Friday, April 15, 2011

Paul Ryan and many conservatives take their cues from a sociopath (by anon)

I wish I were being over-dramatic here.  But I’m not.

Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Clarence Thomas, Alan Greenspan, and hoards of Tea Partiers (to name just a few) all herald the writings of pop-cult writer Ayn Rand.  She wrote such books as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, and she forges her position of OBJECTIVISM: THE PHILOSOPHY OF SELFISHNESS (her words, not mine).

Many conservatives LOVE Ayn Rand.  Paul Ryan even makes his staff read Atlas Shrugged (1000+ pages) and Clarence Thomas makes his staff read The Fountainhead.  Rand’s basic line is that there are the “producers” and there is the “collective.”  There is the strong and there is the weak.  She heralds the individual producer, the person who is strong and is willing to do what it takes to fulfill one’s potential regardless of the cost.  In some ways, this can seem sexy.  But if it means neglecting community and social responsibility, this can be dangerous.

But here’s the root problem.  Many of Ayn Rand’s protagonists (you know, the lead person in her novels whom we should all admire) are modeled after WILLIAM HICKMAN.  Who the hell is he?  Well, he was a serial killer in the 1920’s.  That’s right.  A SERIAL KILLER.  She praised him to no end in her diaries because he did things his way regardless of what society thought.  One commentator writes (and I’ll give a link to this article below) – “What did Rand admire so much about Hickman?  His sociopathic qualities: "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," she wrote, gushing that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own.  He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'"”

Hickman wanted to do things so much his way that he decided to dismember one of his victims.  He bargained with the father of a girl he kidnapped for a ransom in exchange for the daughter back.  Hickman thought that all that was required for the ransom transaction was the body of the girl.  Here is an excerpt from a newspaper reporting the rest of the incident:

Then he took a pocket knife and cut a hole in her throat. Then he cut off each arm to the elbow. Then he cut her legs off at the knees. He put the limbs in a cabinet. He cut up the body in his room at the Bellevue Arms Apartments. Then he removed the clothing and cut the body through at the waist. He put it on a shelf in the dressing room. He placed a towel in the body to drain the blood. He wrapped up the exposed ends of the arms and waist with paper. He combed back her hair, powdered her face and then with a needle fixed her eyelids. He did this because he realized that he would lose the reward if he did not have the body to produce to her father.

Hickman packed her body, limbs and entrails into a car, and drove to the drop-off point to pick up his ransom; along his way he tossed out wrapped-up limbs and innards scattering them around Los Angeles. When he arrived at the meeting point, Hickman pulled Miriam's [sic] head and torso out of a suitcase and propped her up, her torso wrapped tightly, to look like she was alive--he sewed wires into her eyelids to keep them open, so that she'd appear to be awake and alive. When Miriam's father arrived, Hickman pointed a sawed-off shotgun at him, showed Miriam's head with the eyes sewn open (it would have been hard to see for certain that she was dead), and then took the ransom money and sped away. As he sped away, he threw Miriam's head and torso out of the car, and that's when the father ran up and saw his daughter--and screamed.

Sick.  And Ayn Rand loved this man.  She models her protagonists (Howard Roark, John Galt) after this man.  This is nothing short of sociopathic thought.  Ayn Rand is a sociopath.  Many conservatives love Ayn Rand - and that is how they take their cues from a sociopath.  Does this make many conservatives themselves sociopaths?  Of course not, but this is a connection that should give us great pause.  As I was reminded today in a discussion, the reason why Europe does not latch onto Rand’s philosophy is because they see what that kind of thinking does in the absolute extreme: the Holocaust.  If you get enough William Hickman’s, anything like that is possible.

Here’s the link to a very interesting article: Rand a Big Admirer of Serial Killers

And if this wasn't bad enough, we even have a student group on the UWW campus dedicated to the teachings of Ayn Rand.  It is called, REA$ON.  Fitting.


  1. Attack the ideas, not the people proposing them.

  2. This is an attack on ideas. And if particular people are holding these ideas, it should be known and the particular ideas revealed for what they are, where they come from, and what they could lead to.

