T Nation

Fransisco's Money Speech


#1

I am currently reading "Atlas Shrugged". This morning I came across this passage, a speech by one of the characters in the book. It seems extraordinarily relevant in these times. Worth a look if you haven't already read the book.

â??So you think that money is the root of all evil?â?? said Francisco dâ??Anconia. â??Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which canâ??t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

â??When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honorâ??your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?

â??Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motionsâ??and youâ??ll learn that manâ??s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

â??But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of manâ??s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is madeâ??before it can be looted or moochedâ??made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he canâ??t consume more than he has produced.â??

â??To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their lossâ??the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your miseryâ??that you must offer them values, not woundsâ??that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to menâ??s stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by tradeâ??with reason, not force, as their final arbiterâ??it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest abilityâ??and the degree of a manâ??s productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

â??But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causalityâ??the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

â??Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if heâ??s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if heâ??s evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

â??Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealthâ??the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

â??Money is your means of survival. The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to menâ??s vices or menâ??s stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a momentâ??s or a pennyâ??s worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then youâ??ll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

â??Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

â??Or did you say itâ??s the love of money thatâ??s the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. Itâ??s the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of moneyâ??and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

â??Let me give you a tip on a clue to menâ??s characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

â??Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leperâ??s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one anotherâ??their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

â??But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being richâ??will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guiltâ??and of his life, as he deserves.

â??Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standardâ??the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted moneyâ??the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-lawâ??men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victimsâ??then money becomes its creatorsâ?? avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once theyâ??ve passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

â??Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a societyâ??s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsionâ??when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothingâ??when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favorsâ??when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws donâ??t protect you against them, but protect them against youâ??when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrificeâ??you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

â??Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is menâ??s protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, â??Account overdrawn.â??

â??When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, â??Who is destroying the world? You are.

â??You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why itâ??s crumbling around you, while youâ??re damning its life-bloodâ??money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout menâ??s history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, whose names changed, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slavesâ??slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebodyâ??s mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer, Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepersâ??as industrialists.

â??To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of moneyâ??and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, manâ??s mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human beingâ??the self-made manâ??the American industrialist.

â??If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would chooseâ??because it contains all the othersâ??the fact that they were the people who created the phrase â??to make money.â?? No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantityâ??to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words â??to make moneyâ?? hold the essence of human morality.

â??Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the lootersâ?? continents. Now the lootersâ?? credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hideâ?? as, I think, he will.

â??Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and gunsâ??or dollars. Take your choiceâ??there is no otherâ??and your time is running out.â??


#2

Extremely well written, and even more fascinating when you consider all that was going on at the time, with McCarthyism and the Cold War at its peak. I read Atlas last year and loved it. Ayn Rand is an excellent and understated author.


#3

Oh lordy, you just made HH's heart skip a beat!


#4

I just hope he didn't type all that, did a cut-and-paste. What a Herculean effort, whoever did type it!

It IS encouraging to see more and more people reading Ms. Rand's work. Love her or hate her, she brings philosophy into the mainstream. Instead of being an obscure forgotten philosophy text, she couched her ideas as an adventure story -- utterly fucking brilliant!

And yes, her ideas on money are magnificent in scope. A person gets just exactly what they deserve -- what a novel idead!!


#5

Are you sure that's the word you were looking for?


#6

Without a doubt. Everyone knows of her philosophy, yet few even know she wrote novels


#7

An adolescent book written for adolescents. Rand simply recycled the fable of the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and cast in a godless, materialist world that Marx would be proud of.

And, no, it isn't philosophy in any kind of useful sense - it presumes Man to be something other than what he is, and no philosophy that does that is worth reading.

Get a copy of Aesop's Fables if you want the understand the lesson in less time and in a world away from Rand's faithless nihilism.


#8

Exactly. Banal, creepy, shallow, reductionist tripe.


#9

Call me a fool, but I say it ain't bad.


#10

Some people want to read a book as opposed to a collection of fables, nothing wrong with that.


#11

Rand's books sell by the millions, some thirty odd years after her death. Atlas Shrugged is one of the top selling books of the 20th century. We must all be adolescents.

