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What is the root of money?Posted on: April 27th 2021
By: Harley Dalton, Area Manager, Greater Manchester
A condensing and supplementation of Ayn Rand’s classic “Money Speech” from Atlas Shrugged
It is often said that money is the root of all evil, but 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 people willing to trade for them. Money is the material shape of the principle that people who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is made possible only by productive activity and the consent of those involved in buying and selling what is made.
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. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are people who honour that moral principle which is the root of money, of trading value for value by voluntary consent.
Money exists only by the commitment of every honest man to trade his effort for the effort of others. To trade by means of money is a signal and a code of good will.
But money is also 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 is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it.
Money demands of you the recognition of these things: that people must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury; for their gain, not their loss; that you must offer them values, not wounds; that the common bond among humanity is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to their stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when people live by trade – with reason and consent, not force, as their final arbiter – it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the person of best judgment and highest ability – and the degree of a person's productiveness is the degree of their reward.
Is this what you would consider evil?
When someone claims that money is evil, ask them: by what standard? Morality is a guide to the proper functioning of your life – the good and right is that which furthers and enhances your life, while the evil and wrong is that which destroys it. So long as humans live together on earth, they need moral terms on which to deal with one another – and their only substitute, if they abandon money, is violence. What can we infer about morality from the system of capitalism which is based on money, on free production, on consenting trade, and those, like socialism, which are based on violence, theft and coercion?
Through millennia of warlords and kings, of slaves and serfs, of goods produced in bondage and fortunes amassed by theft, by force, by fiat, mankind suffered little more than stagnation and starvation. Throughout history, various bands of looters of one brand or another have seized both the means and fruits of production by force, keeping the producer bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honour. Of such instances, we have countless examples, and the result in all cases was a detriment in the material conditions of life. The depravity of each failure is the degree to which the system rejects the root of money, ranging from parasitically disruptive in lesser cases, to actively murderous in others.
Only under capitalism, under the universal moral and legal adoption of money, of voluntary trade as the sole legitimate means of exchanging goods has mankind lifted itself beyond abject poverty to ever-greater heights of wealth in abundance, of exponential technological development and all the improvements of material conditions in consequence. When the individual’s rights to voluntarily engage in production and trade are protected, immense advances in material and intellectual wealth, innovations, living standards and life expectancies follow, while the reverse yields the reverse – progress slows, living standards diminish, and life expectancies decline.
If the good is that which furthers human wellbeing, and evil that which diminishes it, there is only one practical conclusion: money is not the root of all evil, but instead a conduit of that which is good and proper for humans.
In this regard, 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 favours; when you see that men get richer by graft 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.
When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect people to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. When money, which is given value only through the principle that the effort you expend to obtain it will permit you to benefit from the efforts of others in turn, is stolen from those who earned it, do not expect it to retain its value. Do not expect people to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded.
Until and unless we re-assert the moral standing of money, we accept the terms of our own destruction.
The views expressed represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of UK Liberty Party. UK Liberty Party sometimes publishes articles we may disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.