By Mark Lotto, GQ
This story originally appeared on GQ.com: A GQ Primer on Paul Ryan's Favorite Philosopher, Ayn Rand
Unless you're a gullible 16-year-old, a 42-year-old Tea Partier or an 86-year-old former chairman of the Fed, you could probably use a primer on the mother of Objectivism, that Dostoevsky for dummies, Ayn Rand. After all, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are favorite reads of Paul Ryan, the D.C.-hot, D.C.-brilliant congressman who now shares Mitt Romney's presidential ticket. And since his debut in the race most every story has gestured to his Randian roots, as if an adherence of the massive paperbacks often seen in freshmen dorm rooms could predict the whole course of this campaign, not to mention Ryan's possible future as vice-president, then president, and all-around prime mover.
Maybe there's something there. In 2009, GQ's Andrew Corsello took a long look at the Russian philosopher, and found that, yes, in fact, there were devoted Randians to be found in glassy Wall Street offices, in high-up government perches, and in book-lined Washington think-tanks, all of whom had been working to remake and deregulate the American economy in their maker's image. Which in turn led to, oh, the Great Recession. Here's the only Rand rundown you'll ever need:
There are boys and girls among us who have never overcome the Randian infection. The Galt speech continues to ring in their ears for years like a maddening tinnitus, turning each of them into what next year's Physicians' Desk Reference will (undoubtedly) term an Ayn Rand Asshole (ARA). They constitute a relatively small percentage of Rand readers, these ARAs. But they make their reading count. Thanks to them, the Rand Experience is no longer limited to those who have read the books. It's metastasized. You, me, all of us, we're living it. Because it's the ARA Army of antigovernment-antiregulation puritans who have spent the past three decades gleefully pulling the cooling rods out of the American economy. For a while, it got very big and very hot. Then it popped. And now the rest of us have to spend the next decade scaling the slippery slopes of the huge suppurative crater that was left behind.
Feeling fisted by the Invisible Hand of the Market lo these past fifteen months? Lost a job lately? Or half the value of your 401(k)? Or a home? All three? Been wondering whence the too-long-ascendant political and economic ideas and forces behind Greenspanism, John Thainism, blind Wall Street plunder, bankruptcy, credit-default swaps, Bernie Madoff, and the ensuing Cannibalism in the Streets? Then you, sir, need to give thanks to Ayn Rand Assholes everywhere -- as well as the steely loins from which they sprang.