As an aside, TB reminds me of a character from Shrugged:

"Its shameful that my art work has to be peddled like soap!"

Francisco: "You mean your complaint is that they don't sell like soap?" (from memory)

But I guess the whole 'Your life belongs to YOU and the Good is to live it.' message of Atlas is somehow 'adolescent' to some folks.

Tell me TB: If my life doesn't belong to me, then who does it belong to? The state? To the loafing bums who vote away our savings? To people who list their home address as a park bench, in order to vote for Barry the Great?


#12

Well, I can actually see why some people are attracted to it - after all, it expresses many things that are directly contrary to what most people have been taught growing up.

"Money isn't the root of all evil" -> well, that's true in a way; and it's rather a relief to hear someone express this after hearing the exact opposite your whole life about capitalism, capitalists, money, etc.

But the problem is, it reminds me of a lot of libertarian philosophy: it has an appeal in its cut & dry simplicity; it sort of stays at a very superficial level and has a shallow feel to it. One thing it isn't is a philosophy, unless we want to stretch that term into something utterly meaningless.

For example, it's true that "money isn't the root of all evil." But it's far truer to take it even further -> that "evil is the root of all evil."

Moreover, the converse employed, that "money is the root of all good," is simply false on every level. But it sounds good. And it feels good. And it appeals to a kind of penchant we have for easy answers.


#13

The fables were better written.


#14

The Fables have lasted for almost 3 thousand years. I very much doubt if Ayn Rand will be read much beyond the next 300 years, and that's being generous.

Ayn Rand and her screeds are products of her age; and have very little to say beyond it.

The reason Aesop's fables are important is not because they have lasted almost 3 thousand years; they have lasted 3 thousand years because they embody timeless truths about the nature of man.


#15

Britney Spears has sold over 100 million records worldwide due to the purchasing power of adolescents.

Nope, and this is what is referred to as a straw man - assigning a position to someone they don't have in order to attack it. Had you bothered to dive into a book other than one of Rand's, you'd know about these.

Your life belongs to you and your family and your society, to a certain degree. What does that have to do with my critique?

I happen to like the lesson of the Golden Goose and I think it is relevant to today's political climate. So what? That ain't the point. Rand's work is nothing more than a sugary treat for adoloscent minds desperate to "rebel" against something, anything. And she is a Marxist in her assumptions - she just happens to think "earthly paradise" rests with "liberating" the "producers".

Same Marxist assumptions (Man is an economic materialist interested in pretty much self-gratification of earthly appetites), same oppression narrative. Aesop meets Engels. Read better books.


#16

Sorry to disappoint you but I've read all 4 books of Das Kapital. Have you? Tell me, sir, have you read ANY of her books, and I mean really read them? I don't mean 'read' in the same way you consult the Huffington Post for their interpretation of Rand, but using your own brain?

Rand's philosophy is a common sense philosophy. It doesn't tell you to tolerate dictatorships because the dictatorship is the manifestation of the 'Phenomenology of the Spirit' (Hegel).
It doesn't tell you that morality is subjective and simply what the Ubermensch decides it is (Nietzsche).

In short, her philosophy is the quintessential American philosophy of Life. To borrow from her: "What then is yours?"


#17

And just as a dovetail, the phrase is misquoted - money isn't the root of all evil, rather it is the "love of money", i.e., unchecked love of money and other possessions. It is, in truth, a vice that is being damned.


#18

To those who like Ms. Rand's philosophy...

The purpose of those who disparage her (which is usually just a baseless rant, as Katz and TB are doing) is rather dark and malevolent: if someone has no philosophy, they are defenseless. You cannot argue against their philosophy if you don'y have one of your own. That's their goal.

If they can't leave you totally defenseless, they want you to compromise (like how conservatives are always supposed to compromise with libs). They will say that 'a little of her philosophy is okay' while YOU have to accept their basic and fundamental premises. But the good gains nothing by compromising with evil; don't do it.

I doubt Katz and TB are evil, just dupes. They are infected with the rotten old philosophies of Europe and the East. Those philosophies mostly made the world we see today. Choose their way and perish, or choose Ms. Rand's philosophy and live. The choice is yours.

The Headhunter