Giles Fraser: Paul Ryan's Faith in Ayn Rand is a Political Problem for Romney
Dr Giles Fraser is priest-in-charge at St Mary's Newington in south London and the former canon chancellor of St Paul's Cathedral.
When I was a teenager, my American girlfriend at the time gave me Ayn Rand's cult novel Atlas Shrugged to read. It changed her life, she said. It changed mine, too. She was not my girlfriend by the morning. It was the most unpleasant thing I'd ever had the misfortune to read.
As a work of literature, Atlas Shrugged is drivel, and not simply because it is so up itself with its own perceived radicalism; fundamentally, all propaganda is drivel, even if it is propaganda in a good cause. Rand's cause was to celebrate what she called "the virtue of selfishness", to denigrate the poor as scroungers and to celebrate the muscular individualism of the creative heroes of capitalism. Altruism, she contends, is "complete evil". The question she poses: what would happen if all the bankers and captains of industry went on strike? What would happen if these Atlas-like gods, who hold up the world, decided one day to shrug and refuse to support everyone else? Then the world would be buggered, she contends. Atlas Shrugged is cheap pornography for the nastiest side of capitalism.
"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," said Mitt Romney's now running mate Paul Ryan four years ago. He also admitted he made all his interns read Atlas Shrugged, dishing them out as Christmas presents.
But here's the political problem for Ryan...
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