Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ayn Rand on a Modern Dollar Bill? Who Better Deserves the Honor? has an interesting poll with an interesting result. The poll asks, “Who Should Be the First Woman On a Modern Dollar Bill?” As of this writing, Ayn Rand leads with 55%, followed in second place by Eleanor Roosevelt with 10%.

These results are appropriate. Ayn Rand was the thinker who gave money its proper moral due. As Carl Svanberg notes at Voices for Reason, “Who could be a more worthy candidate? Ayn Rand did, after all, argue that money is the root of all good.”

Of course, Rand understood fully that money, as such, has little value. To arrive at the conclusion of money as the root of all good, Rand asked, “What is the root of money?” Her answer, which is contained in Francisco’s Money Speech in Atlas Shrugged, is life-serving productive work and all of the virtues that implies. Next, she asked, “What is the root of production?” Man’s mind, she observed. If you think about it honestly and objectively, you must conclude that Rand was right.

Rand praised America as “a country of money: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. . . . If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose–because it contains all the others–the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money,’” Rand said.

What does it mean “to make money?” To make money means to make (create) a good or service that others value enough to be willing to pay you for. It does not mean to get money by hook or by crook. Armed robbers, fraudsters, and moochers don’t make money. They simply appropriate it. To make money means to earn it by productive work and trade.

And what virtues do productive work and trade depend on? Since productive work is reason-guided labor (physical or mental), and trade is the voluntary exchange of value for value, it follows that the root of money rests on certain life-serving human virtues. These virtues, which money-making embodies, are virtues like rationality, self-motivation, self-discipline, self-esteem, honesty, integrity, teamwork, long-range planning, and pride.

As Rand observed:

Money is a tool of exchange, which can’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.

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 honor–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.

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 motions–and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

A culture of money-makers is a culture of peaceful coexistence and rising mutual prosperity. The money you make can then be exchanged for all of the material values your life and flourishing depend on, but which others make, through the win-win medium of trade. It is money that makes trade possible. As Rand eloquently observed, money is “your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men.”

This is not to say that money-making is or should be one’s only pursuit. Everyone needs a whole constellation of values to complete his life, such as vacations, leisure activities like reading or media, friendships, romantic relationships, quality time with children or extended family, hobbies, charitable activities, and so on. In an advanced industrial, money-exchange, division of labor economy, there is time for all kinds of enriching pursuits. But money-making is and should be understood to be one’s central pursuit, around which all of one’s other values are oriented and balanced. This is not a matter of choice or opinion. This is fact. Without the means to survive and thrive that money-making embodies, no other values are even possible.

Far from being some lowly, amoral activity or necessary evil, money-making is a noble activity that belongs at the top of our moral hierarchy, because the human virtues embodied in the phrase “to make money” are the very virtues vital not just to survival but to achieving a happy, prosperous, and fulfilling life.

This is why Ayn Rand identified money as the root of all good. Who but Ayn Rand, above all others, deserves to be the first woman on a modern dollar bill?

Related Reading:

Related  Listening:

The Money Making Personality—Ayn Rand


Mike Kevitt said...

This is all true, but concerning the poll, please excuse me for being a purist.

'Who should be the 1st, woman put on a dollar bill', implies that any next change MUST mean the new face will be a woman, waive all other considerations. After all this is no longer a sexist or otherwise bigoted culture, so it must be a woman, right?

If we're not bigoted, why not ask who the next PERSON should be? This would make any choice more meaningful, with everybody competing with EVERYBODY, not just some competing with some within a narrower group chosen by bigotry.

If Ayn Rand were the winner, it might be solely on her merits, with nothing to do with the fact that she happened to be a woman.

That's more fair for ANYBODY.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

Good point, Mike.

Steve D said...

Wait, Ayn Rand was a woman?

No matter, she beats any American, not already so honored, hands down!