Recently, Jason posted about Paul Ryan and Objectivism. It’s a good post, and you should go read it. I wanted to take a moment and comment myself.
First, understand that I have read Atlas Shrugged four times so far and understand Objectivism in a lot of ways. I am also a libertarian, something that Rand was not particularly fond of. Libertarians look at Rand as an intellectual parent of our movement, though Objectivists will not be thrilled with this description one bit.
Jason points out how many people who agree with much of what Rand wrote reject Objectivism for one reason above many others. Atheism.
I am, unlike many libertarians, a man of faith. I wasn’t always a Christian, though I always believed that there was some kind of higher power. Objectivism, a philosophy I agree with in many ways, would never fully be my own because of that one point. From my time with Objectivists, there was no room for the idea of faith, even if you understood that it wasn’t a rational decision based on empirical data.
So what does this have to do with Jason’s post about Paul Ryan? Simple. I have been heavily influenced by Rand. Atlas Shrugged changed my life in ways that I never thought it would. While I leaned libertarian beforehand, it pushed me over the edge and made me more of an activist for libertarian values.
Just as easily, it can push someone to embrace free markets and similar ideas while that person also clings to their faith like Paul Ryan. It’s not a “gotcha” moment as Jason believes the press sees it. Instead, it’s a lack of understanding that many people take parts of Atlas Shrugged and throw out other parts of John Galt’s famous speech.
After all, I did. So why couldn’t Paul Ryan?
During the last couple of years, Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals have come under heavy fire from President Barack Obama and Democrats due to modest cuts to spending on social programs. Last May, Newt Gingrich characterized Ryan’s budget as “right-wing social engineering,” a line that many on the Left are now using to tear down Republicans.
Ryan has been pegged by some observers as a devotee of Ayn Rand, a philosopher who developed a moral defense of capitalism in her essays and books — such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. However, Ryan outright rejected Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, in an interview with Robert Costa of National Review:
Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, recently called Ryan “an Ayn Rand devotee” who wants to “slash benefits for the poor.” New York magazine once alleged that Ryan “requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged,” Rand’s gospel of capitalism. President Obama has blasted the Ryan budget as Republican “social Darwinism.”
These Rand-related slams, Ryan says, are inaccurate and part of an effort on the left to paint him as a cold-hearted Objectivist. Ryan’s actual philosophy, as reported by my colleague, Brian Bolduc, couldn’t be further from the caricature. As a practicing Roman Catholic, Ryan says, his faith and moral values shape his politics as much as his belief in freedom and capitalism does.
There are certainly a plethora of good arguments for state rights, federalism, and transferring more powers to the states vis-a-vis the federal govenrment. There are also a few bad ones.
T. Kurt Jaros at Values & Capitalism argues that the “Incorporation Doctrine”—making the Bill of Rights legally binding upon state governments—goes too far, and harms religious freedoms:
Prior to the twentieth century, the Supreme Court explicitly believed that the Bill of Rights was limited to the federal government and not the states. This is evident in Barron v. Baltimore (1833). Chief Justice John Marshall believed the Bill of Rights “contain(s) no expression indicating an intention to apply them to the State governments. This court cannot so apply them.” Thus, the Bill of Rights (believe it or not) did not restrict what States could do, such as limiting speech, behavior, or expression of religion.
United States v. Cruishank (1876) also confirmed this view. This understanding is the only way to understand why it is the Supreme Court never took up ideas like prayer in school, whether or not a valedictorian could mention Jesus in a speech or if cheerleaders could hold up Bible verses during a football game. The simple fact is, they knew it was not the federal government’s role (as described in the Constitution). After all, the first amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This means the federal government was going to stay neutral.
With a financial crisis still causing unrest in Europe as governments try to bailout each other out, the Vatican is calling for a global governing authority and a global bank as the religious institution slams markets:
The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a “central world bank” to rule over financial institutions that have become outdated and often ineffective in dealing fairly with crises. The document from the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department should please the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators and similar movements around the world who have protested against the economic downturn. “Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority,” was at times very specific, calling, for example, for taxation measures on financial transactions. “The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence,” it said. It condemned what it called “the idolatry of the market” as well as a “neo-liberal thinking” that it said looked exclusively at technical solutions to economic problems. “In fact, the crisis has revealed behaviours like selfishness, collective greed and hoarding of goods on a great scale,” it said, adding that world economics needed an “ethic of solidarity” among rich and poor nations.
The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a “central world bank” to rule over financial institutions that have become outdated and often ineffective in dealing fairly with crises. The document from the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department should please the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators and similar movements around the world who have protested against the economic downturn.
“Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority,” was at times very specific, calling, for example, for taxation measures on financial transactions. “The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence,” it said.
