When it comes to Ayn Rand, I agree with David Bentley Hart’s magisterial condemnation from our March 2011 issue:

Ayn Rand always provokes a rather extravagant reaction from me, and probably for purely ideological reasons. For instance, I like the Sermon on the Mount. She regarded its prescriptions as among the vilest ever uttered. I suspect that charity really is the only way to avoid wasting one’s life in a desert of sterile egoism. She regarded Christian morality as a poison that had polluted the will of Western man with its ethos of parasitism and orgiastic self-oblation. And, simply said, I cannot find much common ground with someone who believed that the principal source of human woe over the last twenty centuries has been a tragic shortage of selfishness.

But so what? Since Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate this weekend, the chattering class has informed us that America faces an existential choice. When we choose our next president, we will not be selecting between two policy platforms that sometimes overlap and at other times significantly, even widely, diverge. We will rather be choosing between two visions of America: that of Saul Alinsky and that of Ayn Rand.

The former is the hero, supposedly, of our current president, the latter is taken to be the inspiration for every detail of Paul Ryan’s budget plan. Count me skeptical, both of the narrow claims and of the broader usefulness of tracing politicians’ intellectual genealogies while ignoring the policy details of their actual proposals.

Articles by Matthew Schmitz

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