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Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand's ideas: in the hot seat again

Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand's ideas: in the hot seat again

5 Mins
April 30, 2012

Last Thursday and Friday a flurry of news stories appeared addressing—again—the link between Rep. Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand’s ideas. The new stories and blog posts were in response to a National Review  article (“ Ryan Shrugged ”) which seemed to characterize as “urban legend” not only the idea that Paul Ryan is an Objectivist (he’s never indicated that he is), that he embraces an Objectivist epistemology (he’s never said that he does), but also that he is a devotee of Ayn Rand, and that he requires that his staff read Atlas Shrugged. (See National Review's " Ryan Isn't a Randian " for more along these lines.)

In their responses to the National Review article, Elspeth Reeve at The Atlantic Wire  and Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution were among those who quoted a sentence or two (circulating for some time on the Internet) spoken by Ryan in a speech he made at a 2005 Atlas Society event. We’re now releasing the full audio of Ryan’s speech, made at our “Celebration of Ayn Rand” event (photo below).

Rep. Ryan speaking at Atlas Society event. (2005)


(Rep. Ryan is introduced by The Atlas Society's Ed Hudgins, director of advocacy.)

Some exerpts from the audio (with minute and second markers):

(1:45) I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and [in] the fight we’re engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that’s what I tell people..you know everybody does their soul-searching, and trying to find out who they are and what they believe, and you learn about yourself.

(2:01) 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 The 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.

"I always go back to... Francisco d’Anconia’s speech [in Atlas Shrugged] on money when I think about monetary policy."

(2:23) 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. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism.

(2:38) In almost every fight we are involved in here, on Capitol Hill, whether it’s an amendment vote that I’ll take later on this afternoon, or a big piece of policy we’re putting through our Ways and Means Committee, it is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict: individualism vs. collectivism.

(2:54) And so when you take a look at where we are today, ah, some would say we’re on offense, some would say we’re on defense, I’d say it’s a little bit of both. And when you look at the twentieth-century experiment with collectivism—that Ayn Rand, more than anybody else, did such a good job of articulating the pitfalls of statism and collectivism—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.

(3: 21)  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…

(6:53) Is this an easy fight? Absolutely not…But if we’re going to actually win this we need to make sure that we’re solid on premises, that our principles are well-defended, and if we want to go and articulately defend these principles and what they mean to our society, what they mean for the trends that we set internationally, we have to go back to Ayn Rand. Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.  

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Elections and Democracy