Paul Ryan has, on more than one occasion, praised the work of atheist libertarian whack-job Ayn Rand. Apparently, he's realized that might play so well at Georgetown:
"I, like millions of young people in America, read Rand’s novels when I was young. I enjoyed them," Ryan says. "They spurred an interest in economics, in the Chicago School and Milton Friedman," a subject he eventually studied as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio. "But it’s a big stretch to suggest that a person is therefore an Objectivist."
"I reject her philosophy," Ryan says firmly. "It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas," who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. "Don’t give me Ayn Rand," he says.
As Sarah Posner points out, Ryan's shift may have to do with the argument that he and some of his conservative Catholic kindred are attempting to make that liberal economic policies are contrary to Catholic social teaching and that their pro-rich, pro-ginormous corporations, pro-unfettered and uncontrolled capitalist policies are more authentically Catholic.
At the heart of their argument is a debate on the meaning of the Catholic term "subsidiarity," which means, as Dan Maguire explains, "that nothing should be done by a higher authority that can be done by active participation at lower levels." In other words, Catholic teaching has a preference for policies that originate and are controlled as close to the local level as possible. Conservative Catholics like Ryan believe that means that Catholic social teaching is "anti-statist" and thus opposed to the "statist" policies of the Obama administration. As Maguire notes, this is garbage and demonstrates a deep and abiding ignorance of Catholic thought.
Yet here is Ryan, throwing Rand under the bus and pledging alligience to Thomas Aquinas. Of course, he still buys Rand's economics, he just thinks Aquinas would too. Unfortunately for Ryan, Thomas Aquinas's position is very clear: Private property is necessary for the creation and maintainance of a good society, but only if it is used for the sake of the common good:
Two things are competent to man in respect of exterior things. One is the power to procure and dispense them, and in this regard it is lawful for man to possess property. Moreover this is necessary to human life for three reasons. First because every man is more careful to procure what is for himself alone than that which is common to many or to all: since each one would shirk the labor and leave to another that which concerns the community, as happens where there is a great number of servants. Secondly, because human affairs are conducted in more orderly fashion if each man is charged with taking care of some particular thing himself, whereas there would be confusion if everyone had to look after any one thing indeterminately. Thirdly, because a more peaceful state is ensured to man if each one is contented with his own. Hence it is to be observed that quarrels arise more frequently where there is no division of the things possessed.
The second thing that is competent to man with regard to external things is their use. On this respect man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need.
Notice that last clause. It's important. We posses things, not as our own but as common, and are prepared to give them to others in their need. I invite you to consider whether this bears any resemblance at all to Republican attitudes on matters of economics and taxation. I don't believe it does.
Needless to say, the theological faculty at Georgetown were unimpressed:
In terms of understanding the Catholic Church’s doctrine on social issues, “we’d give that speech an F,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest at Georgetown’s Woodstock Theological Center. “Catholics believe that problems should be dealt with at the lowest levels. But if families could take care of themselves, and the local government could, we wouldn’t have the crisis that we’re facing right now.”