Individualism, Libertarianism, Paul Ryan & His Ayn Rand Love Affair

Oh my goodness… Republicans are attempting to rebrand themselves as compassionate conservatives (again)… shades of George W. Bush. “Compassionate conservatism” as a theme and rallying cry seem to arise after Republicans have taken rhetoric to such an extreme that the country is disgusted and the party fears citizens will push them and their nasty ideology of unbridled greed and hate aside. George W. Bush famously resorted to the term campaigning for president after Republicans disgraced themselves with anti-Clinton conspiracy theories, witch hunts, and the unpopular impeachment.

Of course, Bush is better known for wasting trillions of dollars and killing more than a hundred-thousand lives in Iraq, failing citizens injured during Katrina, and the financial collapse of the U.S. and world economies.

And now we have a budget “deal,” courtesy of Paul Ryan, that drops unemployment benefits for 1.3 million long-term unemployed. Earlier, Senator Rand Paul said helping the unemployed does them a “disservice” because it keeps them from getting jobs.

CCoftheweek.jpg~originalSo now it’s Paul Ryan’s turn to claim the mantle of “compassionate conservatism” and attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Republicans. But really, Paul Ryan… Compassionate?

Last month the Washington Post published, “Paul Ryan, GOP’s budget architect, sets his sights on fighting poverty and winning minds,” and portrayed Ryan as attempting to steer Republicans away from the angry Tea Party and toward a “more inclusive vision.” Right. The Paul Ryan of the infamous “Ryan Budget” — also called the “Path to Prosperity” and passed by House Republicans — that privatizes Medicare, repeals Wall Street regulation, wipes out student loan programs, repeals Obamacare, guts Social Security, and dramatically reduces taxes for the “deserving” wealthy and corporations.

That Paul Ryan hardly seems “compassionate” — well not to those who actually want to see all citizens doing better, and at least not toward anyone making less than half a million a year.

One need only seek the source of Ryan’s personal philosophical motivation (his love affair) to understand his deep psychological dysfunction and the reason why he can create such absurd rationalization’s for his priorities. Ryan said it himself, “[T]he reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

Who is Ayn Rand, and what is the philosophy of this person Ryan calls a “thinker?”

379174_10151238232336275_143212049_n copy

Ayn Rand’s philosophy actually says it is not only bad for society, but morally wrong to help other people because it makes them “dependent” — sound like familiar rhetoric? Rand’s philosophy says that,

  • altruism is evil, and that…
  • democracy (which they call “collectivism”) is the ultimate expression of this evil because it brings about a society in which government works to make people’s lives better.

Rand’s, Ryan’s, and current Republican philosophy says that,

  • “individualism” — looking out for oneself only—is the moral principle that should rule society, not democracy…
  • a “utopia of greed” is most humanly liberating… I suppose they might better claim it’s “compassionate greed,”
  • there are but a few “producers” or “makers,” and the rest of citizens are “parasites” or “takers” who live off of the producers,
  • Collectivism, or democracy, is bad because the many underserving takers can vote to do things like make the producers pay taxes so regular people can live better.

I’m sure there must be a few ways Paul Ryan and the Republicans can form a philosophy of “compassionate conservatism” out of their core belief that altruism and democracy are not just wrong for people and society, but are actually evil. And, I’m sure some citizens will fall for the ploy. Recall that many slaves during the Civil War supported the South, and even after, refused to leave their plantations.

But here is what compassionate conservatives like Ryan intend in the pursuit of “Randian” Liberty…

  • they say that giving the big corporations more tax breaks, subsidies, no-bid contracts, etc. will load them up with so much money that they will just have to use some of it to hire people… eventually, and…
  • when they say they want to overhaul federal health and retirement programs they mean
    • cut Medicare (healthcare for the elderly),
    • cut Medicaid (healthcare for the poor),
    • eliminate Obamacare (healthcare for the rest of us) and
    • destroy Social Security (retirement)

Nice.

And compassionate.

An evergreen Republican mantra is that government is too big, so it must be cut. What they mean by this is not cutting the huge, bloated, astronomical, sky-high military budget (we spend more on weapons and preparing for destruction than all other nations combined). They mean they want to cut out the things government does to make our lives better, like assistance for the needy, sick, disabled, elderly and unemployed. And get rid of the minimum wage, child labor laws, equal pay for women, workplace safety rules, etc.

compassionate-conservatism-shrink-govt

So, “Compassionate Conservatism” is a euphemism for Libertarian Individualism that enshrines destruction of society, the commons, the middle-class, and then purchases only further means of destruction through a vast and powerful military power.

Frankly, I only see psychological dysfunction in any of this, in the Libertarian philosophy. I wonder what depravity in formative years leads to such a condition?

Quite the love affair with Ayn Rand utopianism. God help us all.

Compassionate-Conservatism


5 responses to “Individualism, Libertarianism, Paul Ryan & His Ayn Rand Love Affair

  • poorlando

    You present a silly caricature of libertarianism and its adherents. We are not opposed to safety nets, but rather the government-provided ones that are inefficient, are funded through confiscatory means, and produce all sorts of unintended consequences. A leftist’s default mode of thinking is to ask what government can do to fix a problem. A libertarian’s is to ask what individuals, families, private organizations and other voluntary groups can do. There is no good reason why solutions and approaches to many if not most social problems should involve an organization that has a monopoly on force.

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      You have properly identified a fundamental difference between libertarians’ (what you have claimed for yourself) and “leftists'” default modes. For me, I see government as completely valid so long as we strive to always make it of and for the people. It is a struggle to keep “interests” from veering it away from that base. But, I maintain no faith that individuals would act with enough success nor that businesses would really care to achieve what we as a people can work to do together through our shared government. I don’t see government having to be separate from the people but as a tool of the people to achieve shared ends. But shared does not mean universally agreed, either.

