I propose a simple maxim for all those sound in mind and warm in heart -- that is, for most of us. It is this: Do not further the career of any man or women who is in any way influenced by Ayn Rand. Following this maxim would have spared us Alan Greenspan, whose free market obsession caused him to fail to see the Internet bubble and the housing bubble. It would have spared us SEC Commissioner Chris Cox, on whose watch Bernie Madoff played havoc.
It would have spared us Clarence Thomas, who required his interns to read The Fountainhead. It would have spared us Rush Limbaugh. It would have spared us Barry Goldwater, who said, "I do not propose to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom." It would have spared us Terry Sanford, who disappeared amorously to the wilds of Argentina.
And it will spare us Paul Ryan, who made his interns read Atlas Shrugged.
Overachievers all. The biggest overachiever, however, was Ayn Rand herself. This inauspicious lady, who inspires people of a certain bent, wrote two amateurish, critically-ravaged novels that made their way to Hollywood. In those novels and in other writings she espoused a philosophy she called objectivism, which, simply stated, called for everyone to pursue his/her happiness without regard for anyone else.
Charity is out. Compassion is out. Jesus Christ is way out. Government is out. "The only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is to keep hands off."
The lady was such a kook that she wrote admiringly in her journals of William Edward Hickman. This non-gentleman was a serial killer whose most famous crime was the dismemberment of a 12-year-old girl. "He has the true, innate philosophy of a Superstar, "she wrote. "He had no regard for all that society holds sacred." Models for the intense rugged individualists -- John Galt of Atlas Shrugged and Howard Roark of The Fountainhead.
Now I do not suggest that Paul Ryan, for he is the one in question here, would be an admirer of William Edward Hickman. In fact, Mr. Ryan has publicly disagreed with three of Ayn Rand's important beliefs. He is religious, where she was not; he is strongly pro-life, where she supported a woman's right to choose; he is for spending mightily on defense, where she was anti-war. I would say that he has swallowed the ugly core of Ayn Rand and rejected her few pleasant offsets.
In no other country in this large world of ours is there a meaningful audience for Ayn Rand. Fellow Americans, this is not something to be proud of.
Remember the maxim.