It condemned what it called “the idolatry of the market” as well as a “neo-liberal thinking” that it said looked exclusively at technical solutions to economic problems. “In fact, the crisis has revealed behaviours like selfishness, collective greed and hoarding of goods on a great scale,” it said, adding that world economics needed an “ethic of solidarity” among rich and poor nations.
Herman Cain doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of the First Amendment. While I recognize that not everyone shares my expansive view of what freedom of religion entails, I tend to believe we all generally accept a few things as fact. One is that banning religion and religious centers is wrong, even if we disagree with everything that religion teachers. Presidential Candidate Herman Cain? Not so much.
After once saying that he disagreed with the opening of a mosque in Tennessee, describing it as “It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion,” he now says that communities should be able to ban mosques.
In an exchange on “Fox News Sunday,” the Republican presidential contender said that he sided with some in a town near Nashville who were trying to prevent Muslims from worshiping in their community.
“Our Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state,” he said. “Islam combines church and state. They’re using the church part of our First Amendment to infuse their morals in that community, and the people of that community do not like it. They disagree with it.”
Asked by host Chris Wallace if any community could ban a mosque if it wanted to, Cain said: “They have a right to do that.”
First, the existence of Islam in this nation doesn’t violate the separation of church and state. Sharia law, if enforced by the courts, would but that’s not happening. Instead, a group of people in Tennessee (and of course Herman Cain) are using the force of the state to ban a religion. That is a violation of the separation of church and state.
During his official announcement for the Republican nomination for president, Herman Cain said that we don’t need to re-write the Constitution, rather re-read it. I tend to agree, but he made an embarrassing gaffe on the Constitution, citing language that was actually from the Declaration of Independence. And recent comments he has made, including his contempt for the Fourth Amendment and basic civil liberties, leave one with the impression that Cain may need to do some reading of his own.
While appearing on Glen Beck’s show on Wednesday, Cain again expressed caution in appointing a Muslim to a position of power if he were president, noting that he would do so if they took a loyalty oath:
BECK: So wait a minute, are you saying that Muslims have to prove, there has to be a loyalty proof?
CAIN: Yes, to the Constitution of the United States of America.
BECK: Well, would you do that to a Catholic or a Mormon?
CAIN: No, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t because there is a greater dangerous part of the Muslim faith than there is in these other religions. I know there are some Muslims who talk about but we’re a peaceful religion. I’m sure that there are some peace-loving.
Cain once again demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the Constitution, which explicitly states in Article VI, Clause 3 that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
In this video, the comedian Penne Jillette demonstrates another key example of why the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech makes the United States unique.
The great artist, M.F. Hussain, widely regarded to be the Indian Picasso, found himself in a precarious position four years ago when he released a nude depiction of the Hindu god Bharatmata:
If you aren’t familiar with this seminal Hindu figure, this image should look familiar to you from yoga centers, shops or restaurants:
Since releasing the painting, Husain has received death threats and fled his mother country. The Indian government, while a democracy, does not guarantee freedom of speech to the extent that the United States does, with the law ministry arguing that they “would have a strong case against him if they sued him for deliberately hurting religious feelings.” (Imagine what would happened to Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens if such an argument held water in the United States or Europe!)
I bring this up, even though it’s old news, because it’s likely unfamiliar to the majority of our readers and indicative that the hordes shouting for censorship are not all within Islam, but even within more infrequently controversial faiths. Whether it’s “Piss Christ,” the Mohammed cartoons in Jyllands-Posten or the South Park portrayal of Mohammed in a bear suit, this sort of flourishing freedom of expression is essential to a society that makes all ideas, good or bad, available.
I don’t know about you, but I like to keep my religious and political views separate. I don’t believe in using the power of the state to advance them. Most conservatives, especially here in the South, don’t share that view. I’m used to that. However, my eyes popped out when I read that Nancy Pelosi says she is going the Lord’s work:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says she believes she must pursue public policies “in keeping with the values” of Jesus Christ, ”The Word made Flesh.”
At a May 6 Catholic Community Conference on Capitol Hill, the speaker said: “They ask me all the time, ‘What is your favorite this? What is your favorite that? What is your favorite that?’ And one time, ‘What is your favorite word?’ And I said, ‘My favorite word? That is really easy. My favorite word is the Word, is the Word. And that is everything. It says it all for us. And you know the biblical reference, you know the Gospel reference of the Word.”
“And that Word,” Pelosi said, “is, we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word. The Word. Isn’t it a beautiful word when you think of it? It just covers everything. The Word.
“Fill it in with anything you want. But, of course, we know it means: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.’ And that’s the great mystery of our faith. He will come again. He will come again. So, we have to make sure we’re prepared to answer in this life, or otherwise, as to how we have measured up.”
No comment thus far from Andrew Sullivan.
Here is the video:
“Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.” - Thomas Jefferson