TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Paul Ryan’s Altruism Leads to His Statist Measures

Why does Paul Ryan simultaneously advocate the individual’s right to think for himself, decide for himself, and define happiness for himself—and advocate a massive and growing entitlement state that abrogates those rights by forcibly redistributing an individual’s wealth?

The answer is that Ryan advocates the morality of altruism, the notion that the individual must sacrifice for others. Here is how Ryan described this in his convention speech:

We have responsibilities, one to another—we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.

Clearly Ryan does not mean that an individual with ample wealth may rationally choose to donate some portion of his wealth to charity in a non-sacrificial way in order to advance his own values and happiness. Nor does he mean that one may choose to stand up to a playground bully if one has the capacity to do so.

In his comments, Ryan refers not to chosen responsibilities consistent with an individual’s moral right to pursue his own life and happiness, but to unchosen obligations or “duties” to sacrifice one’s own interests for the sake of others. That is why Ryan advocated protecting entitlements during his convention speech, and that is why in April he vowed to strengthen the government “safety net that is failing our most vulnerable populations.” The policies of statism flow inexorably from the morality of altruism.

Contrary to Ryan’s assertion that the measure of a society is the extent to which it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves, the actual measure of a just society is the extent to which it protects everyone’s right to pursue his own life by his own judgment, leaving everyone free to help or not help others as he sees fit.

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Creative Commons Image: Gage Skidmore

Posted in: Individual Rights and Law, Politicians and Candidates

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Keith Sketchley

    The term “altruism” is meaningless to the average voter, it needs to be called “acrifice”.
    But altruism is not the reason statists use lines like you quote. The underlying reason is Marxist fixed-pie and “drive to the bottom” notions, which come from Kant’s fork of the mind-body dichotomy that Plato originated. (Some contribution from Christians, especially the leftist Catholic bishops in Seattle and the current Anglican church in Canada, as quite different from Amway distributors who have more confidence in people. But at least Christianty recognizes individuals as being capable.)
    If someone believes the pie is fixed and people behave dog-eat-dog then it is easy to justify taking as moral.
    A major problem is that government actually gets in the way of honest people earning and building, both directly with a myriad of laws such as the Washington DC one that forbid black-skinned people from shining shoes for money, and through the bad mortage schemes that caused the current economic recession in the US>

  • egoist

    I expect that we’re going to have to accept candidates that hold contradictions; Objectivism has not overtaken the culture. I also expect that a few days from now, this Ryan character’s stock will rise with all of us (after hearing the left and the gushing from NPR & co).

  • Anonymous

    The saddest bit is that when the economy is even more screwed up after Ryan & Mitt, folks are going to blame Ayn Rand. Commentators have already said that Ryan’s politics are based on the ideas of Ayn Rand. We need to speak up and distance Objectivism from Paul Ryan.