  3. It's fine to identify "dubious" sources, but not if you expect that to have any serious implications on the ultimate merit of the ideas themselves. It's the same reason that dystopian novels can't be taken seriously as outright condemnations of the concepts they exaggerate-- the fact that Ayn Rand apparently admired a serial killer seems to be "cautionary" at best, and beyond that we should be focusing not on the most extreme manifestations of her philosophy but on its legitimate practical relevance.

  4. I agree with you. That is why I say that this information should make us pause and consider what is going on. If there wasn't a connection between some conservatives and Ayn Rand's ideas, there might not be reason to look at the ideas at all. Since there is a connection, I call attention to it with its *possible* dangers. To say that conservatives are wrong simply because of Rand's fascination with this serial killer and modeling of her protagonists upon him would be wrong. That is the genetic fallacy. BUT such origins should make us do some more serious consideration than we might have otherwise.

    The problem with Rand (as illustrated poignantly with Hickman) is her utter lack of regard for the sentiments of society. She is only about the individual and having the individual's *productive* potential realized. She cares nothing for society at large and she especially does not care about non-producers (i.e., the poor, needy, elderly). Rand hated democracy because that gave too much power to the collective. She loved Hickman because he embodied the superman, the man who just did what he loved to do, even if it hurt others (to understate the point!).

    The question this should all prompt is: how much do conservatives embody Rand's principles? Do they care about the poor, the needy, the elderly? Or are they all about letting capitalism reign free? And if they do not care about the poor, the needy, or the elderly at all, where do we draw the line between acceptable conservatism and sociopathic conservatism?

  5. My biggest beef with Rand's philosophy is the pseudo-apotheosis of the rich man. The rich man is the ideal man in her books.

    Obviously when we look at the reluctancy of many in Congress to tax the rich or tax the corporations, we see a connection with Rand's philosophy: Why should we punish those who are doing what's good?

    I believe sociopathy can be a symptom of ridiculous wealth. I also believe ridiculous wealth can be a symptom of sociopathy.

    I'll let you make your own connections from there...

  6. This has been a good year for Rand lovers, as several fairly good books have been written about her but real intellectuals do not give her the time of day.
    In short there is not ONE serious scholarly work on Rand and her influence on the US government or political culture. That she talked about greed does not elevate her in intellectual and scholarly discourse. I do not quite understand why students give her so much importance. She is not a good philosopher, novelist, or economist.

    To say that conservatives embody Rand's philosophy is plain silly. Conservatives are more connected intellectually with the Milton Friedman and the Chicago School, and Edmund Burke than Rand.

  7. This statement is just silly. A reluctance to tax the rich and corporations could be connected to Satan or the bogey man. You did not give a single solid reason for connected it to Rand. The last sentence does not make sense. Having wealth does not make you a sociopath.

  8. Anonymous 5:16, do you honestly believe there is no connection between Paul Ryan requiring his staff to read Atlas Shrugged and his economic policies? Taking away programs for people who need and want them so fatcats with 18 vacation houses can floss their asses with gold necklaces and jerk off using the tears of homeless children as lube is very much so in line with Rand's economic philosophy. Read it here:

    Also, this is funny:

  9. Are the last two comments for real? Are people even reading the post? I don't think there is any doubt that there a bunch of Republicans who adore Rand. When Paul Ryan really does make his staffers read Atlas Shrugged, did you think that it was a lie to state that??

    In fact, I googled "Paul Ryan Ayn Rand" and found buckets of links. Here are some quotes from Paul Ryan himself (cited from
    "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," Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead."

    At the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand's writings when he told his audience that, "Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill ... is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict--individualism versus collectivism."

    Here's another link even connecting Paul Ryan's new budget proposal to Rand (

    What more do you want connecting Republicans to Rand? Greenspan was even a close, close friend of Rand's till her death.

    Ignorance must be bliss if you just completely miss the connection.

    BTW, who said wealth makes one a sociopath? Because that one flew by me.

