Bad Influence

Laissez-faire economics as Catholic teaching

Rep. Paul Ryan has long enjoyed a reputation as a wonk’s 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, didn’t shy away from discussing how his faith has helped shape his policies.

Yet, as Ryan’s 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 Biden’s 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 Rand’s 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 Rand’s individualism in Ryan’s 2011 description of the social safety net as a “hammock” that fosters “dependency.”

Rand, an atheist, considered charity a sign of weakness. Ryan’s Randian views—notably his budget plan’s drastic cuts to food stamps, which now aid 46 million—did not sit well with many Catholics. That includes the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which repeatedly criticized Ryan’s budget last spring, days after Ryan claimed that it is informed by Catholic social teaching. “The preferential option for the poor,” Ryan said, “means...don’t make people dependent on government.”

Not so. The preferential option means the needs of the poor ought to come first, even if that means giving them food as well as job training. As Ryan continued taking heat for his Randian views, he pivoted, dismissing reports of his devotion to Rand and naming Thomas Aquinas as his real inspiration. In April he identified the “exploding federal debt” as our greatest threat. Defending that position, he cited fiscal conservatives’ favorite papal utterance, “We are living at the expense of future generations,” which appears in Benedict XVI’s book-length interview Light of the World.

Ryan did not mention Benedict’s Caritas in veritate (2009), which affirms the government’s role in establishing “systems of protection and welfare,” and laments “cuts in social spending.” Indeed, Ryan doesn’t explain how his policies reflect the church’s traditional support for government’s role in securing the common good. Instead, he passes off laissez-faire economics as Catholic teaching.

Despite all this, Ryan has been rewarded with the public support—but not, we are assured, the political endorsement—of a few bishops, including the president of the USCCB, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. These bishops, some of whom rightly rebuked Joe Biden for his prochoice views, have vouched for Ryan’s Catholic bona fides.

Last month, a group of Catholic scholars published “On All of Our Shoulders,” a critique of the libertarian streak running through American conservatism and now given unprecedented influence by Ryan’s nomination. Ryan’s ascendency is the culmination of a forty-year effort to delegitimize government and undermine the very idea of a common good. This development poses a mortal danger to democracy. “America is at a tipping point,” the authors write, and “libertarian views of government” are now part of the mainstream. “We live at a time when the social indifference of libertarian thought is achieving broad cultural legitimacy and political power.”

One of the few resources we have to repair this damage, to provide a vocabulary and a philosophy about public goods and the very idea of “society” as something more than the sum of individual choices, is the Catholic understanding of the person. That’s why “On All of Our Shoulders” is right to denounce a political philosophy that celebrates some people as “makers” and dismisses the rest as “takers.”

No one denies that capitalism has been a great engine of progress and prosperity or that self-interested economic activity can be moral. But the market by itself will not secure the common good—as a century’s worth of papal encyclicals remind us. “On All of Our Shoulders” calls us to remember the responsibility of government to protect the most vulnerable. It is a call that Catholic Americans—indeed all Americans—cannot afford to ignore.

 

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Rather than an atheist, Ayn Rand might be better considered a metheist---with her being God Mother Rand who first sent into her imagined world her created version of John the Baptists, known in the Fountainhead as Howard Roark who in the novel should have said of God Mother Rand’s only begotten son of Atlas Shrugged, John Galt, he who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.

This is what passed through my mind years ago when I forced myself to read both of Rand’s novels and thought then and do today that though Jesus the Christ and his cousin John were sent by God the Father to tread the Earth, there never has been and never will be two of the nature of God Mother Rand’s Roark or Galt.

The Randroid philosophy is not about mature independence.  It is rather an inhumane attempt to justify a desperate, aggressive sense of superiority that easily devolves into a nasty solipsism.  It appeals to the mythology of the "rugged individualist," who supposedly makes his own way in the world, strong and successful, and who despises the weak, the failures, the poor, as little more than human garbage.  Inferiors who have proven they deserve nothing.

Of course the Rands and Ryans never consider the advantages of well-to-do families who have connections to the best schools and employment opportunities.  Regardless of personal abilities, being born to the economic purple must imply genetic superiority.  Nor do they ever consider the legacies of the common good.  Do they benefit from public roads, 911, the military?  Did they write all their own college texts? Reinvent all scientific knowledge back to the discovery of fire?  Do they do their own surgery, fix their own cars,grow and prepare all of their own food?  If not, then they are beholden to the largesse of the culture around them.

There is a strong movement toward individualism among Gen Y and the Millennials.  It arises from a suspicion that all large organizations are dysfunctional.  Not too difficult to find evidence for that.  They also tend to have a sense of spirituality as a deep connection to all life and to the cosmos.   Along with the realization that this planet is finite, that people are suffering, and that current institutions seem incapable of handling these critical problems.  Which seems to leave little more than personal spiritual evolution as a possible answer. 

But notice how different this sense of individualism is from the grossly selfish orientation of Rand's galling Gault and the econopathic elitism of Ryan's neocon agenda.  Which fits so neatly with the behind the curtain revelation of Romney's true feelings.  The young realize that they have to care about each other and the earth itself, free of the prejudices of their elders.  Which is one of the reasons why Obama was elected president.

Why is this "no government support" only valid for the least among us?  Why subsidies for big agra? Why R & D paid for at public expense at universities, then privatized profits?  Why Wall Street and the S & L bailouts?  Why insider military contracts?  Where is their sense of outrage at socialism for the rich and powerful?  Could it be their real god is power and money?

