“I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them,” Ryan says. “They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman,” a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. “But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist.”
“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.
Ryan enjoys bantering about dusty novels, but it’s not really his bailiwick. Philosophy, he tells me, is critical, but politics is about more than armchair musing. “This gets to the Jack Kemp in me, for the lack of a better phrase,” he says — crafting public policy from broad ideas. “How do you produce prosperity and upward mobility?” he asks.