I remain dismayed by Robert George’s sustained inability to engage On All of Our Shoulders with anything but a partisan lens.  Perhaps he is so committed to the Republican Party as political vehicle to advance his deeply held moral priories, he can only see any challenge to its current Catholic VP candidate in partisan terms.  This is unfortunate, not least of all for George, because Ryan’s social philosophy exposes and will likely deepen the rift in the Republican party that will, in the long term, contribute to the further marginalization of the very moral concerns George champions. 

Ryan’s inspiration by and explicit avowal of the thought of Ayn Rand is an issue that goes beyond the prudential realm of politics to the doctrinal realm of theological anthropology.  

Rand preached a view of the human person that is fundamentally at odds with the Catholic faith, thus its popular embrace must be a concern for the Church.  Many Catholics (evidenced by responses to blog posts on this topic) have no idea that this conflicts with the teachings of the Church.

Political campaigns have enormous power to legitimate their candidates.  If this dimension of Ryan’s political philosophy goes unchallenged, it will be legitimated as Catholic in the eyes of the many of faithful.  It will soon be treated as “old news” that has presumably been shown to be without concern to the Church.

Rand’s celebration of individualism and social indifference and her denunciation of charity and sacrifice provide a rare explicit profession of an ideology that lies hidden within modern political and economic thought as well as consumer culture.  It is an anthropology fundamentally incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

Liberal conceptions of freedom famously present themselves as anthropologically and ontologically neutral.  David Schindler’s critique of the New York Times editorial defending the Obama administration’s contraceptive coverage mandate (and thus a critique of the mandate itself among other things) takes pains to unearth the “metaphysically thick” assumptions about the human person that are foundational to liberalism “albeit in a peculiarly hidden and so far paradoxical sense.”  Schindler’s trenchant critique is but the latest in a host of intellectual critiques offered by thinkers as diverse as Edmund Burke and Max Horkheimer attempting to render explicit the implicit anthropological assumptions of liberalism.  This is difficult, but necessary intellectual work.

With Ayn Rand, none of the exhausting work of examining of first principles, genealogy or immanent critique are necessary.  Does liberalism, as Schindler argues, presume what Servais Pinckaers terms a “freedom of indifference” that as a “matter of principle, forces a choice” between “my freedom or the freedom of others;" does it make the freedom of others appear “as limitation and as threat, since freedom is self-affirmation”? 

Rand saves us the trouble of digging to find out.  John Galt’s final words are an exuberant celebration of exactly this freedom of indifference:

 I swear-by my life and my love of it-that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

Does liberalism, again in Schindler’s words, “displace the person’s natural community with God and others, and with truth and goodness, by an extrinsic and so far voluntaristic community—what is commonly termed a contractual community—made up of formal-independent, logically self-centered individuals”?

Rand is again exuberantly explicit in Galt:

Do you ask what moral obligation I owe to my fellow men? None-except the obligation I owe to myself, to material objects and to all of existence: rationality. I deal with men as my nature and their demands: by means of reason. I seek or desire nothing from them except such relations as they care to enter of their own voluntary choice. It is only with their mind that I can deal and only for my own self-interest, when they see that my interest coincides with theirs. When they don’t, I enter no relationship….

Galt’s speech is the text to which Ryan has told us, he returns repeatedly:

I always go back to… to the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end, and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I’m believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism…

Ryan’s recent attempts to distance himself from Rand should be viewed with skepticism.  He characterizes his previous explicit avowals as an “urban legend.” He has not offered any reexamination the policies and strategies he once described as guided by Rand’s philosophy.  These remain unchanged.

The challenge of Rand cuts to the central doctrines of the Church – the doctrine of the Trinity and its consequences for our understanding of the human person.  Thus, they cannot be dispatched with an invocation of prudence.  Any Catholic engagement in politics must struggle to engage the principles of Catholic social doctrine that are built upon the Church’s central doctrines and seek to apply them to society.

