David Kelley, "The Root of Money"

Session 9

David Kelley, "The Root of Money"

Session 9

The Root of Money (Atlas Shrugged Part 2)

Atlas Society07:55

James Taggart is what would now be called a "crony capitalist." His wedding guests are the elite of a politicized economy. Taggart, Francisco d'Anconia, and Hank Rearden are all members of the "1%" --but Francisco, in his "money speech" is challenging the whole idea of the "1%." The speech is a clarion call to understand the true nature of wealth and the distinction between those who produce it and those who acquire it through political favors.


This video features clips from Atlas Shrugged Part 2. David Kelley, founder and chief intellectual officer of The Atlas Society, is speaker in this video.

For more information on the Atlas Shrugged movie click here: http://www.atlassociety.org/atlas-shrugged/atlas-shrugged-movie

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PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT:Hello, I'm David Kelley. I'm a Senior Fellow at The ATLAS SOCIETY and consultant to the ATLAS SHRUGGED movie.

The scene we are going to watch takes place at the wedding of James Taggart, Dagny Taggart's brother and the president of Taggart Transcontinental railroad. Francisco d'Anconia, the mysterious figure who seems to appear at every pivotal scene, is talking about money.

[Play scene: whole clip, beginning to end]In the novel, Francisco's statement about money is one of the iconic moments, often cited by readers as memorable, and often excerpted.....

As for the offense, James Taggart is what we would now call a crony capitalist. His wedding guests are the elite of a politicized economy, people who have business connections with the powers that be in Washington, along with their friends and enablers in high society. Francisco punctures their self-image as do-gooders when he describes them as "the aristocracy of pull."


The people at the wedding as not welfare dependents who live on benefits taken from taxpayers, but they are still takers because they depend on government favors and subsidies, extracted at the expense of makers—genuine producers—like Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden.


The theme of makers vs. takers runs throughout Atlas Shrugged, and is highlighted in many specific forms. In this scene, the specific form is the nature and role of money, keyed off one guest's invocation of the Biblical statement "money is the root of all evil." In response, Francisco states the two central themes in the longer version in the novel, which is well worth reading.

First, the fact that money is a medium of exchange.

Money is a tool that allows us to trade with one another. Your goods for my goods. Your efforts for mine.

That is, money is the medium in which independent people trade the products of their efforts.


Money is the medium in which we exchange goods and services, just as language is the medium in which she exchange our thoughts. But just as the sounds we make in speaking or the marks we make in writing are meaningless unless there is thought behind them, so the paper we carry in our wallets is worthless unless it represents real things of value.

And those things have to be produced. For all the benefits of trade, in which each side gains, what is traded has to be produced. Unless people create value through production, they can trade only a fixed stock of goods. But in Atlas Shrugged—as in our own world—people are continually creating new goods, at lower cost, by using their powers of reason.

Hank Rearden's new metal—Rearden Metal—is an example in the novel. In the real world? Think Bill Gates and Microsoft, Steve Jobs and the iPad, the lesser known people who have created new medical technologies.

Once created, such wealth can be taken by people who did not produce it. As Francisco says,  having money is not the measure of a man. What matters is how he got it. If he produced it by creating value, then his money is a token of honor. But if it was taken from those who produce - there is no honor. You're simply a looter.Here again we see the contrast between makers—those who produce, as any level—and those who take—through government favors.Hank and Francisco are members of what is now called the 1%. So is James Taggart. Do you see how Francisco is challenging the whole idea of the 1%? It's not about how rich you are, in terms of dollars. It's about how you acquired the wealth.

When a society allows both ways of getting money, as ours does today, something is wrong.Francisco's "money speech" is a clarion call to understand the true meaning of wealth. For those who earn it through honest effort, production, and voluntary exchange—at any level, from the local grocer to the greatest innovators—it is indeed a badge of honor. But those who acquire wealth through pull are, as Francisco says, "just looters."

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