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March 31, 2009

On Money

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 loss--the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery--that you must offer them values, not wounds--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 men'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 trade--with reason, not force, as their final arbiter--it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability--and the degree of a man'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?

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

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

"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 rich--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 guilt--and of his life, as he deserves.

"Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard--the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money--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-law--men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims--then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they'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.

"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion--when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing--when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors--when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you--when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice--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.

..."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, 'Who is destroying the world? You are."

- The Money Speech

Posted by Cassandra at March 31, 2009 08:25 AM

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Fascinating that new editions of that venerable book are consistently showing up very high on the Amazon.com list of most purchased.

Posted by: Texan99 at March 31, 2009 10:52 AM

Unfortunately I think the notion of money with our current "Administration" is more in line with this:

"Money! Money in Oz!" cried the Tin Woodman. "What a queer idea! Did you suppose we are so vulgar as to use money here?"

"Why not?" asked the shaggy man.

"If we used money to buy things with, instead of love and kindness and the desire to please one another, then we should be no better than the rest of the world," declared the Tin Woodman. "Fortunately money is not known in the Land of Oz at all. We have no rich, and no poor; for what one wishes the others all try to give him, in order to make him happy, and no one in all Oz cares to have more than he can use."

"The Road to Oz" by L. Frank Baum

Posted by: Kzintis at March 31, 2009 01:45 PM

But who is going to do the work if we don't work 60 hour work weeks including O.T. and weekends?

Posted by: vet66 at March 31, 2009 01:56 PM

Well, there's always the overlap from those of us working 80-hour weeks. Gotcha covered from this side...

Posted by: BillT at March 31, 2009 02:59 PM

Andrew Carniege's autobiography is worth searching out and reading.... Ooops - it's online:


Chapter XIX The "Gospel of Wealth" is as good a place as any to start. It's about the time when he's ready to "retire".

"AFTER my book, "The Gospel of Wealth,"1 was published, it was inevitable that I should live up to its teachings by ceasing to struggle for more wealth. I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.....

"... I resolved to begin at once my first web. True enough, the gods sent thread in the proper form. Dr. J. S. Billings, of the New York Public Libraries, came as their agent, and of dollars, five and a quarter millions went at one stroke for sixty-eight branch libraries, promised for New York City. Twenty more libraries for Brooklyn followed."

In another work (also onlne),"The Empire of Business", he says

"In our day, Capital, Business Ability, Manual
Labour are the legs of a three-legged stool. While the three legs stand sound and firm, the stool stands; but let any one of the three weaken and break, let it be pulled out or struck out, down goes the stool to the ground. And the stool is of no use until the third leg is restored."

"The Road to Oz". !!! Someone, in another place, tried to convince us that "The Wizard of Oz" was a well-disguised economic parable, with each of the three Ozzians representing some facet of economics (one was the Gold Standard championed by W. J. Bryant). I wrote this off as foolishness, but your quote almost convinces me that he's right.

Posted by: ZZMike at March 31, 2009 03:50 PM



Always a pleasure crossing sabres with you!

Posted by: vet66 at March 31, 2009 05:34 PM


*agile jetté and*


Ummm -- wait one. I think I hurt myself.

Posted by: From the Desk of Mr. deBille at March 31, 2009 05:48 PM

Oh, I could go on and on with this one. But I do not have time.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at March 31, 2009 05:51 PM

HF6, you're being paged on the previous thread.....

Posted by: DL Sly at March 31, 2009 07:08 PM

There have been more than a handful of moments that I shall be rememebered as "Chief Instigator" in the rdr household, among them the day my eldest daughter, then a sophomore in high school, complained to me about how bored she was by trying to write a report about the upcoming 2000 election. Bush bored her. Gore bored her. Politics bored her. There was nothing new in anything they said.

On a whim, I introduced her to to the Libertarian Party. I wasn't a member, and can't even tell you who the candidate was (Harvey Brown? Harvey Mudd? Harvey the Six Foot Rabbit?). But I wanted to give her something else to write about, something other than Republicans and Democrats. I suppose that I could have as easily referred her to the Unitied Socilaist Workers Commune Party, but I didn't want her to murder me in my sleep.

In any event, once she started her research, she was floored. Nobody (other than her father - who can't be trusted, after all) had ever told her about how institutional freedom is really the by-product of individual responsibility and character.

I slipped her a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" a few days after her epiphany (without telling her mother). Without editorializing, I warned my daughter that if she dared read the whole book, there would be no going back to the lazy days of yesterday.

Daughter #1 accepted the challenge, and immediately devoured the book (She wouldn't shut up aboput that either.) As promised, there wasn't any going back, and through college and then law school she set out firmly to conquer her life's opportunities.