  • Ayumi

    Hi Coronare,

    I understand and agree with all the issues of the times that you raise here; yet all the more, this strengthens my conviction that limited government, or no government at all, (free association – voluntarism which is another word for individualism) is the only answer to our problems.

    Let’s put the many problems with the Libertarian movement aside for now — I touch upon this issue on my post here:
    http://libertarianhome.co.uk/2014/02/individualism-morality-and-money/

    Despite these obstacles, I’m going to try to clarify the Libertarian perspective, so perhaps you might see some sense in it.

    By the way, my name is Ayumi, I lived in America for eons of years and considered myself a ‘Liberal’ (in the modern, American sense of the word) before discovering Ron Paul, which lead me to study the many Classical Liberals.

    Libertarian (formerly known as Liberal) philosophy rests on two pillars: 1. The non-aggression principle and 2. respect for everybody’s individual liberty. This is pretty much it.

    I’m sure you know this, but ‘individualism’ is a very old philosophy, advocated by Lao Tsu, Cicero, Rousseau, Locke, etc. It’s philosophy recognises that 1) everyone is unique, and everyone deserves respect. (Of course, “everyone” back then excluded women and slaves, but we’ve gotten better, and still developing) 2) Power corrupts.

    Power of the state, power of a business monopoly, power of oligarchy, all the same, all institutions are corruptible. Therefore, let’s keep things small, government, business and all. How do we do that? Definitely not by creating a bigger institution, but by protecting each individual liberty. As Thomas Jefferson said, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”.

    Free market is NOT a celebration of greed. In a true Free Market, there would be no bank bailouts, and no government subsidies. Also, there will be no such thing as limited liability. The businesses ought to be fully liable for what they do.
    Tom Mullen in this post explains it well:
    http://www.tommullen.net/featured/libertarians-are-not-corporate-apologists/

    Individualism is NOT about being selfish. As you say on your about page “interconnectedness that is the human condition” yes, absolutely. It’s human nature that one’s own happiness depends on the happiness of those around you. That’s a given – that ought to be yelped by Libertarians all over.

    The danger of collectivism is that a chosen few are forced to define what happiness is for everyone, and often results in totalitarianism (as we are witnessing now). Watch this short video of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

    Better yet, read the book. It’s a short read, written in 1944, but it’s relevant to us now.

    Anyway, we’re all on the same boat here. And we do need to do something about the way the world is going. And hey, there is no Utopia, no perfect system. Only us, standing up for our own selves, our families, our communities, our friends. We can’t expect a government to fix all this, there is no perfect government nor system, there never will be.

    What do you think?

    • Coronare Modestus Faust

      I REALLY appreciate the excellent response and your insights. I believe there would be many, many areas in which we would find concrete agreement. When I look back at those who have been leaders at changing systems, whether political governance systems or otherwise, I am always taken by how each of them is a strong intellect influenced by real life events they experienced. I can refer to any number of philosophers and political and thought leaders such as those you mentioned (Lao Tsu, Cicero, Rousseau, Locke, Hayek) and can add those such as Immanuel Kant (more my cup of tea), Marx, Lenin, Ayn Rand, even Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt — all influenced by reality as they experienced it and who then interpreted the ramifications and took action. I am a similar person in that real life has dramatically structured how I perceive the world and its possibilities.

      For me, I am a trained business-economist who rose very rapidly in management of what was then a Fortune 500 company, and I was very much a libertarian. But, I’ve also witnessed first hand the tremendous harm that happens when companies are not properly regulated, when markets are left to self-regulate, where exchanges are supposedly voluntary, and when profit above all is the sole imperative. And I saw thousands of American lives extinguished or destroyed (and there were thousands internationally, as well… even in your UK) by just one instance in the process of individual firm, industry, and marketplace failure under the deregulatory atmosphere of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, while a handful of complicit, major firms made billions in profit and suffered no judicial or federal ramifications. Since then, I’ve devoted my career to advocating for proper regulations of markets and firms… to protect citizens and empower their lives. I’ve served on numerous federal agency governance boards to do so, and I’ve helmed organizations that have successfully lobbied for legislative corrections to marketplace failures. I can’t ever perceive of relenting. So, for me the matter has moved from the realm of intellectual theorizing to working with the hard and real world as it exists… and trying to protect citizens and empower them… even as I am still a pro-business, pro-liberty person who supports vast social freedoms (elimination of consensual crimes, et al) and expansion of business enterprise to advance humankind and create wealth.

      Having said all this, I must say that a quick read of a couple of your postings on Libertarian Home has me impressed and ready to explore your thoughts further. Besides, any person familiar with the writings of Dr. Scott Peck is someone that has retained their humanity and recognizes the importance of interconnectedness and their emotional selves. I believe you and I have room for agreement when you wrote, “Also, there will be no such thing as limited liability. The businesses ought to be fully liable for what they do.” Again, I really appreciate you coming by and leaving your thoughts. Please be well.

  • Ayumi

    Thank you for your response. “Corporations need to be regulated”… they’ve become such a monster that I feel for your efforts, though my take would be for “corporations to be brought to justice”, which is coming at the same thing from a different angle.

    The Libertarian movement is alive and constantly reshaping itself, looking for answers in this world, all the while holding strong our fundamental stance on freedom and liberty. It’s good to debate ideas with rational, good hearted people like you, all the more so because of our differences.

    Thanks again, and feel free to drop in on our website anytime. (The British Libertarian group has its own character not comparable to the American one. Unlike the fervent young crowd you see in the US, ours is a group of historians, mostly older men.)

    Much regards.

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