It is for this reason, that On All Our Shoulders lists theological anthropology as the fundamental principle at stake in this moment of Rand’s broad legitimation:

The Catholic view of the human person is social not individual.  Congressman Ryan has stated that he learned from Rand to view all policy questions as a “fight of individualism versus collectivism.” The Catholic Church does not espouse “individualism,” but rather sees it as an error as destructive as collectivism.  (CCC, #2425) Blessed John Paul II described “individualism” as a dimension of the “Culture of Death” arising from an “eclipse of the sense of God.” (Evangelium vitae, #22-23) The human person is “by its innermost nature, a social being.” (Gaudium et spes, #12) We are radically dependent upon and responsible for one another.  Again, in the words of John Paul II, “We are all really responsible for all.” This truth of the human person is tied to the central doctrines of the Church.  It reflects the very “intimate life of God, one God in three Persons.” (Sollicitudo rei socialis, #38, 40.)

 

Such concerns recur in the writings of Benedict XVI.  Cardinal Ratzinger spoke of Easter as deliverance “deliverance from the captivity of individualism, from the prison of self, from the incapacity to love and make a gift of oneself.”  In Spe salvi, he again spoke of salvation as escape from the “prison of our ‘I’”

This real life, towards which we try to reach out again and again, is linked to a lived union with a “people”, and for each individual it can only be attained within this “we”.  It presupposes that we escape from the prison of our “I”, because only in the openness of this universal subject does our gaze open out to the source of joy, to love itself—to God.

The “we” under discussion here is, of course, the Church.  But Benedict noted:

While this community-oriented vision of the “blessed life” is certainly directed beyond the present world, as such it also has to do with the building up of this world—in very different ways, according to the historical context and the possibilities offered or excluded thereby.  (14-15)

This is a topic he would develop in detail in Caritas in veritate.

 

Benedict offered an extended meditation on individualism and the Eucharist in his Angelus message for June 26, 2011.

In a culture that is ever more individualistic -- like that in which Western societies are immersed and which is spreading throughout the world -- the Eucharist constitutes a kind of "antidote," which operates in the minds and hearts of believers and continually sows in them the logic of communion, of service, of sharing, in a word, the logic of the Gospel. The first Christians, in Jerusalem, were an evident sign of this new way of life because they lived in fraternity and held all of their goods in common so that no one should be indigent (cf. Acts 2:42-47). Where did all of this come from? From the Eucharist, that is, the risen Christ, really present with his disciples and working with the power of the Holy Spirit. And in the succeeding generations, through the centuries, the Church, despite human limits and errors, continued to be a force for communion in the world. We think especially of the most difficult periods, the periods of trial: What did it mean, for example, for countries that were under the heal of totalitarian regimes to have the possibility to gather for Sunday Mass! As the ancient martyrs of Abitene proclaimed: "Sine Dominico non possumus" – without the "Dominicum," that is, the Sunday Eucharist, we cannot live. But the void produced by false freedom can be dangerous, and so communion with the Body of Christ is a medicine of the intellect and will to rediscover taste for the truth and the common good.

 

I respect those who cast their votes with the Republican party because of its position on abortion, among other moral issues.  But there is always the danger of embracing other elements of a party’s ideology that are incompatible with the Catholic faith.  This is something that Catholic Democrats are endlessly and (as the declaration states) “appropriately” reminded.

Ryan’s acknowledgement that his policies and political strategies are inspired by Rand is but one, particularly Catholic, moment in a broader tide eroding the breadth of religious moral concern. 

The Tea Party has been a powerful cultural force legitimating anti-government and libertarian sentiment.  Pollsters and pundits who argue that it is much the same demographic as the Religious Right miss an important ideological shift.  The conservative Christian commitments of many on the Religious Right have long existed in uneasy tension with the bedrock neo-liberal commitments of the Republican Party.  The Tea Party marked a moment when these Biblical and religious commitments were fully subordinated to the main concerns of the party. 

