Laura Hollis
Public awareness of Rep. Paul Ryan’s familiarity with (and apparent fondness for) the works of Ayn Rand has now seeped into the academy. The Chronicle of Higher Education features an essay today by Professor Alan Wolfe, Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. This is an edited version of my response to Professor Wolfe in the article’s comments section.

There are any number of intellectual errors in both Professor Wolfe’s piece and in the comments that follow, and they can be summed up thusly: we read the writings of all sorts of people whose personal lives were a shambles, whose writing styles were (shall we say) distinctive, and whose philosophies were extreme, but who nevertheless managed to identify powerful truths.

I cannot speak for Paul Ryan. But since I fully expect the national conversation about this topic to contain the same deceit and reach the same fever pitch that Medicare and Mitt Romney’s dog have, I can speak for myself, and perhaps shed some light on the subject for anyone who has not read Rand.

First, as one who has also read all of Ayn Rand's novels, my conclusion is that she was, at best, a mediocre writer - speaking stylistically. Her grasp of conversation - even the names she chose for her characters - seemed to be clunky, gutteral ("Dagny"?), and contrived ("Wesley Mouch"). That said, the same folks who disdain Rand herald “Wall Street" as a pantheon of overarching truth about business, despite the eye-rolling lack of subtlety in the name of its notorious antagonist ("Gordon Gekko"). Obviousness is obviousness, notwithstanding the political perspective of the writer.

Second, I am well aware of Rand’s personal life, which was not salutory. Indeed, Rand's unusual take on male-female sexuality consistently played out in her novels in discomfiting ways. Despite - or perhaps because of (in her view) - their "strong" personalities, her female protagonists all seem to have a rape, bondage, and/or submission fetish, and are incapable of forming deep emotional attachments to men, confusing domination with love, infidelity with independence, and submission with respect. Even her strident professions of atheism seemed overwrought and unnecessary - and the number of persons of religious faith who find her economic, political and cultural observations enlightening only shores up this point.

Laura Hollis

Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.