Congressman Paul Ryan, who has long publicly admired Ayn Rand, is now attempting to distance himself from her. In an interview in The National Review, published on Thursday, Ryan said “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.” He further described as “a myth” the notion that he is an Ayn Rand acolyte.
Where oh where did such a “myth” arise? Perhaps from statements the congressman has made in the past? Such as:
“I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it.”
“Ayn Rand, more than anybody else, did a fantastic job explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism, and that, to me, is what matters most.”
“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.”
Or perhaps from his own recorded words:
At any rate, if his conversion from Rand to Thomas is sincere, I look forward to seeing this reflected in his politics. Perhaps he will revise his proposed budget, which slashes social programs while leaving military spending intact, and which lowers taxes on the wealthiest.
After all, it was St Thomas Aquinas who said Man should not consider his material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.
And: Hence whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor. For this reason Ambrose [Loc. cit., 2, Objection 3] says, and his words are embodied in the Decretals(Dist. xlvii, can. Sicut ii): “It is the hungry man’s bread that you withhold, the naked man’s cloak that you store away, the money that you bury in the earth is the price of the poor man’s ransom and freedom.”
The thought of Ayn Rand is the polar opposite of the thought of St Thomas and the Catholic Church. Her ethics, quite literally, are the ethics of Antichrist. Ignoring for the moment Mr Ryan’s attempt to rewrite his well-documented history, if he is sincere in turning from Rand to Aquinas we can expect to see this reflected in his political and economic views. If it is not, we can safely assume that this is just the latest attempt by yet another right wing Catholic to misappropriate Catholic terminology, to fool the unwary, and to hijack Catholic social teaching.