That the truly conservative religious concerns of the Religious Right would lose out to this neo-liberal ideology is no surprise.  Such ideas have penetrated deep into the Democratic Party as well.  In The Age of Fracture, Daniel Rodgers documents the massive and multifaceted intellectual program to promote neo-liberal thought:

Across the multiple fronts of ideational battle, from the speeches of presidents to books of social and cultural theory, conceptions of human nature that in the post-World War II era had been thick with context, social circumstance, institutions, and history gave way to conceptions of human nature that stressed choice agency, performance, and desire. Strong metaphors of society were supplanted by weaker ones. Imagined collectivities shrank; notions of structure and power thinned out. Viewed by its acts of mind, the last quarter of the century was an era of disaggregation, a great age of fracture.

This individualistic anthropology manifests itself across the political spectrum.  It is as active within pro-choice views of abortion as it is in those who want to minimize government intervention on behalf of the common good.  Politically, this is a threat we face on two fronts--individual morality and collective concern for the common good.

It is perfectly legitimate to vote for a candidate such as Ryan based on the aspects of his policies and commitments that are laudably consistent with the teachings of the Church.

Those supporting his candidacy and arguing for his election must be careful however to not legitimate or excuse elements of his political philosophy that conflict with the teachings of the Church on the human person. 

 

 

Comments

Tim O'Leary | 10/29/2012 - 9:57am
Marie & Chuck:
Here is an article on what Paul Ryan is actually saying today about our obligation to the poor and his policies. Here's an article from the Washington Post outlining how the current path will adversely affect the poor, and another in the WP on the immorality of stealing from the next generation for this one. Here also is a life-long Democrat who voted for Obama in 2008 and is switching now. Stay safe all those in Hurricane Sandy’s path.
Marie Rehbein | 10/29/2012 - 8:33am
Tim, It seems to believe what you want to believe about the Romney/Ryan budget.  Ryan's budget is a document describing in principle what he would change, which is a lot more than you care to admit.  Romney's budget is a fantasy.
Michael Appleton | 10/31/2012 - 5:15pm
I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a teenager and loved it.  Paul Ryan read Atlas Shrugged.  The difference between us is that I realized that I was reading fantasy.
Tim O'Leary | 10/29/2012 - 2:03am
Chuck #14
It is probably wiser for this election to focus on Mitt Romney's proposals and not on either Paul Ryan's previous proposal or paranoid fantasies from Ayn Rand. It is all on his official website, mittromney.com, for those interested in getting into the details.

As regards taxes, Romney will make a 20% cut on marginal rates for all Americans. He will maintain current tax rates on interest, dividends, and capital gains for those with an AGI above$200,000, and eliminate it for those with an AGI below $200,000. He will repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). And he says he will limit deductions to a set figure (he mentioned $50,000 in the debates - but has not fixed on this yet). Interestingly, he has said that taxpayers will get to decide on what to deduct (such as mortgage, charity or education, etc) but the key novelty he is offering is a fixed amount of dollars that can be deducted. The latter will have its biggest negative effect on the rich, and all of his tax proposals will benefit the middle class and those whose AGI is less than $200,000. He believes this will stimulate the economy and the government will end up taking in much more revenue than a static view of the 20% cuts might calculate.

On Defense spending, he is not proposing anything really drastic. He will keep spending at 4% of GDP (so it will rise if he is able to get the ecomony growing again, and not if it doesn't) which is what Bob Gates and others had recommended a couple of years ago. The main difference between him and Obama is that Obama wants to make large cuts in current spending.

On safety nets for the poor, I see no change for those who are actually poor, and his main proposal is to stimulate jobs so there will be less poor. For the elderly, he will keep current programs in place for those already 55 and over, but will begin to phase in limits for richer elderly so they will get less over time. This means millionaires will not get as much social security as those with more modest pensions. For younger people, he will probably go with what Paul Ryan proposed, which is to offer those below 55 the option of private or government medicare plans, betting that most will opt for the private plans, at least in part.

