By Craig Gilbert, Journal Sentinel
Serving in Congress since 1999, Paul Ryan is a conservative Republican whose ideology was shaped early on by thinkers who extolled individualism and free markets, warned of an overweening state and promoted tax-cutting “supply-side” economics.
His intellectual heroes include the economists Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, author of “The Road to Serfdom,” Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead,” and former New York congressman and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, for whom Ryan once worked.
Of all these, Ryan’s interest in Rand has probably gotten the most attention.
“Paul can still quote every verse out of Ayn Rand,” his brother Tobin said in a 2009 interview.
“I grew up on Ayn Rand,” Ryan said at a Washington, D.C., gathering seven years ago honoring Rand. “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 credited Rand with laying out the moral case for capitalism and the pitfalls of “statism and collectivism.” In the same 2005 talk, Ryan criticized Social Security as a “collectivist system,” and talked about the need to “personalize” entitlement programs, and convert them from defined benefits to defined contributions, to halt the growth of government, get workers to think more like owners and capitalists, and break the back of “this collectivist philosophy that really pervades 90 percent of the thinking around here in this town.”
But Ryan disputes the characterization that he’s a follower of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, known as objectivism, saying he is neither a strict libertarian nor an atheist in the Rand tradition.
“Obviously, I’m not an ‘objectivist,’ ” Ryan, a practicing Catholic, said in an interview three years ago.
While Ryan is generally viewed as both a social and economic conservative, economic issues have always been his main focus. He is not an economist, but studied economics as an undergraduate at Miami University of Ohio. He went to work in Washington, D.C., for former GOP Sen. Bob Kasten of Wisconsin, then for both Kemp and Bill Bennett at a think tank called “Empower America.”
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