Ryan, and Mises, and Rand! Oh, my!

From the FB page of my graduate student Dan McCool

Paul Ryan: “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.”

Ludwig von Mises to Ayn Rand: “You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the efforts of men who are better than you.”

Update (9:15 pm)

Another FB friend, Kevin Fathi, points me to this letter from Cornell political scientist Ted Lowi to the New York Times, reminiscing about what Hayek said about Rand:

Back in 1961, Friedrich A. Hayek was visiting Cornell, and he graciously accepted my invitation to speak to my political economy class. His comments were not on the free market but rather on the rule of law. Afterward, he took questions, which were mostly about Ayn Rand and “Atlas Shrugged.” The leading questions were “What was Rand really like?” and “What is your evaluation of ‘Atlas Shrugged’?”

Hayek’s responses took on the style of a confession. “Although I tried seriously to read the book, I failed, because there was no romance in it,” he said. “I tried even more diligently to read that fellow John Galt’s hundred-page declaration of independence, and I knew I’d be questioned on all that, but I just couldn’t get through it.”

As for Rand, he said he had met her only once, quite recently, at a party given in their honor — “and you should never have two lions at the same party.” The host eagerly brought the two together for the introduction. Here are the results, to the best of my memory: “We had a very brief exchange. She swelled in anger and spun away, remaining only long enough to say, ‘You are a compromiser.’ ” Twenty-five years later, Stephen Newman, a professor of political science at York University in Canada, innocently provided the explanation for Rand’s animosity with the title of his book: “Liberalism at Wits’ End.”

Update (10:30 pm)

Dan McCool’s brother Jason gives us a pictorial representation.


  1. Dean August 11, 2012 at 9:45 pm | #

    Wow. Ayn Rand is known to have had absolute disgust for anyone who is a “public servant.” Regardless of your stance on her, this is uncontroversial. Is Ryan dumb or is he making some underhanded irony here? Indeed, this is the first google result for “ayn rand on public service -“paul ryan””: http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5310

    The Institute with her namesake got it right, why can’t Ryan? Perhaps academic factuality would be too “elitist” of him.

  2. jasdye August 11, 2012 at 10:45 pm | #

    I love me some of that cuddly Rand.

  3. brahmsky August 12, 2012 at 12:59 am | #

    Unbelievable VP pick. Please get all over this. Use your Corey Robin powers for good, not evil, and tear the crap out of this guy and his vile ideology. Albeit, you’ve already made a contribution with your wonderful Rand chapter. I just can’t believe this fascistic garbage is so popular again all of a sudden. Scary, revolting — and stupid!, at least Leo Strauss was smart/a genius — stuff is happening. I didn’t used to think it was this bad but ill fares the land, indeed.

  4. jonnybutter August 12, 2012 at 9:54 am | #

    Here is Mark Ames’ piece which connects Rand’s philosophico-ethical sociopathy with just plain old sociopathy.

    • jonnybutter August 12, 2012 at 9:55 am | #

      hmmm…can’t do an href eh? Here’s the link in all it’s raw glory:

      • jonnybutter August 12, 2012 at 9:57 am | #

        WHAT?! Oh well. Go to or google ‘Exiledoneline.com’

  5. jonnybutter August 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm | #

    Exiled On Line just updated its Ryan ‘coverage’ – well worth a visit there if you haven’t been (no I don’t blog there or profit from it, etc.).

    heres another attempt at posting a link

  6. Consumatopia August 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm | #

    How do we reconcile this with the Law of Comparative Advantage? If I’m trading in a free market with men who are better than me, don’t I have to be benefiting them just as they are benefiting me? And therefore, don’t my superiors owe exactly as much improvement to their inferiors as my fellow inferiors owe to our superiors?

  7. Frank Moraes August 12, 2012 at 8:02 pm | #

    I had no idea Hayek would be such an astute literary critic! I might complain a bit about his use of the word “romance,” although I know exactly what he means. “Passion” would have been a better word. Rand’s characters seem only to have a kind of brittle intellectual passion that I’ve never seen in the real world. Who else but Rand thinks the ultimate first date is a rape?