He will try to repeal Obamacare, to save a trillion off the budget, although he has suggested legislation for the smaller more attractive parts such as pre-existing conditions and staying on parents plans, etc.

His major non-negotiable principles, as he stated in the debates, are to 1) keep the rich paying the same share of taxes as they do today, 2) lower the tax burden for the middle class, compared to what they pay under Obama, and 3) not increase the deficit.

Obama will not change anything from the present course. His argument is that his policies are working and we just have to be more patient. 4 years more patient!


Charles Vekert | 10/28/2012 - 5:27pm
One of the interesting facts of this campaign is that there is no consensus on the content of the Romney/Ryan budget. It is possible for Mr. O’Leary to state that the budget proposals “jealously retain the full safety net with only modest reductions in the growth of the programs”. Many others disagree vehemently.
This much we do know:
-The mix of tax cuts and deduction elimination is supposed to be revenue neutral.
-Military spending increases substantially.
-Neither Social Security nor Medicare is reduced.
-We are promises that the deficit will gradually be reduced.
Those who disagree with Mr. O’Leary would argue that safety net programs must be cut because that is about all that is left.  But who can say for certain? Ryan has been clear that he wishes to end those welfare programs that breed a culture of dependency and feelings of entitlement, without specifying what programs those are.  My own guess is that to anyone influenced in the least by Ayn Rand the answer to that is simple: all of them.  Forgetting about the social and ethical theory of individualism vs. collectivism, the radical free market economic theory espoused by Ryan simply does not admit the possibility of beneficial welfare programs. Furthermore, it does not admit the possibility of any sort of beneficial government administered civil programs, hence the desire to privatize Social Security and replace Medicare with vouchers.  As Milton Friedman once quipped, if the government ran the Sahara Desert, in a few years it would run out of sand.
This is how Ryan can square the circle. Since governmental programs are as useful to the poor as phrenology and astrology, he can reduce or eliminate them with a clear conscience. The only way to help the poor is to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes on the job producers. So he can rest easy as the free market works its magic.
Vince Killoran | 10/26/2012 - 1:18pm
Thanks for the link to the Klein piece-but you didn't include this little bit:  "Ryan's 2010 Roadmap included major reforms to Social Security, including private accounts. His previous budget featured much more dramatic reforms to Medicare, including a much lower growth rate. But Ryan has backed off of his cuts to seniors. It is, after all, an election year."

It's funny to see how conservatives aren't putting much light between BO & Romney/Ryan-you write that their budgets are virtually the same (they aren't) and that the economy is recovering.  Sounds like you're flirting with the idea of voting for Obama!

BTW, I agree that Clinton & Co. have endorsed some of these horrible things such as bloc grants.  I didn't vote for Clinton-I do not support his brand of neo-liberalism. Sadly, Obama has tended to these perspective as well. 
Joshua DeCuir | 10/26/2012 - 12:05pm
Fact-check to Vince Killoran: 

" You would never know from the rhetoric in President Obama's budget speech that there are broad swaths of government policy on which he and Paul Ryan mostly agree. But if you look at their budgets, there's actually a surprising amount of convergence: Neither man's budget makes any changes to Social Security."

Ezra Klein, Washington Post  

"The cuts in domestic spending would be drastic-not to mention Ryan's effort to slough off programs on the states through grants."

The proposed cuts to domestic spending (reducing it to about 4.5% over the next ten years(!) are substantially similar to the rate Pres. Obama has proposed (reducing it to about 5% over the next five).  And I fail to see how reducing spending that was increased during a recession (necessarily) as the economy recovers is somehow evil.  In fact, i think someone named Keynes argued the same thing.

As for block-granting programs, it may be a bad idea, but it's hardly Randian given that Pres. Bill Clinton & the Democrats did precisely the same thing with respect to most welfare benefits.
 
