(from Atlas Shrugged): Francisco's speech on: "The Root of Money"

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In my searches for material to post, I keep seeing new things I can't wait to put up. And here I am complaining that I can't even keep up with the other threads I recently started. I don't know...it's that impulsive side of me, I guess...

Anyway, here's a classic speech from a great book.

Francisco's "The Root of Money"

From Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

Rearden heard Bertram Scudder, outside the group, say to a girl who made some sound of indignation, "Don't let him disturb you. You know, money is the root of all evil- and he's the typical product of money."

Rearden did not think that Francisco could have heard it, but he saw Francisco turning to them with a gravely courteous smile.

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Aconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of 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. 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. Is this what you consider evil?

"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 nor 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. Is this what you consider evil?

"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.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made- before it can be looted or mooched- made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced.

"To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except by the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss- the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery- that you must offer them values, not wounds- that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of GOODS. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best your money can find. And when men live by trade- with reason, not force, as their final arbiter--it is the best product that wins, the best performance, then man of best judgment and highest ability- and the degree of a man's productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

"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 is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality- the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

"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. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth- the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve that mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Money is your means of survival. The verdict which you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or men's stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment's or a penny's worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you'll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"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. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Or did you say it's the love of money that's the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It's the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is the loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money- and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

"Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another- their only substitute, demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride, or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich- will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt- and of his life, as he deserves.

"Then you will see the rise of the double standard--the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money- the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law- men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims- then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion- when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing- when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors- when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you- when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice- you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an aribitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: 'Account overdrawn.'

"When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, 'Who is destroying the world?' You are.

"You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it's crumbling around you, while your damning its life-blood- money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men's history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves- slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody's mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer. Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocarats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers- as industrialists.

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money- and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being- the self-made man- the American industrialist.

"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.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity- to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted, or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality.

"Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters' continents. Now the looters' credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards,ark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide- as, I think, he will.

"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns- or dollars. Take your choice- there is no other- and your time is running out."

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), June 30, 2000


EVE, i agree,money is a tool=it,s all in how it,s=USED! BUT the love of money???does strange things too folk,s! ANCIENT PROVERB=HE WHO PUT,S HIS trust in money,is twice=dead!! the bible say,s=beware of the DECEITFULNESS OF RICHES!!! or better yet=how much money,=can save your=soul???

-- al-d. (dogs@zianet.com), June 30, 2000.

HOW,S ABOUT=leadership? is leadership good?? yes only IF.

-- al-d. (dogs@zianet.com), June 30, 2000.

Atlas Shrugged is a tedious chore to read mostly because nearly every character stops what passes for a plot to deliver endless sermons, up to maybe 60 pages long! And all the sermons are delivered in the same earnest voice, droning on and on. After 7 or 8 hundred pages, you despair of a "hero" character ever sneezing, farting, taking a pratfall, or otherwise being human and even infinitesimally fallible.

The real world is full of lower class jamny taggerts (a cross between Dagny and James) -- ordinary people. There are no Atlas-class people running the world; they don't exist. Rand's simplistic polarizations of *everything* map poorly to reality. But to teenagers, they can sound enticing.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 30, 2000.

Hi Eve, This reminds me of when I read Atlas Shrugged. While still in the first part of the book, I had wondered whether the author truly understood the honorable role of money. It was therefore immensely satisfying to reach the above passage and discover that she indeed understood!

-- David L (bumpkin@dnet.net), June 30, 2000.


That is one of my favorite speeches in the book.


Why am I not surprised that you don't like "Atlas Shrugged"? I guess you see what you want to see, and you don't want to see any heroes. They exist, though, whether you believe in them or not. Of course they're not running the world, nor are they depicted as such in the book. What we have running the real world, as they run the world of "Atlas Shrugged", is James Taggart, Floyd Ferris, Wesley Mouch, and the other villians of that book, under many names.

One real problem I have with Rand's political position is that the heroes of the world don't want to run it. They just want to be left alone to run their own lives. The only people who want to run the world are those who can't run themselves. We've seen that in microcosm on this board, but it's also true in "real life".

-- Steve Heller (Steve@SteveHeller.com), June 30, 2000.

