Did Paul Ryan lie about Ayn Rand?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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ThinkProgress is confused by Rep. Paul Ryan’s comments regarding Ayn Rand. After all, a few years ago The New Republic quoted Ryan saying: “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.”

But this week, Ryan seemed to change his tune, telling National Review’s Bob Costa: “I reject her philosophy … It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview.”

Andrew Sullivan thinks this proves Ryan is a liar.

But does it? Not really.

Conservative leader Morton Blackwell recommends Rand’s book, “Atlas Shrugged” to young conservatives. But in his review of the book, he explains the phenomenon quite nicely:

[T]he militantly atheistic Rand had an unrealistic view of human nature and little appreciation for cultural values.  Most people, however mesmerized by her they may be in their youth, outgrow Rand’s philosophy, which Burke might have described as a theoretical construct rather than an application of the accumulated wisdom of mankind.

After reading Atlas Shrugged, read also The Fatal Conceit, by F.A. Hayek.  Hayek once told me, ‘I am not religious, but I have a great respect for religion.’  Hayek, along with Burke, who was a Christian, possessed an understanding of human nature much deeper and more realistic than Ayn Rand’s.

Traditional conservatives can appreciate Rand’s contribution to the cause of liberty — without buying into her entire worldview.

In that regard, it is not only possible that Ryan got involved in politics because of Ayn Rand but now rejects some significant elements of her philosophy — it is also highly likely. Such an evolution would make Ryan nothing more than a typical young conservative.

Matt K. Lewis