Fox & Friends: The Morality of Money

On the subject of Ayn Rand and money, more remains to be said than time permitted on Fox & Friends on April 30 (video below). Here are a few essential passages from Rand that I especially like and that illuminate her views. The first, a fictional scenario,  comes from a 1963 essay called “The Money Making-Personality”:”*

“Suppose you have observed two young men on their way through college and, on graduation day, are asked to tell which one of them will make a fortune,” Rand proposed. “Let’s call them Smith and Jones. Both are intelligent [and] ambitious. . . . Smith is aggressively social and very popular. He belongs to many campus groups and is usually their leader. Jones is quiet, reserved; he is usually noticed but neither liked nor disliked; some people resent him for no apparent reason. . . .

“Smith adjusts himself to people easily, but finds it harder to adjust himself to changing circumstances. Jones adjusts himself to circumstances, but is inflexible with regard to people.

“Smith’s scholastic grades are uniformly excellent. Jones’s grades are irregular: he rates ‘A plus’ in some subjects and ‘C’ in others.

“Smith’s image in people’s minds is one of sunny cheerfulness. Jones’s image is grimly earnest. But some rare, fleeting signs seem to indicate that in the privacy of their inner worlds their roles are reversed: it is Jones who is serenely cheerful and Smith who is driven by some grimly nameless dread.

“Which would you choose as the future fortune maker?

“If you subscribe to the currently prevalent ideas, you would choose Smith–and you would be wrong. Jones is the archetype of the Money-Maker, while Smith is a deceptive facsimile who will never make money, though he may become rich; to describe him accurately, one would have to call him the ‘Money-Appropriator.’

Rand’s readers will recognize more than a trace of Peter Keating and Howard Roark in these descriptions. For Rand, the person of reason, purpose, and independent self-esteem is able to create value–add something new to the world–and so cannot only  acquire money but also create wealth.

As to making money, here is what Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged:

“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.”

Finally, also from Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged, there is this:

“An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.”

As to the Francisco d’Anconia quote that Fox & Friends flashed onscreen at the beginning of the Rand segment (“‘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'”), the statement doesn’t exclude the possibility that some people who have obtained their money dishonorably–by extracting rather than adding value or new wealth to the economy–will extol it, such as CDO gamblers Richard Perry and John Paulson may well do.

President Obama’s videotaped cry that “at a certain point, I do think you’ve made enough money,” is surely naïve: Who has made enough money? At what point in the wealth-creation cycle is enough enough? And who will collect the “excess,” whatever that means?

Yet I did not intend to suggest or agree with Gretchen Carlson and Steve Doocy that Obama is right for the part of Ellsworth M. Toohey, attempting to “squash the American Dream.” The national dream is of making money, not appropriating it. I think Obama, confused as he may have been, made it clear that he agrees.

* “The Money-Making Personality” appeared in the April, 1963 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. (That was two years before the less idea-driven Helen Gurley Brown took over). It was republished in The Objectivist Forum in February, 1983.

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8 thoughts on “Fox & Friends: The Morality of Money

  1. Nice job Anne. I think it’s funny how people talk about the government take over of banks(Beck) as though they where running fine on there own with the pure pursuit of capitolizm as there goal. Don’t know if that was the point you where making but it’s what I got from my reading the blog

  2. Dear Anne,
    I enjoyed the video clip and your remarks above. It is fascinating to apply the reasoning of Ayn Rand to many of the irrational political statements and circumstances that are so prevalent these days. Your point of view is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale environment of the mainstream media.
    Best regards,
    Tom Warner

  3. You come up with such great little nuggets of Rand!

    The thing that’s so frustrating is that she has some great perceptions but she misses some essentials.

    I love her little story about Smith and Jones. And agree with her that Jones is the creator personality, the sort of individual who moves the world with ideas and innovation.

    But this sort of personality may also be moved by many things other than acquisition. Wouldn’t it be Jones who would also become a great artist, or a musician, or a theoretical physicist?

    Don’t get me wrong. I love money. I wish I has some… a lot! But the real core of it is that “Jone’s” will pursue those things that are of interest to him. And money will (in the ideal case) then come to him as a sort of ’emergent characteristic’ of whatever those interests of his produce.

    (There are also some issues with the nature of money itself… especially its process of creation that were, I believe, not especially a focus of hers but that’s a whole other story.)

    It’s her certainty that is so dangerous… as it is generally with ideologues and ideologies. It leads to the sort of narrow elitism that, even with relatively benign intentions, brings us an Alan Greenspan mentality of ‘they don’t understand things the way we do.”

