WHEN MITT Romney announced a relatively young, relatively obscure, relatively handsome politician named Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential pick, the world had to familiarise itself with yet another divisive American politician. But something struck me about the way RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock news opened its report on Romney’s choice. He was introduced as “Irish-American politician Paul Ryan”. Now it’s obviously pertinent that he’s Irish-American – it would be weird if RTÉ failed to mention that a US politician on a presidential ticket boasted Irish ancestry. But the thing is, the phrase “Irish-American politician” has certain connotations, conjuring images of a latter-day Kennedy, and, it’s safe to say Paul Ryan is no John F Kennedy. He’s a Republican, for a start, and at the Tea Party end of the Republican Party for that matter. But more than that, he’s a proudly self-described libertarian, which is about as far as it’s possible to get from the Kennedy tradition without being a Buddhist monk. Ryan’s libertarianism is inspired by Ayn Rand, the Russian-Jewish émigré who wrote interminable, didactic novels such as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, books that sought to celebrate the triumph of the individual over the collective, extolling the virtues of industrial titans and disparaging the “moochers and looters” – shorthand for anybody who isn’t an industrial titan, essentially.