Discussing
Why Christians like Paul Ryan should be careful with Ayn Rand

Morgan Guyton

TimF
August 22, 2012

I know a lot of people ascribe to the philosophy that "they should be free to do what they like with their money, provided they did not break the law in acquiring it", but Onkar Ghate (the Rand Institute guy) says they want "to teach you the difficult task of pursuing the values that achieve your own individual self-interest and happiness."

Mr. Ghate says nothing about not breaking the law. On the contrary, I think his statement of Rand's philosophy would necessarily lead to breaking the law if it would help one pursue "individual self-interest and happiness" and if it can be done without getting caught (unless getting caught is in one's self-interest or makes one happy).

Tim

Jorge
August 22, 2012

The Christian beliefs can thrive under the government proposed by Rand. Christians are surprisingly adept at reading different values governments in the teachings of Christ. The bible has been used to support the linage of kings and 'Liberation Theology' (friends of communists revolutions). If one puts 'love your fellow mas as you love your self' as a guide, I don't believe a Christian would behave like Rand proclaims. However there is also merit in not restricting people to do as they please like Rand says the government does. Add to that that the best way to distribute wealth is to let the market do it and you can make a Christian case that government is way to big. The conflict might be drastic and fundamental, but it might not be political.

Juan Callejas
August 22, 2012

While I agree that we must be weary of Randian ethics, the two opposing arguments presented are fundamentally wrong because the question isn't about "owing God" or about "doing whatever we want with our money", but rather, it is an anthropological question -Christian vs Human anthropology- and the bearing the idea of freedom has here.

True Christian anthropology is contingent on the Imago Dei doctrine which regards the human person as the recipient -from God- of dignity and freedom. This dignity and freedom is best expressed economically in a system in which we are free to produce and enjoy the fruits of our labor as gifts from God and also to give FREELY and VOLUNTARILY to others if and when the ocassion arises. It is not about "owing" something because the idea of "giving back" implies that we have "taken from" by force.

Private property is indeed a gift from God, a gift defended in the Ten Commandments (thou shalt not steal) and it is the means God has designed for human flourishing in the material sense and through which we can best excercise our freedom responsibly and reflect the dignity God has bestowed upon us.

Morgan Guyton
August 22, 2012

So you're really going to try to say that taxes are theft? I'm pretty incredulous whenever people try to advance that line of argument since it so explicitly goes against the Biblical prescriptions for life under pagan/secular government laid in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 and other places. I love how you've adapted Imago Dei to fit your libertarianism. So helping others is something we do only "if and when the occasion arises." When it's convenient? Wow. I don't even know where to begin in responding to that.

Morgan Guyton
August 22, 2012

What is the Biblical basis for saying that the market is the best means of distributing wealth? Come to think of it: what is the scientific basis for saying that? It's a half-truth that's been repeated as a mantra for the last thirty years so often that people just assume it's true. The market left unattended creates monopolies and pyramid schemes. The 2008 crash didn't happen because people got loans to buy houses that they couldn't pay back. It happened because the bad loans were capitalized on and sold for a profit by unscrupulous financial industry gurus. That's the way wealth distribution happens in a deregulated market.

Juan Callejas
August 23, 2012

Yes Morgan, they are theft in the sense that they are taken by the coercive force of the State (what happens if you don't pay), and therefore, any help that comes from the State lacks virtue, because there is no freedom there.
Yes, we help others when we can, that is why we have relationships and get to know and serve people locally within our means.
I recommend you look into www.acton.org and learn some good Econ and Christian Anthropology.

Juan Callejas
August 23, 2012

Morgan, the US does not have a free market. Do your homework. The US is probably a lot more protectionist than many countries, including Guatemala, where I'm from and where I live and work. It is not a market issue, it is a moral issue that arises from individuals poorly raised. That is where we need strong families and churches, not strong governments.

ConradR
August 23, 2012

Morgan, you have really put a hard spin on this and I do not see objectivity in your response. I understand what you have said and what Juan is saying and I'm not certain that I totally agree with either of you. I have been instructed by both of you though. You have the moral outrage of a crusader fighting social injustice which is great. But, I'm afraid that in your zeal, you took an ill deserved shot at a brother whose ideas you need to give more careful though to. He has made some excellent points which moderate your Christian-liberal ideals. Save your incredulity and look for a sensible AND godly perspective.
By the way - for the sake of advancing true Christian compassion and charity, please enlighten me. Give me one Biblical precedence for indiscriminately distributing or even redistributing money to the poor.

Juan Callejas
August 23, 2012

Thank you Conrad. If you could ellaborate on the ideas with which you may not entirely agree, it would be great!

Morgan Guyton
August 23, 2012

There are a lot more than this but here are some: Acts 2:45, Acts 4:32-35, Acts 6:1-4, Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:12-17

Morgan Guyton
August 23, 2012

I apologize for my huffiness earlier, but you're taking an extremely radical stance here that takes a lot for granted. So you don't acknowledge that the state has contributed in any way to the environment in which you have gained your wealth? Did you mix the concrete for the roads that you drive on yourself? Paying for the poor to have some minimal standard of sustenance is paying for social stability in which you can have a market to sell your goods. That's the only reason the state gets involved in the first place, not out of any sort of compassion but because of the threat of revolt. When you don't have any social net, the people revolt. If the CIA hadn't helped your presidente Rios Montt cleanse the countryside, then you guys might have had more of a problem with that down there in Guatemala a few years back. I guess if you don't have safety nets, then the paramilitary can take care of the same problem.

