Walking TED talk Paul Ryan enters the race | Bleader

Walking TED talk Paul Ryan enters the race

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Paul Ryan wonders: Who is John Galt?
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  • Paul Ryan wonders: Who is John Galt?
Look, Atlas Shrugged wasn't that bad. I read it twice. I enjoyed its protagonists Dagny Taggart and whatshisname, Hank Rearden, doing battle against the leeches and the moochers and so forth. Atlas Shrugged is entertaining in the way that certain films—Legally Blonde, say—are entertaining, in that they provide humanlike characters in a plot that maintains at least a remote connection to reality: a following of the first name-last name convention, for instance, or the fact that both texts (LOL) are set in the United States, an extant country in North America. Beyond that lies trouble, as everybody on the Internet pointed out this past weekend following Mitt Romney's (ahem) fingering of Paul Ryan, a big-time Rand fan, as presumptive VP pick. The trouble with Ryan is that he's an ideas guy, and there's nothing so oxymoronic as a conservative ideas guy—the type of person for whom Ayn Rand constitutes a "thinker" and not a caricature of an extremely tedious wack-job. Ryan urges interns to read Ayn Rand, which, if you want a measure of our national legislature's moral bankruptcy, is not even the worst offense that congresspersons have committed against their intern charges.

(Total aside, but have you seen the recent movie version of Atlas Shrugged, part one of maybe 15 or 20 or so? It is astoundingly boring, having leached all the soapy, campy fun from Rand's treatise and left only the railroads; plus, the two leads look like out-of-work porn actors and act similarly, minus anything approaching sex appeal. On the other hand, the film ends with a big fire, leaving us to hope for explosions, or perhaps aliens, in the next installment.)

Mitt Romney, the human cipher, needed an ideas guy, and Paul Ryan has got ideas in droves, most or all of which will be dissected comprehensively over the next few months. For now let's look at one: this statement on "the cause of life" that was published in the Heritage Foundation journal Indivisible, which is a mathematics workbook. It is notionally about abortion, which Ryan mentions once, and perhaps somewhat about women, whom Ryan mentions not at all. Here's the mark of an ideas guy: the first paragraph contains the sentences "This is a false dilemma. Logically, each implicates the other" about "life" versus "choice," which is the question that preoccupies Ryan in this essay. He endeavors to hitch the cause of not letting women have abortions to the wagon of capitalism, which resists liberal fear: "fear of too many choices and too many children." It's a stretch but, hey—there's a fuckin' idea for you. The precise idea matters less than its marketing as such; and the erstwhile presence of ur-ideas guy/moon man Newt Gingrich in the presidential race basically means that any unpalatable bullshit will now look, by comparison, a bit more savory. Ryan's got ideas like Ann Coulter has footnotes: the strongest argument in favor of each is simply that they exist. At least it's not another moon colony.

Ryan mourns the separation of "life" and "choice," which he believes to be concomitant, though it takes him a while to get there. Or rather he starts there and never quite makes his way back; detours include quotes from Adam Smith, automotive analogies, a definitive comparison of Roe vs. Wade with the Dred Scott decision, and the declaration that prolife conservatives are "natural optimists." ("We see human beings as assets, not liabilities," etc.) The free market component of this argument is . . . you know what, it's not really there, despite being enthusiastically declaimed, but the mark of a true ideas guy, as Ayn Rand has amply shown, is to let no actual idea get in the way of some sweet rhetoric. Does the free market support the unborn child? Sure, why not, QED, thank you and good night. Another God might bless our American intellectuals, but Rand was actually an atheist.

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