Widely described as one of the brightest young lights of his party, Rep. Paul Ryan was elected to the House of Representatives in his twenties (becoming the youngest Republican in Congress, at the time). He quickly established himself as a budget wonk. His enthusiasm for both supply-side economics and restricting women's access to abortion garnered high praise from GOP leaders like President George W. Bush, who lauded Ryan during a September 2004 campaign event: "He's a good, solid man. I'm telling you. He's smart, capable. He's a good thinker."
In a November 2003 interview on Fox News, Rep. Ryan was asked to outline his legislative agenda. His answer focused solely on fixing the budget:
But it isn't all about numbers for Mr. Ryan. His single-minded obsession with tackling the federal budget is motivated by more than just the opportunity to handle spreadsheets and CBO estimates. Ryan's personal crusade is to overhaul the tax system and slash the national debt, in order to save the United States from a villainous cabal plotting her total ruin from the inside. Because a spectre is haunting the United States -- the spectre of a European-style social welfare state.
In a nutshell, the idea is this: the more money and services that the citizenry receive from their government, the more dependent on it they become. The private economy suffers as a result, which drives more people to rely on government welfare, which hurts the economy even more. It's a feedback loop which inexorably results in the state enveloping the whole economy. By which point politicians and bureaucrats are free to revoke even the nation's most cherished rights, disregarding the wretched pleas of the people now living strictly at the mercy of their cruel and soulless overlords.
What fuels Paul Ryan's inexhaustible state of alarm is his sense that not only has America's structural integrity been critically weakened in this manner, but that it is the result of continuing sabotage. He leveled this charge in 2010's Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders. In his section of the book, Congressman Ryan accuses his Democratic counterparts of perpetrating a Machiavellian scheme to "transform this country into a cradle-to-grave European social welfare state and change the idea of America forever" by purposely barreling headlong "down the path to bankruptcy, with a crushing burden of debt set to crash our economy":
Anyway, Ayn Rand urged that welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare be ripped out by the roots, because of their unavoidable tendency to undermine a free democracy (by depleting the treasury and fostering a culture of dependence). "Morally and economically, the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull. Morally, the chance to satisfy demands by force spreads the demands wider and wider, with less and less pretense at justification. Economically, the forced demands of one group create hardships for all others, thus producing an inextricable mixture of actual victims and plain parasites." At which point the economy fails, citizens are coerced into trading away their freedoms for bread and state-assigned jobs, and then boom -- you're living in North Korea.
And indeed, the Congressman has been warning us for years that America will soon cross the event horizon and be sucked into this inescapable dystopia:
"I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and the fight we're engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that's what I tell people. I, uh, you know, everybody does their soul-searching, and trying to find out who they are and what they believe, and you learn about yourself.
But with the 2012 Presidential election looming, Ryan abruptly found himself backtracking from his public adoration for Ayn Rand (presumably due to her vocal pro-atheist/pro-abortion/anti-
"I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It's inspired me so much that it's required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged. [Laughter.] There's a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.
"But 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. [...] you can't find another thinker or writer who did a better job of describing and laying out the moral case for capitalism than Ayn Rand.
"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 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."
Notice also, in this conveniently-timed renunciation of Randian philosophy, that Ryan refers specifically to her "epistemology" but makes no mention of her political and economic teachings. Congressman Ryan is in effect disavowing only the anti-religious portion of Rand's creed, without mentioning any of her practical policy ideas (which he continues to support).
However expedient it may be, it is deliberately misleading for Ryan to imply that his socioeconomic views were taken from Aquinas instead of Rand. The 13th century theologian never wrote a single sentence on the topics of capitalism or monetary policy, since the subjects hadn't been invented yet. Common sense dictates that it is Ayn Rand's vision of government which dances in Paul Ryan's head at night, not Thomas Aquinas's.
Speaking of Aquinas, he declared that although animals possess a soul, it is nevertheless morally permissible to hunt them for food. Which is good, because in his spare time Rep. Ryan is an avid hunter. His weapon of choice is bow-and-arrow, with an apparent preference for the compound bow.