08.21.12 7:39 PM ET
When Ayn Rand Is of No Use
Our modern-day Rand devotees confuse me in numerous ways, not least the conundrum that she could be (to them) so powerfully and emphatically right about economics but so wrong about everything else. Because after all, Rand was pro-abortion--at a time when most of society didn't even say the word--and she was a devout atheist, more atheist than even Phyllis Diller (apparently true, look it up).
So here we have Paul Ryan, who makes his staffers read that execrable and tedious John Galt nonsense, but who is as right-wing a Catholic as Scalia, and who believes that life begins at French kissing.
How does a person reconcile these beliefs? I mean, let's say I idolized some economics writer of the early to mid 20th century. But then I found out that person held beliefs in other human realms that I found repugnant. He was a racist and a Nazi sympathizer. I think that I would very quickly demote his economics in my mind, figuring that there was something in the way he saw the world that should make me look askance at his economics.
I am sitting here trying to think if I've had any such experiences, but I don't think so. First of all, I don't have idols and heroes like that. I think it's childish. I have plenty of people I admire, but they're all human beings who did bad things and made errors, too. Rand in particular is for children, or for adults of arrested development. She's the kind of thing certain boys in high school might like but should grow out of. The fact that we have loons who take her seriously having such sway over the country is a thought that stuns me daily.
But what do they say about her atheism, and, say, her passionate hatred of Ronald Reagan? How do they square these things? I guess they don't. I don't know whether it makes someone like Ryan cynical or stupid. They say he isn't stupid. But I think a lot of guys, even as they continue to absorb certain knowledge, just fundamentally stop growing up at about age 17, and they put the contradictions in a box in the corner of the attic and go through life that way.
And the frustrating thing about the level at which political dialogue is conducted is that, if Ryan were ever asked this question, he'd just say, "Well, there are some things about her I admire, and other things I don't," and that would satisfy the political press, but you can't pick and choose like that, and defenestrate from your own personal Rand something so central to her as her atheism. That's just shallow and creepy.