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Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Limits of Individualism... Rugged or Otherwise

Mr. Romney has chosen Mr. Paul Ryan as his running-mate in the US presidential election. Mr. Ryan has noted his intellectual and philosophical debt to Ayn Rand, a person about whom I have written my opinions in posts about her influence on Hillsdale College.  (

I quote an article from The New Republic in 2010 - and I do not necessarily agree nor disagree with the remarks about Mr. Ryan's policy, but I do agree with the condemnation of Ayn Rand, and that is why I chose this article. I do not intend to criticize Mr. Ryan.

Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand
by Jonathan Chait
December 28, 2010

" Another part of Christopher Beam's piece on libertarianism that caught my interest was this bit about Paul Ryan and his deep affinity for Ayn Rand:
Representative Paul Ryan, also of Wisconsin, requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged, describes Obama’s economic policies as “something right out of an Ayn Rand novel,” and calls Rand “the reason I got involved in public service.” 
Earlier this year I wrote about Ryan and his deep devotion to the philosophy of Rand, particularly her inverted Marxist economic-political worldview:
Ryan would retain some bare-bones subsidies for the poorest, but the overwhelming thrust in every way is to liberate the lucky and successful to enjoy their good fortune without burdening them with any responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens. This is the core of Ryan's moral philosophy:
"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," Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." ...
At the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand's writings when he told his audience that, "Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill ... is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict--individualism versus collectivism."
The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers... "
Ayn Rand believes in a radical individualism which has no higher Morality than the Randian Individual, who alone sets standards and answers to only him/herself for any shortcomings. This incredible philosophy was given a run-through at Hillsdale College, and the result was a tragedy worthy of the Greek tragedians.
The philosophy of Ayn Rand is the culmination of Secularization, which takes the Moral from the hands of any divinity and delivers it into the hand of the human Randian Genius! Such a genius as Howard Roark in Rand's novel The Fountainhead. (Roark can set his own morality because Rand controls the events in the novel.)

I have no doubt Mr. Ryan is a fine and engaging person, and so are many people who consider themselves Randians.

However, their philosophy contains within itself its own destruction, for there is no single nor group of human beings who can be their own Morality independent of the Holy. Every person or group that has tried this has come to a very bad end.

There is a conservative cult of Individualism; like all beliefs, it is not perfect and does not achieve perfect validity everywhere at everytime. There are limits to all human belief. Radical Randian Individualism has aimed for and will - in the hands of lesser men than Mr. Ryan - aim for the deification of a Man, or Woman, or a group as equal to the Holy in the matter of Morality: the Randian Genius will accept nothing less.
(Do we see this already in the ever increasingly defined "Weathy 1%" group versus the rest of society? Does not certain conservative dogma believe that the group of the wealthy are in some important senses "better" than those not wealthy?)

There is no way to modify the philosophy of Ayn Rand without destroying it, for modification would destroy it, since it is a radical critique of anything short of complete moral solipsism.

The philosophy of Ayn Rand is a clear danger not only to us, but to the world.
We believe too fervently in the Individual, and do not make allowances for weakness, and that oversight will be the destroyer.

No one Individual is perfect, although the twentieth century taught us how to propagandize individual men as being so. When the Individual who is the source of all Morality fails, who or what is there to help? How could the Randian Genius accept help from anything less than a God? Could a Randian Individual Genius accept help from a spouse, a family, a church?
Not in Ayn Rand's philosophy, although her life was another matter.


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