Larry's Lectern by Larry Gilbert Issue #5
Larry's Lectern
by Larry Gilbert
Past Issues

The Meaning of Money

Take a bill out of your wallet and reflect on it. What is its significance? It is not just a piece of paper. It has many meanings.

First, it is a payment for your production. You produced something that had value to someone else. Thus, it reflects the worth others place on your product.

Second, it is a lien, or a mortgage, on a product created by someone else. That is, you accepted this bill based on the promise by someone else that they would create a product that you want to purchase. 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. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced. Guns and force will not convert that dollar into the bread you need tomorrow

Third, it represents private property. Ownership. It is yours to use as you wish. No outside agency will require or prevent you from using it as you choose. You may purchase a CD, loan it to others, or give it to a charity. It is your decision.

That is the essence of Capitalism. The result of your productivity is yours to use. It is your private property. The United States is the first country to embrace Capitalism and provide constitutional protections to private property. Our government serves the people; it does not rule the people. Our Bill of Rights limits government’s influence and control. In every other country, some tribe, collective, or government has claim to your productivity for “The Common Good”. Well, whose good? Certainly not yours.

You have always seen men with that double standard: Tribes, collectives, and especially, governments. They take money by force, often citing “The Common Good”, but rely on you to produce something to create a value for their looted money.

This is the glory of the United States. It is a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement and private property. For the first time, man’s mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, by only fortunes-by-work. The hero is the worker. Everyone is a beneficiary.

What about rights? The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is its only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave.

Do people have a right to education? Health? Food? A house? A job? A fair wage? No. There are no rights to milk, shoes, movies, or champagne if no producers choose to manufacture such items. There are no rights of special groups: farmers, workers, businessmen. That is, if some men are entitled “by right” to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of their rights, and condemned to slave labor!

The magnificent progress achieved by Capitalism in a brief span of time—the spectacular improvement in the condition of man’s existence on earth—is a matter of historical record. It is not to be hidden, evaded, or explained away by all the propaganda of Capitalism’s enemies. But what needs special emphasis is the fact that this progress was achieved by non-sacrificial means. That is, America’s abundance was not created by public sacrifices to “the common good”, or to the collective, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented or every technological advance—and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way. The result is clear. Every demographic in this country is better off than its counterpart in any other country.

We must resist the erosion of Capitalism, and treasure the freedoms and private property rights that, currently, are unique to only the United States.


The above has many passages extracted or adapted from the many works of Ayn Rand. The reader is recommended to read her writings, especially: “The Nature of Government”, “Man’s Rights”, and “Atlas Shrugged”.

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