  10. I guess I should have referred to posts 5:08 and 5:16 since someone slipped in a comment before mine.

  11. I want to know why this is the first time I'm hearing about this.

  12. You list articles published in the Daily Beast and Atlantic to substantiate your points. Where do you find her work? You will not find Rand in any major textbook on any subject! There is no doubt that she may have exerted influence on several of the conservatives, but leading scholars completely dismiss her work. From my perspective, she is on the level of Ron Hubbard. If you really want to learn more about conservative ideology, there are several recently published books on the Conservative Movement and Leo Strauss. Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics, for example, have been much more influential in shaping conservative thinking and politics. If she was that influential and a major player, there would be at least one course on Rand in economics, politics, or philosophy. Most profs do not have a clue who the fuck she was and will not waste time reading her extremely boring books. Who the fuck is John Galt? So how many of you have actually sat down and studid her work? There are many features in Rand's work that may surprise you.

  13. But, 9:55, it doesn’t matter if she isn’t quoted in textbooks or by leading scholars. I’m very aware of Milton Friedman’s work, but is Paul Ryan requiring his staff to read Friedman? I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it. He is, however, requiring his staff to read Ayn Rand. Just because scholars don’t agree on her impact and overall importance doesn’t mean she hasn’t struck a chord with a portion of the population. Is the book Roots by Alex Haley quoted more often than Frederick Douglass in scholarly work? I doubt it, but it doesn’t mean the character Kunta Kinte hasn’t affected people more strongly. They identify with him and realize his pain and struggle. John Galt might not be as philosophically significant a figure as Adam Smith, but people connect with the character. That's what's important.

  14. Also, the Daily Beast article was actually from Newsweek. I don't know if that makes it more or less reliable in your opinion.

  15. Let me make this short. Don't believe everything you read in the newspapers. I have known many people, namely students, who worked in Paul Ryan's Office. I have never heard of them say that they had to read Rand. We staffed Ryan's Janesville Office.

    After Paul got elected in 1999, we started placing our political science interns in his office. At one point, his entire staff were Whitewater student interns So did Rand get him interested in politics? I think his background pushed him in this direction. He majored in politics and economics at Miami of Ohio, worked for former Sen. Kasten over five years, became Sen. Browback's legislative director, a speech writer for Bennett, and worked for the late Sen. Jack Kemp. He is just getting a lot of publicity lately as he is carefully positioning himself for a run at the roses.

    Finally, no one besides you even know Kunte Kinte (Tody) or John Galt. Newsweek does not make it more credible. If I am not mistaken, Newsweek owns the Daily Beast.

  16. I don't think Paul Ryan is a political supervillain, but it's stupid not to look at where he gets his ideas. Obama was routinely scrutinized during his run at the White House for supposedly being a close reader of Marx. And Marx is a man most political people have read. Paul Ryan openly admits, "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." He's been quoted in numerous sources as saying this. Here's one:

    When one of my politicians gives that much credit to one person, I want to know as much about her and her philosophies as I can.

  17. Anon 8:25, so either the media is utterly making up shit about what Paul Ryan says - which would be major news. Or, Paul Ryan is simply lying to all of us. Pick your poison because you painted yourself into that corner.

    I take Paul Ryan at his word for what he requires of his staffers and his reason for going into politics. But I do find Rand distasteful. If Ryan is truthful, he is a moron for linking himself with Rand. If he is in fact lying or embellishing, then he is a moron just the same for linking himself with Rand.

  18. I will make this short. So what have you read that justifies your distaste of Rand or is your opinion based on things you read in the Daily Beast, Milwaukee State Journal, or Newsweek?

    Second, do you know Ryan? You refer to him as a moron because he likes Ayn Rand?

    There is much about Rand that I like (I guess I am a moron too). I love her dedication to education and her determination to be successful in spite of her background. As you know, she was born a Russian Jew in anti-Semitic Russia and later emigrated to the US and after years of hard work made herself into a internationally respected writer. She mastered several languages, Russian, German, French, and English. How may languages do you speak?

    In short, I love her dedication to scholarship, regardless of her politics. Ditto for Ryan, you may not like him and think of him as a moron but he graduated from a prestigious university and is a successful member of Congress.