We know that Rand was a total atheist.  But that doesn't sell well in the US.  So the neocon politicians claim to be religious and argue that it's best to let the churches take care of all social problems.  Okay, let them demonstrate their commitment to Christian values.  Show us inferior peasants how it's done.  How about iby mplementing Acts 4:34-35  "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as had lands and houses sold them, laying the proceeds at the feet of the apostles.  Who gave to each as any had need."

             

Dear Editors:

Allow me to offer a few critical points:

Firstly, in fariness to Ryan and all Americans, I  caution everyone to not reduce Congressman Ryan to the "manufactured media created" Paul Ryan but to take the time, with an open mind,  to learn the real Paul Ryan. 

It took me a while to find this, but having been a Ryan fan for years, I remembered this old interview he did on the World Over (well before he had any idea he would be on the ticket as a VP) where Raymond Arroyo directly questions him about his Ayn Rand connection and Catholic Faith.    I suggest starting at the 10 minuute mark to best understand why Ryan is who he is and does what he does, however if time is a major factor, the Ayn Rand questioning starts at 13:40. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_cHYaZ4ZJA

 

Next, we all, regardless of our politics, "pick fish from the bones" in various things of life, whenever it serves and is compatible with  our cause.  I consider myself a serious Catholic, and I too, find some of Ayn Rand's teachings on free enterprise and human dignity, in addition to much of Austrian Economics,  both useful and compatible with the Catholic Faith while at the ssame time, loathing the philisophy of Objectivism and selfishness (as does Ryan).  For all that Ayn Rand might have gotten right regarding free enterprise and human dignity, she essentially fell way  short by getting the "God Part" seriously and dangerously wrong.

As for the Bishops, Catholic teaching teaches that only when the US Bishops are in 100% agreement, or over trumped by the Pope, do we owe the obedience to the "opinion" (not to be confused with dogmatic church teaching).  On the other hand, as individuals, we DO owe obedience to our local Bishop.  In Ryan's case, it's Bishop Moleno in Madison WI, who very much approves of Ryan's plan.  In essence as far as his Catholicsm, that is all that matters.  Who are any of us to dispute his own Bishop approval?

It's alwo worth pointing out that in addition to proving to you, in his own words (per above video), that Ryan is not an Objectivist, many on the left certainly are, including Alan Greenspan.  I can also only wonder how many Objectivists exists in the democratic congress and all who contributed to the massive increase in job stunting government regulations.  Perhaps it would be far more useful to correctly looks at the real "Welsley Mouch" than the falsely accused "John Galt."  In the interest of the left's beloved "equality", why isn't Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic,  getting the Welsely treatment?  Does it really make a difference what one ID's as if in fact they are 'acting the part?"

Here are two more short clips, one from Clarence Thomas (who also, while for sure not being an Objectivist), find use for Ayn Rand.  The othe is William F. Buckley, who was a friend of Ayns, and also agreed with her in the extent of being anti communist and anti socialist..:

 
clarence Thomas
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William F Buckley
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 Rafi you bring up Acts, which essentially is communism WITH God.  That is exactly what we have had and still do for centuries in Catholic Monasteries.  But here's the thing:  Each according to their means only works when all are properly ordered to Christ; the "perfect" world.  Without God, it's hell, consequently, imposed on America "as is", would without quesiton be "American Hell."
 
Lastly, I would be remiss not to bring up once again the "most vulnerable and least among us."  I ask all with true sincerlty, especially Catholics, how anyone can truly believe that and at the same time, support the Democartic Platform of abortion, being that all social justice starts in the womb, with the most  "least and most vulnerable among us."

Who knew that Rand and Ryan could attract so many apologists. Their diatribes are a frontal attack on any form of charity and continues to blame the victims for all their misfortunes. Is it any wonder so many GOP senate candidates have such warped views of rape? And of course in their view, all poverty is self-inflicted, even desired by lazy and worthless folk who they characterize as parasites. None of these reactionary redneck positions could be farther from the truths of Christian teaching or the words of the gospel. No excuses should be tolerated for such cruel and evil exhortations against helping those who are unfortunate victims.

Patricia tells us about ". . . Bishop Moleno in Madison WI, who very much approves of Ryan's plan."

From the Diocese of Madison Catholic Herald, Aug. 16, 2012, Bishop's Column:

"As one looks at issues . . . and seeks to apply the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, Catholics . . . can arrive at different conclusions. These are conclusions about the best means to promote the preferential option for the poor, or the best means to reach a lower percentage of unemployment throughout our country. 

"Thus, it is not up to me or any bishop or priest to approve of Congressman Ryan’s specific budget prescription to address the best means we spoke of . . . But, as I’ve said, Vice Presidential Candidate Ryan is aware of Catholic Social Teaching and is very careful to fashion and form his conclusions in accord with the principles mentioned above. Of that I have no doubt. (I mention this matter in obedience to Church Law regarding one’s right to a good reputation.)"

The Bishop's statement is not approval of Ryan's plan but rather a defense of his reputation.  

 

Ryan's interview is not "old" -- he refers to Blessed John Paul II the Great. JP II was beatified only last year.

 

And of course he speaks of "a majority of takers versus makers". Asked about slicing programs for the poor he says a debt crisis will help them more and that those programs are the drivers of our debt... 

Bishops defending Ryan's reputation might ask themselves about their own attitude to the reputations of Obama and numerous other Democrats.

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