Rand was already world-famous as the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged when this piece was produced in 1963. Prevalent in the culture was the so-called “robber-baron” thesis that rich people are necessarily holders of ill-gotten gains. Rand challenges that claim by distinguishing genuine money-makers from mere money-appropriators. This article was first published in Cosmopolitan magazine and given later as a radio talk.
- Money-makers are independent-thinking and -acting trend setters who establish themselves by calculated risks, hard work, and revolutionary products. Rand names great industrialists such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and Edwin H. Land as embodiments the money-making personality.
- Money-appropriators are often also wealthy but, by contrast, their wealth is unearned and established illegitimately through social clout and political connections — what economists call “rent-seeking.”
- The two types are often difficult to distinguish in practice because of government interference in the business world through subsidies, regulations, and tariffs. Yet readers of Atlas Shrugged will recognize the two types in the characters of Hank Rearden — who earned his wealth through innovation and quality — and Orren Boyle who amassed wealth through favors and political manipulation.
- Appropriators often engage in “vulgar displays of ostentation.” They can be widely liked, but when faced with real challenges they do not know how to act and often use their social status to shift responsibility.
- Money-makers reject the common I’m-only-an-employee mentality. They strive to be aware of all aspects of their business, even those seemingly not directly relevant to their job. They ask themselves what can be done or improved. They find their work to be the essence of what it is to be alive — to be productive.
- The money-makers are often lonely individuals. Rand holds that in her generation’s corrupt, politicized business environment, only a minority of individuals embody the money-making personality. They are frequently insulted as “robber-barons” and attacked for their “greed.” Yet each decides to carry on, aware that he/she is “the originator and the innovator” of the world’s progress.
Listen to “The Money-Making Personality” at Soundcloud. Executive Summary by Anthony DiMauro, Andrei Volkov, and Stephen Hicks, 2019.