Paul Ryan, the VP candidate of the Republican Party in Tuesday’s national election, is often heralded as the intellectual leader of the conservative movement that has captured the party over the past decade. Ryan’s philosophical heroine is Ayn Rand, author of several best-selling books and creator of a philosophy she called Objectivism. In addition to her two main tomes — The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged — she is perhaps most famous among her followers for a small book entitled The Virtue of Selfishness.
Rand, an escapee from the communism of the old Soviet Union, was a hard-line conservative her entire life (though she lived out her declining years on Medicare and Social Security, programs she excoriated regularly during her peak earning years).
In this piece today on truthout, Jeffrey Mikkelson does by far the best job I’ve seen of dissecting and explaining what he labels “Randism” by contrasting it with the writings of another philosopher dedicated to individualism, John Dewey.
The contrast is stark and brilliant and exceedingly important for more and more to understand in the wake of Tuesday’s elections, regardless of their outcome.
His essay also provides the framework and a springboard for the Democratic Party to reclaim the high ground of individual freedom the Right has pre-empted by its advocacy of social class warfare (for which it has then, of course, blamed the Left).
I urge you to take time to read the somewhat lengthy piece in its entirety. You may well find that Mikkelson is on to something really important, a point and an approach that could be central to our nation recovering its rational support of individualism in the broader context of social structures and needs. A book lurks here and I’ll be stunned if someone doesn’t pen it within a few months.
We can redraw the philosophical battle lines in such a way that we might force the GOP to shift back toward moderation and loyal opposition. It would be a welcome change from the obstructionist, dogmatic, ideologues that populate the controlling wing of the Republican Party today.