Throws Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been an outstanding success in raising both awareness and research money needed to find a cure for Amyotrophic lateral......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
The Secret Antigay U.S. Money Behind The WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights
[note to readers: this is an excerpt from my first installment in a Twocare.org/Center Against Religious Extremism series that will examine extensive ties -......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Race as Religion
Reading Edith Beer's book, The Nazi Officer's Wife, I ran across an interesting account of her fake marriage license.  She married a Nazi officer......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)

Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.