In this passage from Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a charismatic and mysterious character in the novel, Francisco d’Anconia, gives an impromptu speech at a party about the nature of money after being told that it is “the root of all evil.”
- Francisco disagrees with the moral condemnation of money and argues that it is a healthy tool people use to exchange values. Its worth and meaning are inseparably tied to humans’ productive ability.
- To say that money is evil is to imply that production is evil. But nothing can be produced without reason—that is, without analysis and integration of the facts of reality. Thus, to say that money is the root of all evil implies that reason, as the root of production and money, is the ultimate root of all evil.
- Money is evil is refuted by anyone who imagines trying to live without thinking or being productive. Francisco asks us to consider agriculture or electric generators: mere physical action would never create them. They depend on the objective use of reason, which is a profoundly moral commitment.
- Trade between different individuals who produce different goods and services represents the only moral method of social interaction. Trade respects the independent rationality and humanity of both parties, since they engage in it voluntarily and both gain from it.
- By contrast, in a society characterized by looter-victim interactions—where thieves and corrupt politicians are prominent—money loses its objective value. If money can be stolen or fraudulently manipulated, rather than produced, its value diminishes.
- Only those who value money for what it genuinely represents and who are willing to work for it are “able to deserve it.” And only they can really love money. All other people actually detest or even hate money because they know they do not deserve it.
- Francisco concludes that money is a society’s moral “barometer.” Humans can interact in only two ways—voluntarily or by force—by money or by compulsion—“blood, whips and guns—or dollars.” The moral verdict we give to money is the verdict we give to our society and our individual lives.
Read the whole speech at Capitalism Magazine. Summary by Andrei Volkov and Stephen Hicks, 2019.