Joshua DeCuir | 10/26/2012 - 11:55am
"'Those supporting his candidacy and arguing for his election must be careful however to not legitimate or excuse elements of his political philosophy that conflict with the teachings of the Church on the human person.'

I, too, have been struck by many comments that suggest an incomprehension that Rand's individualism flies in the face of Catholic understanding of what it means to be a person."

Respectfully, no serious Catholic supporter of Ryan is doing this!  Here's Prof. Rick Garnett:  "Second, the statement [On All of Our Shoulders] notes, correctly, that Ayn Rand's "objectivism" is inconsistent with the Gospel, and that an excessively individualistic libertarian stance with regard to social-policy questions is not compatible with Christian moral anthropology or social teaching."  What more can you ask for?

Furthermore, do you really believe that Robert George is some covert Randian Objectivist?  You can call him a lot of things (and I don't fully agree with his criticisms of the Statement], but that seems a stretch.

It seems to me that if Mr. Miller, among others, is serious when he writes "It is perfectly legitimate to vote for a candidate such as Ryan based on the aspects of his policies and commitments that are laudably consistent with the teachings of the Church." then maybe he should take Rick Garnett & others who are serious when they try to move the discussion beyond Rand & evaluate what proposals by Ryan we should & shouldn't be supporting.  Because otherwise, this "He's a Randian!" bit just seems like a move to de-legitimize Ryan's proposals by proxy, belying the professed ability of some of us Catholics (even-non-libertarian ones) to agree with Ryan on anything.  


Thomas Piatak | 10/26/2012 - 11:53am
Does Prof. Miller intend to vote for Obama and Biden?  Unless the answer to this question is "no," his criticism of Robert George for being "partisan" rings hollow. 
Vince Killoran | 10/26/2012 - 11:48am
Paul Ryan to the Atlas Society in 2005:  "But 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. And the fight we are in here, make no mistake about it, is a fight of individualism versus collectivism. . . . It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are."

Two quick points:

1. The bloggers trying to scrub Ryan's Randian perspective don't address his efforts to privitize social security and other government programs.

2. When countering the observation that Ryan will cut the social safety net significantly notice Josh's claim that Ryan just wants to reduce "future federal budget outlays BACK to the levels proposed by George W. Bush in his last budget at the beginning of the recession."  The cuts in domestic spending would be drastic-not to mention Ryan's effort to slough off programs on the states through grants.

"Truthiness" indeed. 
Barry Hudock | 10/26/2012 - 11:08am
Professor Miller's conclusion belies accusations of this post ''exuding hysteria'':

''It is perfectly legitimate to vote for a candidate such as Ryan based on the aspects of his policies and commitments that are laudably consistent with the teachings of the Church.  Those supporting his candidacy and arguing for his election must be careful however to not legitimate or excuse elements of his political philosophy that conflict with the teachings of the Church on the human person.''

I, too, have been struck by many comments that suggest an incomprehension that Rand's individualism flies in the face of Catholic understanding of what it means to be a person. (''We're all individuals. How could something called individualism be wrong?'' It's sort of like arguing that ''socialism'' is obviously acceptable because we all live in society.)

I appreciate Prof. Miller's thoughtful efforts to draw out the serious problems with the thinking and point out how strongly they oppose Church teaching.
Joshua DeCuir | 10/26/2012 - 10:52am
"Political campaigns have enormous power to legitimate their candidates.  If this dimension of Ryan’s political philosophy goes unchallenged, it will be legitimated as Catholic in the eyes of the many of faithful."

This is a ridiculous argument, pure & simple.  Every serious conservative commenter (outside of the libertarian tradition) has criticized Ryan for his Randian comments.  Every single one: Ross Douthat, Ramesh Ponnuru, Reihan Salam, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan, etc.  This supposed danger of an outbreak of Randianism if unchecked is hogwash.  Did it happen when Alan Greenspan was Fed chair, because he was an ACTUAL Rand disciple.

