"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Anconia. "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 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 that 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, the 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
"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 choke 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 the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?
"Money is your means of survival. The verdict 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 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, 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, 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 men 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.