Saturday, August 1, 2009

Allison, Rand and Objectivism in the New York Times

While it's difficult to judge the impact such exposure could have, I personally think that the fact that the paper considered to be the premier bastion of liberalism in the country would print, not just a detailed, but a genuinely honest appraisal of Objectivism's current impact on the culture, could safely be described as huge.

The article, printed in today's edition, describes John Allison's leadership of BB&T Bank in the context of the current cultural impact of Objectivism in light of the meteoric rise in sales of Atlas Shrugged this year.

Here are a few nuggets from the piece, which quotes, not just Allison, but figures such as Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute, as well:
Give BB&T Liberty, but Not a Bailout

"To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say (he's) bad because he’s alive."(Emphasis mine)

. . .

"For his part, Mr. Brook is encouraged by the new interest in Ms. Rand’s work, but feels that it has yet to have much impact on the political debate. He’s also struggling to change a popular perception that the financial crisis was caused by deregulation and the fiscal policies of a top Rand disciple: Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman.

Mr. Brook argues that the problem wasn’t deregulation, but “misregulation.” He also says it’s unfortunate that Mr. Greenspan continues to be associated with Ms. Rand. While the two were close in the 1960s and ’70s, Mr. Greenspan abandoned objectivism decades ago, he says. Through a spokesman, Mr. Greenspan declined to comment."

. . .

"Fiscal conservatives . . . find much to praise in Ms. Rand’s economic views. Yet even for that crowd, her social views are a tougher sell.

Ms. Rand was an ardent atheist who considered the cross a symbol of how "a man of perfect virtue" sacrificed himself for a bunch of losers. "It is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors," she said."

. . .

"The last 50 years have been an orgy of placing need above wealth creation, above personal pursuit of happiness," Mr. Brook says. "I think we are seeing the consequences of that today."

. . .

"Mr. Allison says the government forced BB&T and some other healthy banks to accept TARP money to obscure that they were simply trying to save several large banks like Citigroup.

"Everyone thinks we got some kind of subsidy," he says, noting that his company paid the money back in June, with interest. "It’s going to cost us about $250 million for money we didn’t want.""

. . .

"Mr. Allison cites two examples in which the bank’s philosophy guided its real-world decisions.

After the Supreme Court upheld the right of local governments in 2005 to condemn private property and hand it to someone else for commercial development, he says, BB&T refused to make loans to developers who obtained property that way.

He also says BB&T decided not to offer the controversial "pick a payment" mortgages that got so many of its competitors into trouble. Such loans, also known as "option A.R.M.’s" or "negative amortization loans," allow borrowers to make payments that don’t even cover the interest on the loans, which causes the amount they owe to grow."

. . .

""We believe Rand’s concept of the ‘trader principle,’ where life is about trading value for value, where both parties benefit from the transaction," he says."

. . .

"In some ways, Ayn Rand filled in the ideas of Aristotle. It’s a whopping competitive advantage," he says. "I personally believe objectivism will be the dominant philosophy in this country in 25 years."

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