Paul Greenberg

It would take a more thoughtful, or at least more experienced, conservative like Whittaker Chambers to get Ayn Rand's number. "Randian man," he once noted, "like Marxian man, is made the center of a godless world." Mr. Chambers was living proof that ex-Communists make the best conservatives. They've been through that hell and they haven't come back with empty hands, but bearing hard-earned lessons, among them a very old one: Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Godless capitalism, if turns out, can be as ruthless as godless communism.

One can understand Miss Rand's appeal to the young, and may it never diminish, but it's hard to understand why adults should think she was any better a thinker than she was a writer. As the critic Granville Hicks said of her second novel/manifesto, it had "only two moods, the melodramatic and the didactic, and in both it knows no bounds."

If you're not an Ayn Rand fan at 21, you have no youthful spirit. If you're still a fan at 42, you have no common sense. Paul Ryan, no longer a young firebrand but a husband, father, and family man (and good Catholic), stopped taking Miss Rand's libertarian ideology straight some time ago. Which means he passes both tests. That is, he's perfectly normal.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.