Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Who Should Be the First Woman on American Money?: An Update

The U.S. Treasury Department is considering a redesign of the $10 dollar bill. Last year I wrote about a poll asking who should be the first woman on an American dollar bill, and argued that Ayn Rand should be that woman.

Recently, the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorialized about the redesign in This woman is money. But so is Hamilton. The Star-Ledger’s choice was Ida B. Wells. The editors reasons:

Born into slavery, she became one of America's first investigative women journalists -- a pioneer in the kind of reporting that holds the powerful to account, and is critical to democracy and justice.

Wells was an internationally respected leader in the anti-lynching movement, who exposed not only the evils of white mob violence, but the true motivations and sociology behind it. She went case by case, documenting proof that lynchings were actually a means of controlling and punishing blacks who competed with whites economically -- not revenge for criminal acts like rape, as perpetrators claimed.

It's a truth that still resonates today. Look at the unemployed Charleston shooter, who used that same bogus claim to frame himself as a victim: "You rape our women. And you're taking over our country. And you have to go," he reportedly told members of an African-American church, before unleashing a hail of bullets on them.

Wells used her reporting to advance the civil rights movement and get other white nations to shame Americans for lynching. She also advocated for the right of women to vote.

Wells sounds like a worthy candidate.

I submitted my choice in my comments:

There are many women deserving of the honor of being the first woman on American money. My suggestion is Ayn Rand.

Rand epitomized the American Dream; a penniless immigrant who emigrated to America to escape tyranny, and achieved great success as a philosopher/novelist whose philosophy of reason and individualism provides crucial foundational support for America’s Founding ideals but also a practical guide to personal living and fulfillment.

Granted, there are many great female achievers and contributors to the development of America. But one aspect of Rand sets her apart from other worthy contenders—her treatise honoring money. Rand identified the essential goodness and indispensable value of money to a culture of justice and peaceful coexistence. Consider a few excerpts from her tribute to money:

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. . . .

Those pieces of paper . . . 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. . . .

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 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 he’s evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he’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.

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.

Rand has already been honored on a U.S postage stamp, in part because, as an avid stamp collector, she highly valued stamps. Lifewise, in part because she highly valued money—which, in a direct challenge to the Bible, she considered to be the root of all good—Rand deserves to be on the short list of final contenders. It’s long past time to honor a woman on our money. Who better to be the first woman on American money than the woman who explicitly identified the connection between “a country of money” and “a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement” and argued that America embodied both ideals?


As of this writing, Ayn Rand leads in the poll with 46%.

Related Reading:

Money vs. Wealth: Which is the Cart, and Which is the Horse? Ask Gilligan

The U.S. Treasury’s Unjust Debasement of Alexander Hamilton—Richard M. Salsman

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