We say ten million things to our kids over the course of their upbringing, hoping that they will hear at least something they will remember, someday. But sometimes, sometimes you just get lucky, and it sticks of its own.

A few months back, mrs. rdr undertook Atlas Shrugged at the behest of her eldest daughter.

She hasn't shut up about it since.

Life is good.

Posted by: spd rdr at March 31, 2009 07:26 PM

Ayn Rand Worshipping is forbidden in the O-zone.

I am now going to tattle.

Posted by: Pigeon Stool at March 31, 2009 08:58 PM

No one should worship Ayn Rand (or Alice Rosenbaum, as she was know in an earlier life), but they should respect and acknowledge her ability to illuminate the way that men and the world move. Worship is the last thing she would want (although recognition and a little adulation is nice).
Never forget what is the Prime Mover of Men and the World

IBM knows. :)

Spd, that is a fabulous parable for the people. I yet have hope that my sons will someday wake up from their media inculcated stupor. :)

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 31, 2009 10:22 PM

I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

Personally speaking, while I like Fransisco's "Money Speech", I am a bigger fan of John Galt's speech.

Of all the parts of The Money Speech, my favorite part is:

"If you ask me to name the proudest of distinction of Americans, I would choose - because it contains all the others - the fact that htey were the people who created the phrase 'to MAKE money'. No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity - 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 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality."

I've been a Libertarian for a while now but hadn't read "Atlas Shrugged" until RSM talked about it at the MilBlogging Conference in DC 2 years ago. I've since read it twice, along with "The Fountainhead". I'm now reading it again for a third time in preparation for a book study.

"Atlas Shrugged" is probably the most influential books I've ever read, outside of the Bible. And almost as prophetic...

Posted by: HomefrontSix at April 1, 2009 02:51 AM

As it happens, I'm currently in the middle of reading "Atlas Shrugged".

'Bout time, I reckon...

Posted by: camojack at April 1, 2009 03:42 AM

Wonder if I could get my 7 year old to read it. I'm still working on getting my husband to read it as well.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at April 1, 2009 04:02 AM

Years ago I sat on a search committee to hire a new Academic Dean at my community college (why the heck they needed a student rep on the committee is beyond me, but they were all about teh inclusiveness).

My favorite question for those shortlisted was, "What one book influence you or changed your thinking most?"

My favorite candidate - he didn't get the job by the way, but every single member of the committee admitted he was the most impressive and qualified applicant - replied, "Atlas Shrugged".

I would have to concur.

There are areas of Rand's philosophy with which I don't fully agree but reading that novel caused a seismic shift in the way I saw the world.

Powerful ideas do that.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 1, 2009 09:06 AM

On a related note, my youngest boy's college (St. John's in Annapolis) is famous for the intense interest its students show in ideas. They literally devour books, and can frequently be found, even during summer vacation, meeting to discuss what they've read.

Interestingly, the one book that was conspicuously absent from the college library was, "Atlas Shrugged". The book had been dubbed, "unhealthy" because upon reading it, some students became so passionate about the philosophy therein that they sort of went off the rails (at least according to the learned faculty).

I always thought a funny Senior Prank (another tradition at St. John's) would have been to cover the books in a section of the library with "Atlas Shrugged" covers, or to buy up discarded paperbacks and sprinkle them throughout the library :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 1, 2009 09:11 AM

My favorite question for those shortlisted was, "What one book influence you or changed your thinking most?" My favorite candidate ...every single member of the committee admitted he was the most impressive and qualified applicant - replied, "Atlas Shrugged".

...he didn't get the job by the way...

Sheer coincidence, I'm sure.

Posted by: From the Desk of Mr. deBille at April 1, 2009 09:18 AM

I found that whole experience rather depressing, if enlightening.

Though I was only a student - and the only student there - I was, typically, quite vocal about the selection criteria :p

The prof who nominated me - an Econ prof - quite enjoyed watching some of the discussions. It was an interesting look at academia and the politics that drive a lot of decision making. Let's just say the winning applicant was a "consensus" choice :p

Posted by: Cassandra at April 1, 2009 09:21 AM

A student going off the rails about a book?

Oh, like they haven't done that at Berkeley in reading Chairman Mao's Little Red Book and Das Kapital? Burning the campus and protesting? Not to mention being aided and abetted by faculty?

Say it isn't so.

Posted by: Cricket at April 1, 2009 10:50 AM

"...I was, typically, quite vocal about...."

Shirley, you jest.

Posted by: DL Sly at April 1, 2009 11:44 AM

Thanks for the link to capmag.com. I just added it to my bookmarks list.
I read Atlas Shrugged back around 74 or 75, I was 13 at the time and don't recall much. I think I should read it again, since it is so highly praised by this esteemed group.

Posted by: unkawill at April 1, 2009 01:36 PM