Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan shrugged

"Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."

~Ayn Rand

I'm okay with Mitt Romney's choice of running mate. I actually think Paul Ryan will bring something of substance to the fore in our debate and that is good. There is "The Ryan Plan" after all. I may challenge certain of its assumptions and proposals, but at least they've been made explicit such that they can be challenged, subjected to the critique our political process is premised upon.

From what I've observed, Ryan's conservatism appears to be deeply and consistently founded —it's genuine conviction for him. And he respects ideas. For a while now I've been hearing him referred to as "the intellectual leader of the GOP" (which you've got to admit is a little like being called one of the great chefs of Ireland —but let's not go there.)

None of that is to say that I am swayed to support a Romney/Ryan ticket. (I know that comes as a shocker.) I am reminded of that point a few months back when Ryan's Budget Proposals were up for detailed scrutiny and groups like the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that Ryan's plans would eventually end "everything from veterans' programs to medical and scientific research, highways, education, nearly all programs for low-income families." Ryan found his ever so clearly stated budget priorities challenged on their substance —and on basic moral grounds.

Georgetown University Faculty "welcomed" his visiting lecture at about that time "as an opportunity to discuss Catholic social teaching and its role in public policy" —but also noted:

"...we would be remiss in our duty to you and our students if we did not challenge your continuing misuse of Catholic teaching to defend a budget plan that decimates food programs for struggling families, radically weakens protections for the elderly and sick, and gives more tax breaks to the wealthiest few. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has wisely noted in several letters to Congress – 'a just framework for future budgets cannot rely on disproportionate cuts in essential services to poor persons.' Catholic bishops recently wrote that 'the House-passed budget resolution fails to meet these moral criteria.'

In short, your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love."

At the time Ryan didn't like being "pasted with the epistemology" of Ayn Rand. He quickly gave an interview to The National Review in which he stated, “I reject her [Rand's] philosophy. It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview." When it comes to epistemology, he said, "give me Aquinas." (Of course he'd already been given Aquinas and a Papal Encyclical or two to boot.)

There was just one problem with Ryan's avid disavowal of Rand's philosophy, the intellectual leader of the GOP was on record with past comments just a little less fulltroated in terms of rejection. Stuff like:

"Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism."

That was one of his observations. And then there was this little testimonial:

“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.”

Back in 2003 Ryan had told the Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.” [Ha Ha Ha]

Maybe there's some droll witticism to giving an overlong atrociously written novel by an atheistic philosopher whose ideas are antithetical to your world view as Christmas presents to your interns — a philosopher famous for lines like "What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty" or "Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction."

If there is some clever comment of understated complexity there I have to admit the humor is too subtle for me to understand. It goes beyond irony to the level of the absurd in my view.

I guess I'll just have to shrug.

The months ahead should be interesting anyway.

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