They've also pointed out that his policies, whatever he might say about Rand, aren't Randian at all.  Which is an interesting point because in all the spilled ink over Ryan & Rand among Catholic progressives, I've yet to see a single actual policy proposal of his discussed in a way that shows, precisely how it is directly attributable to Rand.  Not one.  Which is telling.  We usually hear about how he "wants to cut the social safety net".  Well, what he's proposed is reducing future federal budget outlays BACK to the levels proposed by George W. Bush in his last budget at the beginning of the recession.  That's right: he wants to reduce the share of future federal spending back to the where it was pre-recession as the recovery (that Pres. Obama is campaigning on i add) continues!  

I think there are lots of things about Ryan's proposals to critcize (and some to applaud), but unfortunately this bizarre obsession among some Catholics to de-legitimize Ryan is preventing us from having that substantive debate.

Finally, someone should bother asking an actual libertarian what they think of Ryan: they'll tell you, if you listen, that he isn't one of them.  http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/08/stop-calling-paul-ryan-a-randian/261363/
Marie Rehbein | 10/26/2012 - 9:09am
Well, Tim, I do think it is relevant to point out that Mr. Romney did not have moral objections.  Furthermore, it's a little different than having one of your children get pregnant by accident and stepping in with money to help assure a healthy birth.

I think, at the very least, we are seeing people living by one set of rules while claiming to want to institute a different set for the majority they expect to lead.
J Cosgrove | 10/27/2012 - 11:27pm
There is just so much that is wrong with this OP that it is hard to know what to address.  I find this constant drum beat of Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand to be one of the most un-Christian things I have seen on this site.  Yet it is offered in the name of Catholicism.  Not any Catholicism I was taught.  It is giving Catholicism a bad name because of the distortions that are made and the misunderstandings that are communicated.  It seems to derive from political considerations than any legitimate theological considerations.  Yes, Ayn Rand was an atheist but so are a large percentage of faculty at all the Jesuit universities. 
 
She is also extremely misunderstood in the sense of the effect she has had on people's economic philosophy.  The people that had the most effect on Rand were Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas.  So maybe there are aspects of her philosophy that merit consideration if these are her intellectual forbears.  I have seen many discussion of Ayn Rand and economics and almost none of them look at the personal philosophy of individualism described by Mr. Miller.  I am not saying that she did not hold this philosophy but it barely if ever gets into a discussion of her and economics.  The economic discussions primarily emphasize the perspective of the freedom of individuals to act in their own behalf and not be directed by others.  That is quite different from the ideas that Mr. Miller is trying to pin on Paul Ryan.  Or maybe Mr. Miller wants to return to a hierarchical society where one's life is determined by who are one's parents and their status in society.  The Church countenanced the serf system for centuries.
 
Laissez faire is the only moral system of economic activity but from what I have seen on this site, few understand it.  Any system which substitutes coercion on either party in an economic transaction is one that is generally immoral and leads to a sub optimal distribution of goods and greater poverty.  This does not mean there are no laws because laws are an essential part of laissez faire economics.  This is the individualism that Paul Ryan is promoting not the misguided definition that Mr. Miller has offered.
 
I question the motives of those who keep up this litany against Paul Ryan.  First, it was the false notion that he was making draconian budget cuts and then that he somehow does not want to help the poor because of his definition of individualism.  Those who make these claims have got to reconcile these bogus accusations against the 3.5 trillion budget he proposed which is too much for most defenders of limited government.    
 
One of the greatest rugged individualist of all time was St. Francis Assisi.  Being an individual does not mean one does not or can not think of others or cannot spend a significant amount of one's time or resources helping others.  It is when you are a pawn of others that one can exercise their abilities to help others as they choose.   Another rugged individualist was the Good Samaritan.  So let's cut the nonsense about Paul Ryan who is doing more to help the poor than anyone in the Democratic Party.  He and Romney constantly address the problems of poverty in their campaign speeches and have concrete means to reduce poverty.
Tim O'Leary | 10/26/2012 - 6:44am
Marie #3
This story you link to is all about Mitt Romney's son Tagg and the surrogate mother of Tagg's twin boys, with a single line suggesting (''apparently'' - nothing else) that Mitt may have contributed something to support the pregnancy. So, what a stretch to suggest this in any way reveals anything negative about Mitt!

