Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney agree on one thing: this year’s election is about two visions of America. The choice is more than how to get the economy going again. It is about what kind of country we want to be.
On the one side there is the notion that each of us is the other’s keeper; on the other side stands the notion that the highest value is personal freedom.
Usually, politics blends the two approaches. But with the choice of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate, the two visions stand in sharpest contrast since the Roosevelt era.
Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan makes clear that the way he views government is radically different from Obama’s. I want to focus on what underlies Ryan’s understanding of the relationship between the economy and government.
In 2005, Ryan in an interview in the New Republic said, ““The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” Ryan gave out copies of Rand’s two novels as Christmas presents to his Washington interns.
Today Ryan says that he rejects Rand. What he really means is that he rejects Rand’s metaphysical writings. That is because Rand was an avowed atheist. But the VP nominee doesn’t reject Rand’s economic positions and the libertarian values that stand behind it.
Rand offers a philosophical foundation for, in acolyte Alan Greenspan’s terms, “unfettered market competition.”
So I thought it would be useful to present Rand in her own words. You decide whether Romney/Ryan’s vision that it implies is consistent with the world you want to bequeath to the next generation.
The quotes are taken from the website aynrandlexicon. You can read more of Rand there.
To illustrate this on the altruists’ favorite example: the issue of saving a drowning person. If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only when the danger to one’s own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it: only a lack of self-esteem could permit one to value one’s life no higher than that of any random stranger.
The small minority of adults who are unable rather than unwilling to work, have to rely on voluntary charity; misfortune is not a claim to slave labor; there is no such thing as the right to consume, control, and destroy those without whom one would be unable to survive.
My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.
Poverty is not a mortgage on the labor of others—misfortune is not a mortgage on achievement—failure is not a mortgage on success—suffering is not a claim check, and its relief is not the goal of existence—man is not a sacrificial animal on anyone’s altar nor for anyone’s cause—life is not one huge hospital.
All that which proceeds from man’s independent ego is good. All that which proceeds from man’s dependence upon men is evil.
The egoist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. He is the man who stands above the need of using others in any manner. He does not function through them. He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. He does not exist for any other man—and he asks no other man to exist for him. This is the only form of brotherhood and mutual respect possible between men.
The first right on earth is the right of the ego. Man’s first duty is to himself. His moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of others. His moral obligation is to do what he wishes, provided his wish does not depend primarily upon other men. This includes the whole sphere of his creative faculty, his thinking, his work. But it does not include the sphere of the gangster, the altruist and the dictator.