  8. Cthulhu August 14, 2012 at 12:27 pm | #

    Paul Ryan in one short vid. Laughing and joking as a 71 year old constituant is thrown to the ground and handcuffed for challenging Ryan.

  9. Alto Berto (@AltoBerto) November 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm | #

    A common side affect of stimulant abuse (Rand was prescribed as diet pills Benzedrine) is hypomania.

    To quote the DSM-IV-TR
    *pressured speech
    *inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
    *decreased need for sleep
    *flight of ideas or the subjective experience that thoughts are racing
    *easy distractibility and attention-deficit similar to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
    *increase in psychomotor agitation
    *involvement in pleasurable activities that may have a high potential for negative psycho
    *social or physical consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, *sexual indiscretions, reckless driving, or foolish business investments).

    Don’t forget the whole Woodward Pu affair. Pu is a selfproclaimed diagnosed hypomanic blogger has, at the age of 27, written two autobiographies, the second of which takes her disorder for it’s namesake:

    Distractibility. Involvement, excessive, in pleasurable activities. Grandiosity. Flight of ideas. Activity increase. Sleeplessness.Talkativeness. DIGFAST, the mnemonic that medical students use to diagnose patients afflicted with hypomania—the mental condition that leaves the afflicted in a constant, elevated state of consciousness that only just flounders below mania (the crazy people kind). Now in her first year on her own, she must navigate the social world—not to mention the career, romantic, and financial world—of Washington DC. A diagnosed hypomanic, Quin is quick to love and even quicker to hate as she makes her way as a med-student-turned-blogger in the world’s most cutthroat political town.

    • Alto Berto (@AltoBerto) November 12, 2013 at 3:53 pm | #

      The hypomania explains why she thought of herself as the greatest living intellect, her extrodinary irritablity, or why her characters took pages to reply to one another. She seriously believes that to be true, the fact that Joan Crawford threw her dinner parties dressed as her characters.

  10. Alto Berto (@AltoBerto) November 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm | #

    Some of Ayn Rand’s comments in her margins in copy of Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”

    Hayek: The essential point for us is that no such complete ethical code exists.

    Ayn Rand: No you fool! That it *can’t* exist!

    How she missed his essential point when he specifically said it was essential is beyond me. Why the so called Objectivists aren’t really subjectivists is beyond me.

    She has endless hate, she’s a real trip man:

    Hayek: Democratic control may prevent power from becoming arbitrary, but it does not do so from it’s mere existence. If democracy revolves on a task which necessarily control the use of power which cannot be guided by fixed rules, it must become arbitrary power.

    Ayn Rand: He’s right, *this* is what democracy is — and this is why America is *not* a democracy, nor is any free country.

    Hayek: (all underlined) We must not allow Private Industry to thrive at the cost of killing or maiming it’s workers, or injuring consumers with their products, or menacing the public health, or polluting the public streams, or polluting the air…

    Ayn Rand: ??! Can it really *thrive* that way?

    Hayek: In other words, by what looks like an amazing coincidence the individual enterpriser makes the same kind of decision that an economic dictator – if he could take into consideration all the needs of consumers and all branches of production – would try to make.

    Ayn Rand: So the justification of a private entrepreneur is that he’s an economic dictator? That’s fudging it. Capitalism certainly does not consider “all the needs” of consumers. “Needs” are not the yardstick. Nobody gets anything on the basis of needs – under capitalism.

    **And my favorite:

    Hayek: “But you can’t consistently apply the principle of ‘to each what he creates,'” says Adams. “How do you solve the problem of invalids, , the crippled, the blind, the helpless; the problems of mothers bearing their children, the problems of children themselves.”

    Ayn Rand: Oh, you can’t? What if I don’t *want* to work for cripples?

    On that last one I believe she should be kicked off of the many highschool reading lists she’s on. Requiring kids to read that year after year ensures Raindroids a steady supply of recruits.

  11. Iakovos Alhadeff February 25, 2014 at 8:40 am | #
  12. Bill harris March 4, 2014 at 11:24 pm | #

    Hayek was simply too polite to tell Rand that she was a semi-literate poseur who went around pitching hissy fit like the premka she was born to be.

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