      • I absolutely agree! The ideas of America’s founding are great.

        But that doesn’t give us American’s some birthright that we need take no responsibility for.

        And the ideas are universal. They belong to no one nation or people.

        ‘American Exceptionalism’ is an excuse for self-righteousness without responsibility.

        The level of political debate and awareness in this country is abysmal… and many seem quite proud of it, grandly spewing childish generalizations based on facile assumptions. To a significant degree they have fallen for the pandering flattery their ‘leaders’ constantly feed them.

        I can scarcely stomach the unwillingness of the two (unfortunately) major parties who proclaim their love of democracy and self-governance while doing nothing to advance it… or any attempt to develop a more mature civic dialog and aware populace.

        Capability Enables Responsibility!

        I believe I have some rather critically needed solutions to assist in citizen participation. (see my demo at http://www.Chagora.com )

        I’ve hoped to garner some interest or curiosity about why this is so important but to date this has brought me nothing but grief and bankruptcy. I believe what I advocate is so fundamental as to be inevitable but I’ve found little interest amongst parties or politicians to have a more empowered constituency.

        Treat children like children and that’s what they become.

        I’m a bit of an extremist about anti-elitism. Back in college in the 60’s I even refused my 2S student deferment because I thought this was laying the seeds of elitism and that in a democracy all should share in the risks.

        I’ve been very discouraged by the blindness of my self-absorbed generation… and, in a sense…

        shrugged and walked away myself to study on my own away from the groupthink.

        The only reason I’m spouting off now is I think I have something to contribute that could act as a very beneficial social ‘lever’ on more levels than may be apparent at first.

  4. I wanted to add a bit more. My earlier comment was written while sitting in a tent in New Mexico which encouraged brevity. This morning I’m sitting in a cabin in Colorado which makes it a bit easier to prattle on.

    Her quote: “An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.”

    This is a fair statement with which I find much to agree. However it brings some issues to the fore.

    How is Production Valued?
    In the Rand world of Homo Economicus the market, if sufficiently ‘free’, is a perfect determiner of value and therefore can be sufficient to handle this task.
    I would suggest that in a scaled social structure loss of various forms of proximity are unable to overcome network effects that lead inevitably to pathological concentrations of wealth… pathological in the sense that they quite literally lead to a break in the social contract and recession, depression, collapse and/or revolution.

    (see “Compensation & the Social Network” http://culturalengineer.blogspot.com/2009/10/compensation-social-network.html )

    I support markets as both desirable and necessary. But I, like Adam Smith, also understand that it can lead to unhealthy concentrations of wealth with undue influence on the political process, and the vital importance of providing a level playing field… hence a need for checks, balances and oversight.

    At some point those concentrations lead to sufficient numbers being convinced of an inherent ‘unfairness’ that they tip over the chess board in one way or the other either individually or en masse (in a sense these are also the productive who choose to ‘shrug’ like an Atlas and walk away).

    What is Productive Activity?

    The current “Goldman Sachs, Paulson, naked credit-default swaps, cdo squared” issues etc. are an excellent examples.

    Gambling is NOT economically productive. People can do it if they want but it gets the economy nowhere. Here Rand, you and I all agree (I believe). Frankly much of current ‘investment’ by mega-banks and investment houses is nothing other than gambling indirectly abetted by mis-directed credit creation favoring already concentrated wealth.

    One could consider that if there is so much excessive wealth that there is nothing left but to gamble with it we would be better served by having used that wealth to increase wages of fellow members of that supposed social contract.

    Moreover, expanding the money supply via credit creation IS legitimate but only to the extent that it roughly matches or only slightly exceeds real levels of economic wealth created.

    A money creation center (a Central Bank) which then feeds that created money through major banks which then, as core to their business model, encourage the use of credit for simple consumption rather than wealth creation (investment) will abet a deadly stratification between a credit-dependent and credit-supplier class.

    This won’t be sustainable. Money’s true roots lie in social agreements and it’s an inherently imperfect allocator of only a portion of social energy. Civilization is a product of net ‘social energy’.

    Oops, gotta go…

  5. Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, iwspo.net

  6. Lots of penetrating comments here. Many more complex than my K-9 mind can absorb. However, wouldn’t you love to be present when the big “O” sits down with basketball super stars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard and tells them they make too much moola have to pour most of their millions into that money sewer in Washington.

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