I am very opposed (as the Church is) to the ''hiring'' of wombs for surrogate motherhood, as Tagg (not Mitt) did, but it would be very pro-life to try to support an existing pregnancy of any origin to ensure the surrogate mother didn't do anything that would risk the health (or survival) of the unborn children. 

Also, the fault of any contract language is due to the lawyer of the surrogate mother, not either Romney, who were solely motivated to support the life of their unborn family. So, your piece is very dishonest.
Marie Rehbein | 10/25/2012 - 9:56pm
"I respect those who cast their votes with the Republican party because of its position on abortion, among other moral issues. "


Check this out, and see if it is even possible to connect the Republican presidential candidate with the supposed Republican position on abortion:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2207000/Mitt-Romneys-son-signed-contract-allowing-surrogate-mother-children-abortion-despite-fathers-pro-life-views.html 

wherein Mitt Romney pays expenses for a surrogate whose contract states that she can be required to have an abortion if the fetus is abnormal in some way. 
DR DAVID OBRIEN | 10/25/2012 - 4:23pm
In the fractured America so well described by Daniel Rodgers individualistic arguments provide justification by the rich and their political and intellectual friends for ever increasing economic inequality. That individualism is one important and well funded strand of an even wider denial, or perhaps for many refusal, of social responsibility. We are all on our own, we tell ourselves, in high priced classrooms, in universally available films, music and social media, in political ads and, dare we say it, much that passes for religion. In their clumsy way public figures as diverse as Sheila Bair and Kathleen Sebelius cling to practices based on the common good and the public interest while the historic foundations of such solidarity erode. Social responsibility is an uncomfortable fact-we are responsible for how our world turns out-but doing something for the common good and the public interest is a matter of choice, and few are making it. Some seem to think all they need to do is vote for candidates who say we are all in it together. As Professor George and his friends have learned, if one is serious about ideas, one has to find the power to support those ideas. In 1935 almost every American Catholic advocate of social responsibility signed a manifesto called Organized Social Justice, which argued that everybody, from unskilled workers to managerial elites to highly eucated professionals would have to organize as trade unionists were organizing, if they were to carry out their shared responsibility for the common good. Thanks to Vincent Miller for demolishing the self-serving arguments of Catholic apologists for radical individualism, but all of us who affirm Miller's ideas need to ask ourselves whether we are really ready to contest the inellectual and cultural as well as the political ground on which our country's future, and the future of our Church, are being decided.

Tim O'Leary | 10/25/2012 - 3:29pm
This post exudes hysteria, probably less due to Randianism per se and more to desperation relating to the incumbent’s declining poll numbers. Paul Ryan was obviously smitten by some of the economic libertarian ideas espoused by Ayn Rand, but he equally and definitively rejects her abortion and gender individualism, and even more vehemently her atheism, which is also a kind of atomistic individualism against the Creator.

Even his economic individualism is radically different from Rand, as evidenced by his budget proposals which jealously retain the full safety net with only modest reductions in the growth of the programs and adds incentives to keep them affordable for the long term.

Both the left and the right avow a form of individualism that, taken in isolation, falls foul of Catholic philosophy. The right emphasizes economic freedom, and the left is all about identity freedom. The latter is far more serious because of its intimate proximity to one’s personality. So, the ''pro-choice/abortion'' philosophy (when a mother takes it as her right to decide on the humanity of her offspring right up to birth), the pro-choice gender identity (where one, independent of any objective biology, can define themselves homosexual or transgender, etc), or the presumption that gay “marriage” is an individual right and not primarily about the rights of children and society. It seems the ''On All of Our Shoulders'' completely misses that critique.