I said earlier this month that I would, from time to time, highlight some of my favorite passages Atlas shrugged. October 10 will be the 65th anniversary of its publication.
One commentator, Paul Sand, recommended Francisco D’Anconia’s lecture on money. This is one of my favorites. I love it, not just because of its ideas but also because of something that Ayn Rand does so well that she gets so little credit for: fresh phrasing. George Orwell talked about how when you use too many store-bought phrases, they replace thinking. Rand had the ability to come up with new ways of speaking.
Some highlights from the lecture follow.
Whenever I think about inheritance tax I think of:
Do not envy an unworthy heir; His wealth is not yours and you would do no good with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; Loading the earth with fifty parasites instead of one, will not bring back the dead virtue that was destiny.
His great words:
Did you cheat and get your money? By pandering to men’s sins or men’s folly? Catering to fools, hoping to get more than you deserve? Lowering your standards? Do you hate working for customers? If so, your money will not give you a moment or a penny of happiness. Then all things that you buy will be a reproach to you, not an honor; Not an achievement, but a shame reminder. Then you cry that money is evil. Evil, because it will pinch your self-esteem?
That last line is so good. My guess is that Ayn Rand never saw a baseball game in her life. But what a fresh metaphor.
Men who have no courage, pride or self-respect, men who have no moral sense of their right to money and are unwilling to protect it while saving their lives, men who apologize for being rich – they will not be rich for long. They are natural bait for hordes of robbers who have been under a rock for centuries, but come crawling out at the first scent of a man apologizing for the crime of possessing wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of his guilt—and his life, as he deserves.
I like the diction but I strongly disagree with Rand’s view that no such person deserves to live.
On making money:
If you were to ask me to name the distinction Americans are most proud of, I would choose—because it has all the others—the fact that they are the people who coined the phrase ‘making money.’