Among Christians a lot of confusion remains, in part because Ryan (as I reported in WORLD last summer) has combined admirable budget analysis with troubling esteem for Christ-hating Ayn Rand. Happily, he has now clarified (or changed) his stance concerning Rand.
First, let's review the past. Ryan told The Weekly Standard in 2003, "I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it." In 2005 he told an Atlas Society gathering, "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." In 2009 he posted a pro-Rand video on his Facebook page and wrote, "It's as if we're living in an Ayn Rand novel right now. I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build the moral case for capitalism."
Now, the problem: Rand actually offered the amoral case for capitalism. As Chuck Colson noted in an article last year critiquing Rand, and Ryan's advocacy of her work: "What makes this newly renewed regard especially troubling is that Rand's worldview is explicitly anti-Christian. She once said she wanted to be known as 'the greatest enemy of religion.' And when Rand said 'religion' she meant Christianity, which she once called the 'kindergarten of communism.'" Colson was right. It's striking that Atlas Shrugged ends with hero John Galt making the sign of the dollar instead of the sign of the cross.
Finally, the present: Earlier this month Ryan told National Review, "I reject her philosophy. … It's an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview." He said, "I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand's novels when I was young. I enjoyed them. … They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman. … If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. … Don't give me Ayn Rand."
I've requested an interview with Ryan, but no go so far. In his defense, Rand did create bold characters (although with as much depth as Superman or Lex Luthor). She showed the dangers of both government control and corporate acquiescence. So if Ryan liked those aspects, I can't fault him, and I'm glad he's distanced himself from her theology.