'Bad Influence'

Over at Mirror of Justice, Robert P. George declares that Michael Sean Winters and I have engaged in "aggressively partisan efforts to smear Paul Ryan as a Randian enemy of Catholic social thought." Evidently he's referring to my critique of his response to "On All of Our Shoulders." In that post, I pointed out that George failed to engage the substance of "On All of Our Shoulders," whose authors write to remind us that Catholic social teaching is not well reflected in the ideology of libertarianism. Instead, George dismissed the statement as partisan -- which is odd, considering that he has endorsed and is advising Mitt Romney (as he did during the 2008 campaign). And he changed the subject, complaining that the authors didn't focus on the top three issues the Romney campaign would like to determine how Catholics vote (.pdf).That's his right, of course. But even though he's posted about "On All of Our Shoulders" several times since October 12, he still hasn't gotten around to addressing its authors' question: If Rep. Paul Ryan no longer looks to Ayn Rand to make sure his policies "square with the key principles of individualism," as he said in 2009, and instead looks to Aquinas to guide his work, then why haven't his policies changed? George seems to think that wanting to know how Ryan's self-described Thomistic shift has affected his policies is itself evidence of partisanship. If so, he's really not going to like our latest editorial, just posted to the homepage. It begins:

Rep. Paul Ryan has long enjoyed a reputation as a wonks wonk. Here was a Republican politician happy to engage in substantive conversation about tax policy, debt, and the future of entitlement programs. The press, accustomed to elected officials far less interested in the nitty-gritty of policy-making, believed it had discovered a serious man on Capitol Hill. Others were impressed that Ryan, a practicing Catholic, didnt shy away from discussing how his faith has helped shape his policies.Yet, as Ryans national stature has increased, so has scrutiny of his record. He has been well served by media coverage contrasting his allegedly Catholic-infused policies with Vice President Joe Bidens strained attempts to reconcile his prochoice politics with church teaching. But before long, the same press corps that had portrayed Ryan as a no-nonsense deficit hawk began reporting his long-standing avowal of the works of Ayn Rand as the touchstone for his political life. In 2005, Ryan told a crowd of Rand devotees that he looks to Rands writing to make sure his policies square with the key principles of individualism. And in a 2009 video he praised her for upholding the morality of individualism as what matters most. One might detect the influence of Rands individualism in Ryans 2011 description of the social safety net as a hammock that fosters dependency.

Read the rest right here.

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

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