Juan Callejas
August 24, 2012

1. No, the state has had no role in my education and work opportunities. By the grace of God through the hard work of my father, he has been able to provide for me and my 7 other children. An example I am following with my own family.
2. No, I did not mix the concrete. Private business hired by the state did, paid for with my taxes.
3. The threat of revolt? Are you so caught up in your american superiority complex that you assume we are savages that need the State to be kept under control? We are human persons created in the Image of God, with rights and dignity that flow from Him, with intellect and the creative capacity to produce and create new wealth...a potential maximized in freedom.
3. Cleanse the countryside? From what? This is racist. Do you legitimize genocide under the banner of the US helping out poor Guatemala from the threat of communism? I wonder where these CIA agents are now that Rios Montt is on trial for all these war crimes.

George Lillard
August 27, 2012

Government thrive under Rand beliefs? Might check with Sodom about that one . . . Ezekiel 16:49-50

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.

Juan Callejas
August 28, 2012

George, could you further explain what you mean?

James Gilmore
August 29, 2012

This seems to have come up every so often over the past year or three—an indication that the author of this article is right when he writes that 'Ayn Rand v. Jesus may be the ideological battle of the decade.'

And I think the battle-lines are just that clear cut. There is no Christ in Ayn Rand, and no Ayn Rand in Christ. Ayn Rand's philosophy is 100% incompatible with Christian values.

Ayn Rand's philosophy holds that altruism, sacrifice of one's own interest for the sake of another person, is a moral evil—and, thus, if she actually believed that the Jesus story, in which he stands as the archetype and example par excellence of altruism and self-sacrifice, was true, she would see him as the ultimate example of evil.

In Scripture, whose philosophy is it where one considers oneself and one's own to be the center of the universe? In the immortal words of Dana Carvey's Church Lady: "Could it be... SATAN?!"

Those who know me know that I'm not given to saying this lightly, but in this case I think I'm justified: The philosophy of Ayn Rand is the philosophy of Satan... and, of course, Christians should have no part of Satan.

Juan Callejas
August 30, 2012

While I agree that we should have no part in anything sataninc, we should be careful to not go around demonizing stuff we don't really understand or no much about. I am not at all siding with Ayn Rand, however I have found that the ideas of freedom, free markets, private charity vs government assitance, etc., are compatible with Christian anthropology and are the best means through which we as individuals, families and churches can serve the poor.
Am I against government? Not completely, however, I am opposed to messianic views of government in which people surrender their freedom and their capacity to be responsible and accountable for the choices they make.
Governments must limit themselves to the strong defense of freedom, private property and life and let individuals best decide how to resolve, in community and solidarity, their issues at the most local level (principle of subsidiarity).
Evangelicals have much to learn about Economics and we have a lot to learn from the Catholic Church's Social Doctrine. We must avoid the pitfalls of both "Prosperity Theology" and "Liberation Theology", both terrible combinations of bad economics and bad theology.
The Acton Institute is a great resource for this: www.acton.org

Marta L.
September 3, 2012

I agree with the top commenter, that Christianity is not antithetical to private property. Creation is a gift from God, and while we certainly ought to appreciate it, I believe in some sense we do "own" it. Certainly it makes sense to talk about private ownership under God (as in, what belongs to me vs. my neighbor vs. the king/government).

That said, I believe Christianity <i>is</i> incompatible with Rand's philosophy. Christianity is built around love: love of God, love of our neighbors, love of self. Love requires a deep connection to another person, caring about that person and not because they are a reflection of me. Christ taught radical abandon of our selfishly-motivated interests ("let the dead bury the dead," anyone?).

You might say, as Jorge 1" does below, that Christian ethics can flourish under a libertarian government. That may be true at an individual level (I can live as a good Christian under a libertarian regime - or I hope so, the way this country is headed! ;-P) - but what about Biblical expectations of government? It is not just the individual that is commanded to care for the widows and orphans, but the society as a whole that is commanded to set up fair courts. I am more familiar with Robert Nozick (a famous libertarian philosopher from the mid-1900s) better than I know Ayn Rand, so I may not correctly understand what Rand requires as opposed to what Nozick does. But as I understand Rand, if I agree to somethinglike working for less than minimal wage, there's nothing wrong with you paying me that amount. That's not what the Bible says, though. The boss is <i>forbidden</i> from harvesting his field to the border, and must leave some for the poor to collect for their own use - and I don't see how Rand can require this.

Makemenfree
September 8, 2012

In my opinion you are dodging the question. I do not find anything in those texts supporting a messianic, wealth redistributing state such as we have today. I see people voluntarily helping others; excellent examples of Christian charity and nothing more.

Makemenfree
September 8, 2012

I doubt any Rand supporters claim Paul Ryan, and certainly no libertarians do. So it seems to me that this post creates a false dichotomy: either you support Rand and the libertines (deliberate word change), or you support Jesus and the messianic state. I support neither. Certainly Christian charity has nothing to do with Rand's atheism, but it also has nothing to do with government-run "charity."

I recently started working in an extremely poor county. The massive government handouts do nothing except create dependency and irresponsibility.

And not only is gov't charity morally bankrupt, it will soon be financially bankrupt, which will bring the "idealogical battle of the decade" to an abrupt conclusion.

Juan Callejas
September 17, 2012

Here's a great piece on the subject: http://www.institutoacton.com.ar/comentarios/115com160912-b.pdf by Will Wilkinson

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