Rand saw the Left at work firsthand in St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution, in Hollywood during the Red Decade, and in the Manhattan publishing world. She liked neither what she saw nor what she experienced. The Left confiscated her family’s business in Russia and blocked her books in America. She didn’t turn the other cheek.
She lampooned leftists as caricature characters in her books. As buffoonish as Atlas Shrugged’s John Galt is heroic, the liberals of Rand’s fiction are designed to infuriate more than convert the liberals to Rand’s reality. “When everybody agrees,” James Taggart shrieks in Atlas Shrugged, “when people are unanimous, how does one man dare to dissent? By what right?” Ellsworth Toohey professes in The Fountainhead, “A man braver than his brothers insults them by implication. Let us aspire to no virtue which cannot be shared.” “Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them,” Dr. Ferris tells Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged. “One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s in there in that for anyone?”
Whereas Ayn Rand puts down, Paul Ryan persuades. Bill Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles called Ryan “amazing” last year. “He is honest. He is straightforward. He is sincere. And the budget that he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, serious budget.” Whereas Rand scowls, Ryan smiles. The district Ryan represents hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential race since Ronald Reagan’s reelection. Yet, he has never in his seven congressional races won with less than 57 percent of the vote.
Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand’s substantive differences involve religion, ethics, economics, policy, and much else. But the greatest divide between the pair is stylistic rather than substantive. One who can’t distinguish the smiling and sunny politician from the dark and dour novelist lives in fiction as much as John Galt does.
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