Saturday, August 18, 2012

Rand and Paul

By request of our gentle readers, we briefly opine on the influence of the creepy Ayn Rand on GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan. For those expecting us to provide links for further background, a common practice of ours, we offer our apologies. We think that this topic deserves the attention requested but not so much as to embroil us in research that others can carry out for themselves.

For those hiding from awful literature, we provide the reminder that Ayn Rand was the celebrated author of such unreadable propagandistic novels as Atlas Shrugged. Purveyor of something called "objectivism," which she styled a philosophy, Rand excited many in the past and continues to excite many in the present with the idea that the pursuit of profit is for the public good, that the heroes of modern life are its successful, selfish entrepreneurs.

Paul Ryan, it is widely reported, got turned on to free-market economics by reading Rand as an adolescent. Through Rand, Ryan got the notion that the world might be a better, not worse, place for the pursuit of profit, something that the young and idealistic sometimes have to be forced to consider, it seems.

Of course, Rand's "philosophy" goes well beyond the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith and other observers of economics. It is allegedly scornful of religion, altruism, and weakness, arguably a severe variety of social Darwinism. Naturally, people who hear that a leading pol was ever a fan of Rand will wonder how far that fanaticism extends.

Is Paul Ryan a secret disciple of Rand, sending endless votes to the Modern Library to get Rand's books rated as highly as the esteemed L. Ron Hubbard, that other entrepreneurial demagogue of nonliterary dreck? Does his budget agenda hide a more sinister agenda to revolutionize our Republic according to Rand's dystopic vision?

Well, no.

Ryan has been widely heard explaining his youthful enthusiasm for Rand as just that: youthful enthusiasm. After a short while, he had read and thought widely enough to see the weaknesses in Rand's so-called objectivism, rejecting what didn't make sense.

But Rand opened his eyes to something he hadn't considered. So he regards the discovery as monumental in his experience, still holding some affection for the author who had such a profound, if now sharply limited, influence on him.

More obviously, Paul Ryan is a devout, thoughtful, well informed Roman Catholic. His positions as a Catholic may be controversial with some Catholics, including many bishops, who prefer, as Ryan has put it, to see the preferential option for the poor as a preferential option for big government. Be that as it may--a very important intra-Catholic debate over the last couple of generations--Ryan has demonstrated clearly enough that his Catholic faith trumps his youthful devotion to Rand.

And so a SWNIDish parallel. We discovered the wonders of jazz in the 1970s, initially in large part through the recordings of Chick Corea and his various sidemen who wrote, recorded and performed as Return to Forever. Theirs was a fusion of jazz with rock. In retrospect, we still have affection for that music, though realizing now that only some of the band's recordings were really worthy of our attention. Moreover, we now greatly prefer to listen to American improvised music performed on more traditional instruments and drawing more directly from the grammar of jazz established over the genre's history.

Now, back in the day and even until now, every recording by Chick Corea and his sidemen includes a dedication to L. Ron Hubbard. Yes, the eminent composer and keyboardist is a Scientologist who prefers to play with others of the same persuasion.

We are not and have never been a Scientologist. We've never been interested in any aspect of Scientology or its founder. We denounce and repudiate Scientology and all its allies. We flatulate in its general direction. But we still remember Return to Forever fondly.

Paul Ryan could say roughly the same about objectivism, except that he was for a time directly interested.

Nothing to see here people. Just keep moving to November 6. Thank you.

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