Ryan praised Rand’s ideas at length during a 2005 gathering in her honor and declared that “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 in an April interview with National Review, Ryan took a far different tone, telling Bob Costa, “I reject her philosophy.”
At a town hall meeting on Friday, Ryan was pressed by a constituent to explain this about-face. “Mr. Ryan, are you telling us that your political career was founded on the concepts of a rally of hers, but until recently, you never realized Ayn Rand was an outspoken atheist, that she felt altruism was evil, supported abortion, and condemned Christianity for advocating compassion for the poor?” the constituent asked.
Ryan professed no inconsistency in his views, arguing instead that “just because you like someone’s novels doesn’t mean you agree with their entire worldview philosophy.” He called the notion that he supports Rand’s views “a canard,” though still insisted that Atlas Shrugged is “a great book” that he recommends to those in his office.
CONSTITUENT: My question concerns your current and previous feelings toward the author and philosopher Ayn Rand. [...] Mr. Ryan, are you telling us that your political career was founded on the concepts of a rally of hers, but until recently, you never realized Ayn Rand was an outspoken atheist, that she felt altruism was evil, supported abortion, and condemned Christianity for advocating compassion for the poor?
RYAN: [...] Just because you like someone’s novels doesn’t mean you agree with their entire worldview philosophy. She has a worldview philosophy which is completely antithetical to mine because she has an atheist philosophy. [...] It’s really kind of a canard, is what I would say.
CONSTITUENT: You spoke as a keynote speaker for Ayn Rand banquets. You were quoted at length about how you loved her. You say you grew up and Ayn Rand taught you who you are and what your values are. I think we’ve learned the question of your honesty.
RYAN: It’s a great book! It’s a great book! Let’s go on to somebody over here, I think we’ve covered it pretty well. By the way, I don’t require it. I have a reading list. Lots of young people ask me what are good books. I give them Alexis de Tocqueville, I take the Founders, Friedman, Hayek, Atlas Shrugged. There are lots of good books worth reading if you want to study freedom, free enterprise, the Founders, economics. There are a lot of good books out there to read, it doesn’t mean that you subscribe to the person’s worldview and philosophy. That’s really kind of a stretch.
To learn more about Ayn Rand and her backwards views on altruism, poor people, feminists, Arabs, and others, check out this short ThinkProgress video.