    Unlike you, I respect his accomplishments, while disliking his politics and I definitely do not consider him as a moron. Ryan is around 40ish. He will be either a presidential or vice presidential candidate one of these days. David Brooks, a writer for the NY Times said that the two smartest men in Washington are Obama and Ryan. I disagree, but they are not morons.

  19. Hello. I'm the one who wrote the post. You have a skewed view of Rand. She did like education, but not public education by any means. She would shut down institutions like UWW that relied on state money. Rand hated democracy because that promoted the weak. She avowedly loves selfishness especially on macro-economic terms - thus if you want some form of pernicious social darwinism, she's your "go-to" guy. She has no sense of family or social obligations. Just look at the heroes and heroines of her stories - awful family structures. Everything revolves around whether you can produce or not, and making society such that these producers make all the decisions that fit their best interests. Rand's philosophy is a radical individualism that would make even Nietzsche cringe (and I say that since many link her to Nietzsche - he would be so embarrassed).

    Rand's philosophy appeals more to the sophomoric male mentality. Back in the day, high school males ate this stuff up. And if they are exposed to it at all in high school today, they still love it. But it is time to grow up and be more of a humanist. There are more people to care for than just oneself. It is okay to start with Rand to begin a philosophical journey, but at some point, one must mature. I'm sorry if my shooting straight is coming off as demeaning. I don't intend that.

    No doubt Paul Ryan is a smart man. That doesn't mean that he doesn't make mistakes. He needs a better philosophical hero. With the way he screws over the poor and elderly in his "Path to Prosperity" plan (very Randian), he desperately needs to change his tune.

  20. Check out Anne Heller's excellent biography of Ayn Rand and the World She Made, now out in paperback. You may learn something, or at least know where my skewed view of Rand comes from. Unless you have something more definitive to say about particular features of her work instead of general negative slogans we will not advance in this discussion. For example, what is her view of material reality, of epistemology, of charity, etc.

  21. Save the world…feed the poor…dumbass liberals. I’ve had it with you morons, if you really believe all the crap you spout I have a win-win-win-win solution for you: Here we go,

    1)Raise income taxes to 85% across the board. No child left behind and the black and mexican welfare queen can excrete a spawn per year for as long as they crack and meth can keep them going…all on the public dime. No “prop-up-the-useless” program will go unfunded.

    2)Take every registered Republican and pair him or her up with a few dumbass liberals [enough to make the math work]

    3)Take the 70% of the 85% tax burden on the conservative Republican and divide it [equally…got to be “equal”] over the dumbass liberals.

    4)Ta-Da…everyone wins: The conservative Republican gets to pay about what taxes ought to be to support a strong military and infrastructure…the elite left-wing morons in the government het to feel good while spending other people’s money…the dumbass liberals get the high-taxes and “prop-up-the-useless” programs that they want so dearly…and the useless black and mexican welfare bloodsuckers get to live for free, watch daytime television shows starring themselves, like Jerry Springer, while chowing down on all the tequila and crack that their food stamps can buy.

    There it is…simple. But you dumbass liberals won’t go for it because, while you are really stupid, you are still smart enough to not believe the crap that comes out of your mouths.

    1. Republicans are selfish, greedy bastards. They care nothing but themselves and are ignorant about what it takes for a healthy society.

      Democrats are much more socially minded. They care about people other than themselves, and are generally smarter. They realize that life is much more complex than conservatives can handle.

  22. Wow. Anon 6:39, you must have drank from the bottomless pit of racism. You'd fit just right on Jerry Springer because you sound like a right-wing, raunching wingnut who just can't stand to help out anyone who doesn't look like yourself.

    Get an education and wake up.

  23. Talk about talking out of one's ass - Paul Ryan is now saying that he never followed Ayn Rand! That's the baldest lie I've heard anyone utter. He's documented many times saying that he loves Ayn Rand, even that her philosophy is what got him into politics. I didn't think he would be such a liar.

  24. Way to go Romney! Get a VP who cares more about making money than helping the majority of Americans. Oh wait. That's Romney too.

    The ticket: Romney & Ryan
    The message: Open the flood gates to radical unfettered capitalism
    The campaign slogan: FUCK YOU MIDDLE CLASS!