It's true that Atlas Shrugged's heroes tend to be steadfastly honorable and its villians unmitigatedly dishonorable, but for me, the book's ideas carried the day.

On the other hand, I recently reread The Fountainhead and was blown away, even though I had rated Atlas Shrugged as superior after my first reading of each (which took place around the same time). It will be interesting to see if a rereading of Atlas Shrugged proves to be a slight letdown.

-- David L (bumpkin@dnet.net), June 30, 2000.


Flint, I've been waiting for you to jump into this objectivism line of threads for weeks. What a first thrust! I'm busting a gut here.

-- Bingo1 (howe9@shentel.net), June 30, 2000.


In a sense, you and I are Rand's heroes. We do our jobs, we do them well, we make our contributions to the general welfare just by earning a living. We worked hard to be able to do what we do, we take it seriously yet we enjoy doing what we do well. And I'm happy with that.

But as Einstein said, everything should be made as simple as possible *and no simpler!* Rand makes things MUCH simpler. Now, I grant a novel should reduce its scope to make its plot comprehensible. But Rand's novels nearly abandon plot and character to make sermons, in a world of pure good and pure evil by Rand's precepts. This is bad fiction and bad philosophy. Her novels contain some good ideas, but she turns them into falsely great ideas by providing them within a ludicrously unrealistic context. Unless you're a teenager and don't know any better.

I have heroes aplenty, but they aren't cardboard supermen.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 30, 2000.

Hi all,

Thanks for your responses. Wow, we're setting a rapid pace with this one.

My problem is that I have so much I want to say, and relatively little time in which to say it, since I've spread myself very thin lately.

For now:


Yes, I think that some of the characters have fewer dimensions to them than you'd see in real life; and some appear to be exaggerations and caricatures. But others seemed more real. In any case, I think she simply used them as vehicles (and ideals) to present her philosophy.

And where do you get "bad philosophy" from any of this? To the contrary, I think that philosophical principles can be presented better (and therefore were) when the lines (e.g., good v. evil) are more distinct.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), June 30, 2000.


Okay, I see where you're coming from. However, I still have to disagree with respect to the validity of Rand's approach. Yes, some of her characters are unrealistic, notably John Galt, who isn't believable at all. However, her other heroes, especially Rearden, do not suffer from this defect. They have real motivations, real problems, real struggles both within and without themselves.

It's true that I first read Atlas Shrugged as a teenager, but I didn't think too much of it at the time. Since then, I have re-read it quite a few times, often when I was feeling depressed due to my inability to find others of like mind to my own. I haven't felt that need for the last four years or so, as I have finally found my soul mate, and don't need a fictional representation of rational people to keep me afloat in a world of irrationality. But I suspect I'll still read it again once in a while just for the enjoyment of such a finely crafted novel/philosophical treatise.

By the way, have you ever read the Amazon.com readers comments about Atlas Shrugged? There are hundreds of them, and almost all are either raves or pans. Very few people give it three stars. Of course, there are illiterate comments on how bad it is and how good it is, but there are also quite a few thoughtful comments.

Did you see the survey done by the Library of Congress on what book most influenced the persons polled? It's no surprise that the Bible came in first, but the fact that Atlas Shrugged came in second probably surprised a lot of people. It didn't surprise me, though.

-- Steve Heller (Steve@SteveHeller.com), June 30, 2000.


It's been 40 years since I read Atlas Shrugged but my memory is that John Galt's radio speech went on for 90 pages! Where's a commercial when you want one? I was a teenager but it sure didn't entice me to do anything except go to the drive-in.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 30, 2000.

I was perhaps 19 or 20 when I first read this one, and Eve is doing everything she can to provoke me into reading it again. [grin] For ME, this was just one of all the things that "shaped" me. Of course there was time in those years to read books like this, Three Who Made a Revolution, Writings of Mao TseTung, Three Days in the life of Ivan Denisovitch(sp?), etc. and share the thoughts presented with others who'd recently read them. All my peers were reading this [or so I thought, until I met my sister-in-law.]

