No, really. Ayn Rand (selfishness enthusiast, anti- collectivist, Alan Greenspan mentor) thought Edwin Land (defender of PBS, coiner of the phrase “the bottom line is in heaven”) was as great as they come.
In a 1963 magazine article called “The Money-Making Personality,” Rand proposed a distinction between people who were real creators of money from “money appropriators,” the people who merely shuffled cash around and earned a slice of the proceeds. She essentially throws in her lot with the builders and creators of things, particularly if they’re scientists: She cites George Westinghouse, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Arthur Vining Davis (who built Alcoa), as well as a few others. And, as you’ve guessed, our man Land. Money quote, literally:
“The Money Maker is able to defy established customs, to stand alone against storms of criticism and predictions of failure. . . . He lives, thinks and acts long range. Having complete confidence in his own judgment, he has complete confidence in the future, and only long-range projects can hold his interest. To him work is not a painful duty or necessary evil but a way of life; to him, productive activity is the essence of, the meaning and the enjoyment of existence; it is the state of being alive. . . .
Quoting another writer, she compares Land to Edison and Westinghouse, and goes on to cite one of Land’s colleagues, who claims that a hundred Ph.D.s would have taken ten years to pull off what Land did in six months. (She gets a bunch of her facts somewhat wrong, but the broad points of her analysis are okay.) I’m no Randian, heaven knows, but she’s absolutely right about one thing: Making something that the world genuinely needs and/or loves is a far more enriching thing to be doing than selling derivatives is.
That said, she does not mention that Land’s company got its footing doing war work—government-funded, tax-revenue-requiring war work, which effectively subsidized the development of the instant camera. Just saying.
And by the way? The essay ran in Cosmopolitan, which was quite a different magazine before Helen Gurley Brown turned it into Orgasm Monthly.
And even weirder? Rand did a reading of this story on the radio, and you can hear it, in her own Russian-inflected voice, here. It’s fun to hear her say “the Pol-a-rrrroid Cor-poration.”
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