Paul Ryan and the Ayn Rand Factor

As rumors of Rep. Paul Ryan’s impending departure from Congress circulate, people are remarking on his interest in Ayn Rand’s writings and ideas. “Paul Ryan to Go Out in a Blaze of Randian Glory,” says New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer newsletter. A columnist in The Week calls Ryan an “Ayn Rand worshipper.” An implication of these and many commentaries is that Ryan is nothing more than a mouthpiece for Rand’s political views. Not so.

It’s true that Ryan has stated he was inspired by Rand’s ideas to enter politics, and he has professed some affinity for isolated economic and political statements by Rand. But he is by no means an adherent of Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism or a representative of her political views. In fact, he has explicitly disavowed her philosophy, and it’s unfair to both him and Rand to conflate their views.

Over the years, ARI writers have pointed out some of the ways in which Ryan’s policies differ in fundamental ways from Rand’s ideas and political principles. For example:

  • Rand consistently called for an end to government entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare. “Ryan’s goal, by contrast, is not to end the entitlement state but to save it,” said ARI fellow Don Watkins in 2012.
  • “Clearly, Paul Ryan does not share Rand’s foreign policy,” said ARI fellow Elan Journo in a 2012 commentary detailing the contrasts with Rand’s foreign policy principles.
  • Ryan’s proposed health care reform “doesn’t even start to move us in the right direction. On the contrary, it entrenches some of the most destructive features of Obamacare,” observed ARI research associate Carl Svanberg earlier this year.

More broadly on Ayn Rand’s influence, see also Onkar Ghate’s essay “A Liberal Ayn Rand?” and this post on Rand’s impact on conservatives.