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Last week , reading Donald Luskin’s Journal op-ed on Ayn Rand, I was deeply shocked and saddened by this sentence:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) insists that all his staffers read “Atlas Shrugged.”

Guess what? Turns out it’s not true!

This morning, Ben Domenech - having seen the same assertion in another source - reports :

Always skeptical about the offhand, unsourced anecdote from Beam’s piece (which wasn’t even focused on Ryan), I reached out to several former Ryan staffers yesterday to ask them whether the Budget Chairman had required them to read Rand. While everyone knows Ryan is indeed a personal fan of Rand’s work, not a single one of them said Ryan had required them to read the books. Responses include: “I had already read it prior to working for him, but it is by no means a requirement for employment,” and “Saying he ‘requires’ his staff to read it is definitely stretching the truth,” and the flat out denial: “We are not required to read Rand.”

Domenech documents numerous places in the left-leaning media and blogosphere where various forms of this story - sometimes it’s The Fountainhead rather than  Atlas Shrugged - have been uncritically circulated as evidence of Republican extremism. From his post, it looks like Domenech (a fan of Rand) is unaware of Luskin’s having also uncritically repeated it as evidence of Republican good sense.

Domenech also recalls how the paranoid left used to delight itself with simliar horror stories about the alleged deep Randianism of the Reagan administration, reproducing an amusing passage from a 1987 Maureen Dowd column. (Isn’t it reassuring to know that in a world of crisis and catastrophe where all the basic structures of our civilization seem vulnerable to instant destruction at any moment, there are some things you really can always count on?)

I’m deeply grateful to Domenech for doing the basic reportorial work of fact-checking that neither the paranoiac left nor Luskin were apparently able to rouse themselves to do.

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