With Paul Ryan now entering the race as Mitt Romney's VP pick, we will undoubtedly hear much about Ryan and his politics in the weeks ahead. One aspect of Ryan that will assuredly be discussed is his respect for controversial philosopher Ayn Rand. While Ryan is definitely not a disciple of Rand, and has even distanced himself from parts of her philosophy, Ryan has credited Rand's radical ideas of laissez-faire capitalism, ethical egoism, and political individualism as an inspiration to him becoming an elected official.
Unfortunately, philosophy is a lost art. Gone are the days of yore when intelligent men sat in smoke filled rooms to discuss epistemological disagreements or the ins and outs of metaphysics. Instead, as a nation, we focus on the implications of our candidates placing domesticated animals on rooftops of moving vehicles, or indulging in horse-meat sandwiches. Rand's philosophy of Objectivism will likely not get a fair showing in the mainstream media, but what we can do is not let Fox News or MSNBC define the terms of our national discussion.
Politically speaking, Rand advocated a limited government whose only purpose was to defend individual rights. "Rights" to her were not claims on whatever entitlement could be conjured up, like affordable health care or a minimum standard of living. Rights were moral necessities for living on Earth, all of which stemmed from a singular, novel right -- the right to one's own life. Speech, property, the pursuit of happiness -- these were all contingent upon one's ability to enjoy the fruit of his labor, the product of his mind, or the desire to choose his own destiny. Rand concluded that in order to be free, we need to recognize our right to our own lives, and we need a government that ensures that those rights are preserved, and that we are left free to spend our own energies pursuing our own goals.
A solid foundation of rights is just the beginning of Objectivist politics. Rand established an entire system -- block after block of knowledge, each building on the last, culminating into a philosophical system that thousands today live by. Learn more about Ayn Rand and Objectivism through Rand's modern surrogates, including the Ayn Rand Institute and the Objective Standard Journal, and don't let the mainstream media do the thinking for you. Draw your own conclusions; make up your own mind. That's all an Objectivist could ask.
J.K. Gregg is an IT professional in Northern California and a student of Objectivism. You can follow him on Twitter @jk_gregg.