Democrats attempting to paint Paul Ryan as a slavish devotee of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand may see their efforts backfire. In the first place, while Ryan has praised Rand’s defense of the free market, he’s a former altar boy who has made it clear that he rejects Rand’s atheism and is closer to St. Thomas Aquinas when it comes to questions on the meaning of life. So identifying Ryan with Ayn may not be as easy as they think.
In the second place, if the Democrats want to have a debate on Ayn Rand’s economic philosophy, I’d say bring it on. For all her weaknesses, she’s on stronger ground than they are.
In her writings, Rand presented a highly romanticized view of American capitalism. That’s one of her weaknesses. But she also raises a very pertinent question: What are the rights of the wealth producers in our society?
This question is particularly timely. Remember President Obama telling business owners, “You didn’t build that”?
Yes, President Obama immediately began backing away from that rash statement, but the damage was done. Most observers instinctively realized that the president wasn’t merely expressing himself badly. He really does believe that individuals do not create their own success; that any individual’s success is the product of a community effort and, hence, the community has a right to share in that success.
Mr. Obama goes further. I won’t say that he’s a communist or even a socialist. But he’s clearly a statist: He believes that government should direct the economy and spread the wealth. That means extensive regulation, higher taxes, using government resources to promote favored businesses (viz. Solyndra and the Chevy Volt), pro-union labor and trade policies, energy policies tilted toward environmentalists, costly social benefits and other measures calculated to make it difficult for entrepreneurs to create wealth and jobs.
Ayn Rand, as I said, presented a highly romanticized view of capitalism in her novels. Capitalists are always noble and heroic beings, and enemies of private enterprise are invariably depicted as envious parasites and frustrated authoritarians, with ridiculously suggestive names like Ellsworth Toohey and Wesley Mouch. But Miss Rand’s most outlandish anti-capitalist caricatures pale in comparison to some of the flesh-and-blood government regulators that President Obama has unleashed upon the American business community.
Mr. Obama, let us remember, has given us a secretary of energy who wants to see gas prices rise to eight dollars a gallon, a secretary of the interior who said he would oppose more domestic oil drilling even if gas prices went even higher than that, and an EPA regional administrator who declared openly that government should “crucify” noncompliant business executives as “an example” to others. And yet Mr. Obama and the Democrats wonder why the business community is leery of making the long-term investments that would spur more robust growth.
Capitalism is the greatest wealth-producing engine ever created. Only the creation of wealth through economic growth will enable us to pay off our soaring deficits, create jobs for our millions of unemployed, and enable us to care for the elderly, the poor and the helpless.
The current presidential election is boiling down to a choice between a ticket that favors growth and a ticket that favors regulation and redistribution. Let the Democrats sneer at Paul Ryan’s admiration for Ayn Rand all they want. The American people are more likely to identify with Rand’s spirited, if flawed, defense of capitalism than President Obama’s insidious taunt to America’s wealth producers, “You didn’t build that.”
Hal Gordon, who wrote speeches for the Reagan White House and Gen. Colin Powell, is currently a freelance speechwriter in Houston. Web site: www.ringingwords.com.