The philosopher in me says it’s time for us to have a little chat about money. No, I’m not talking about how much you have or budgets or the economy. I’m not interested in anything as easy as that. I was wondering whether or not you have ever stopped to consider what money actually is? And again, I don’t mean paper, or gold or anything like that. I mean, have you ever thought about what it represents? More importantly, have you thought about how it is derived? I would venture to say you haven’t. In fact, most people probably just take it for granted. But I bet a short little chat about money and how it is derived from natural rights and natural law might help you to look at it in a whole new light. So, what do you say: shall we have a go at it?
OK, so what is your most fundamental natural right: that right that is yours by your existence, and that which only you can claim and exercise? I would argue that it is your free will, or conscience. No one can force you to change your mind or bend your will. Even if they use drugs, they have not changed your will as much as they have incapacitated it. So, from the right to your free will, you claim a right to your life, as your life is necessary to exercise your will. Your right to life gives you a right to your body, which gives you a right to your labor, and from your right to labor is derived the right to personal, moveable property. In this case, by consciously exerting your will to your labor to make property necessary to sustain your life, you have imparted a natural right to that property – so long as you have not trespassed against another’s rights in acquiring it.
Next, we have the right to contract. In other words, we can exercise our free will by agreeing to enter into a contract with another person. Most often, we contract with each other to obtain goods and services. In its most primitive form, labor is the only means with which we have to barter with each other. However, as society grows more complex and we start to specialize in our labor, it becomes more and more difficult for the farmer to barter with the black smith to obtain music or art from a third party. Thus, mankind developed the concept of money. Thus, money is nothing more than a convenient representation of our labor that makes it easier for us to enter into more complex contracts with each other.
Now, before anyone goes and tries to make a tortured argument that, at some level, accumulated wealth starts to represent slavery: don’t. That argument can be made but it cannot be won. However, the argument that welfare is slavery and theft can be. You see, if I am forced to pay a disproportionate amount of my labor (through taxes) to sustain others who contribute no labor (i.e. taxes) to society, yet those non-contributors can vote to make me work even more, that is both slavery and theft at the same time. You cannot claim that it is justified because I have more money because that money is actually a representation of my labor, and you cannot argue I have a duty to work more than you for your sustenance. Nor can you argue I have more labor than others as we all have 24 hours in every day, therefore, we all have the equivalent amount of labor. How we employ it is what differentiates us, and the moment we start justifying the forced coercion of my labor to the benefit of yourself, you have entered into the area of slavery. If you use our mutual government to force my slavery, then you have also entered the area of theft. Incidentally, this is exactly what Galt is fighting against in Atlas Shrugged: theft and slavery.