My sister-in-law had a keen fascination for money. She'd discuss it every time I saw her. I once said, "Money isn't EVERYTHING, Claire." She replied, "To YOU, Anita." Claire didn't make a lot of money because she didn't have much education or a trade that could bring in a lot of money without an education. Her husband, however, was an accountant. He had more potential, but didn't have the drive she thought he should have. He spent perhaps as much or more time at our home than he did in his own. When he wasn't at our home, he was seeking another place where he could feel free to be who he was. I oftentimes compared my home to the jazz clubs in Harlem or the roadhouse in Fried Green Tomatoes where Itchie went to seek solace from those who wanted her to be something she wasn't meant to be where this guy was concerned. We'd sit and talk for hours, drink a few beers, and finally he'd say something like, "She wants a bigger house now in a better neighborhood."

Yeah...I'd say there were a few thoughts lacking in Rand's treatise on money, but it provided a start for many of us.

-- Anita (Anita_S3@hotmail.com), June 30, 2000.

eve and Steve:

As we are surely well aware by now, arguments can be "compelling" which are quite false and bear very little relationship to the real world. And not surprisingly, this tends to happen when complex realities are reduced to simple binary views. This is exactly what Einstein was warning about -- that if issues are reduced beyond the irreducible minimum necessary to include all pertinent factors, the result is *necessarily* misleading. The further beyond this point the issues are reduced, the more immediately compelling the argument, yet the more misleading or outright wrong it becomes.

So I have two problems with Rand's novels. First, the philosophy is so overweening as to drown out the story. Second, the philosophy is about as realistic as John Galt, and for the same reason. The real world is an unrelenting welter of ambiguity, exceptions, and shifting frames of reference. Pretending that it is not, in order to present a "clear" philosophy, is like drawing a "clear" line in a river with a knife. Rigid philosophies do a historically poor job of being applicable universally, and are often way inappropriate (*except* when you get to create unambiguous fact situations in your own novels, where such philosophies are always clearly "right" in *every* case).

If we all lived in Rand's fictional world, we could apply her principles every time, and they'd always work. Because her fictional world is nowhere even close to what we live in, her principles, while clear, aren't nearly as useful as she makes them appear.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 30, 2000.

If we all lived in Rand's fictional world, we could apply her principles every time, and they'd always work. Because her fictional world is nowhere even close to what we live in, her principles, while clear, aren't nearly as useful as she makes them appear.

As a matter of fact, I do apply principles very similar to hers, and they do work every time. Isn't that strange?

-- Steve Heller (steve@steveheller.com), June 30, 2000.

>> "So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Aconia. <<

This saying is a corruption of the original saying, which was, "The love of money is the root of all evil."

IOW, the original saying clearly distinguished between money viewed as a tool and money viewed as an object worthy of love for its own sake.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), June 30, 2000.


You bring back memories. The things we used to read just to say that we read them. Well I can say that I read The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. I sure hope I benefitted at the time because I can't remember a thing about them. Atlas Shrugged and a few others qualify. When I was in my leftist phase I even broused Mao's lil red book.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), June 30, 2000.


Yes, your ability to reduce a complex fact situation to simplicity has been remarked on here at some length. We are all stunned by it. I'm glad it works so well for you.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), June 30, 2000.

Rand and Atlas Shrugged were often mentioned on the old forum. Even the lovely laura lady logic was a fan.

I often thought if I don't take care of ME I can't help take care of WE.

I found her other books equaly good and easier reading.

Atlas Shrugged should be required reading for all in government (at all levels). Many or most seem to forget that people who WORK for money must pay their salaries. In my experience they show little respect for us when we are forced to use their services. When I find a good one they certainly do stand out.

-- fauna (xx@xx.xx), July 01, 2000.

Mornin', Flint,

You said that "...the philosophy is about as realistic as John Galt..."

If you would, pick out any philosophical point at all from the money speech and explain to me why you feel it's unrealistic. Or if you can't find anything there, pick something specific from the rest of the book.

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 01, 2000.

I found a few typos (well, the first one's a whopper) in this essay...

The paragraph that starts with...

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another- their only substitute, demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage..."

Should have read...

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another- their only substitute if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun. But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage..."

Shortly afterwards in the essay, the sentence,

"Then you will see the rise of the double standard..."

Should have read,

"Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard..."

-- eve (eve_rebekah@yahoo.com), July 08, 2000.

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