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Libertarian Party: John A. Allison, Free Market Hero

posted at by Andrew Davis

Not everyone is born a freedom-loving Constitutionalist.  If they were, there would be no need for the Libertarian Party.

Unfortunately, the fight for less government is as much a legislative process as it is an education process.  In fact, the legislative process is much easier when there is an educated electorate, who elects qualified and competent legislators. 

While the Libertarian Party seeks to elect Libertarians to office and push public policy in a Libertarian direction, the libertarian movement seeks to educate the electorate about free market principles, individual liberty and the dangers of an overbearing government. Education is crucial to both electing the right people, and keeping the public informed and knowledgeable.

This is why John A. Allison, the chairman and CEO of BB&T, is the Libertarian Party’s Free Market Hero for the week. 

In addition to running one of the nation’s largest banks, Allison and BB&T fund programs at more than 40 universities that teach the moral defense of capitalism.  "Although each of these programs differs in its composition and mission," says Clemson University’s business profile of BB&T’s charitable programs, "all are united by a commitment to teaching and research on the moral foundations of capitalism."

Through contributions to organizations like the Ayn Rand Institute and universities across the nation, Allison has begun to build the foundations for a future electorate who not only understands the issues surrounding the defense of capitalism, but also desires to see capitalism protected and advanced.

In a demonstration of Allison’s steadfast commitment to principled leadership and capitalistic values, following the landmark Kelo decesion, Allison decided that BB&T would not do business with developers who looked to develop land seized as a result of eminent domain.  "The idea that a citizen’s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided; in fact it’s just plain wrong," Allison remarked after the decision.

"We’re a company where our values dictate our decision-making and operating standards. From that standpoint, this was a straightforward decision; it’s simply the right thing to do," BB&T chief credit officer Ken Chalk told USA Today.

After 20 years at the head of BB&T, Allison will soon be stepping down.  But the man who assigns Atlas Shrugged to all of his execs and helped grow BB&T into a banking juggernaut, still plans to continue his mission to promote the virtues of capitalism. "In retirement, Allison plans to write books about the role of values in effective leadership and the evolution of the U.S. financial system," as well as working with collegiate participants in BB&T’s Moral Foundations of Capitalism program, says The News & Observer.

“It is important to us that any program we support meets the highest academic standards and encourages students to hear all points of view,” said Allison, after giving $3.5 million to expand the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism. "There is overwhelming evidence that capitalism produces a higher economic standard of living, which is why there needs to be a deeper understanding of the morality of capitalism and its causal relationship to economic well-being.”

Therefore, for his work in educating college students across the nation about the moral defense of capitalism, John Allison is our Free Market Hero of the week.  

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  1. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 6, 2008


    I believe I misunderstood your arguement then.

    I agree wholeheartedly. Well put.

  2. langa langa December 6, 2008

    Trent – The problem I have with GE’s argument is that, from a practical standpoint, fractional reserve banks are the only banks possible under the current system. As he admits, some form of banking is necessary in a capitalist society. Thus, he is arguing that it is immoral to supply something that is not only in demand, but is essential to the functioning of society. I disagree.

    His argument is really no different (in principle, at least) than arguing that it is immoral to own a grocery store or a restaurant, since doing so requires you to act as a tax collector for the state. By his logic, doing so would make you a voluntary participant in the state’s institutionalized theft. You would be an “armed robber”, in his words. Again, I disagree.

    People who provide products and services that are in demand are performing a vital role in the free market. If providing these things requires some cooperation with the state, that’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be provided. If the act of buying something is not immoral, then neither is the act of selling it.

  3. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 6, 2008


    Government possesses a monopoly on most of those things, the post office, government roads, etc. I, like GE, do my best not to use them–but it isnt in any way immoral to use them since they are the only options available to us. As much as possible, I send email instead of mail–etc.

    This ISNT the same as GE’s arguement. GE’s claims John Allison could have self-imposed a 100% reserve on his own banks,which he admits would have killed his own company—so GE’s assertion is basically that Allison should’ve not entered the banking industry. I differ, I think Allison has every right to enter ANY industry and compete. In order to remain competitive, he is forced to participate in fractional reserve banking—and I dont view this as immoral. I wouldnt do it, but I dont see it as immoral. I believe Walter Block and Thomas DiLorenzo would side with me.

  4. langa langa December 6, 2008

    GE, if you want to completely shun an entire industry which you admit is essential to a functioning free market society, just for the sake of some ideal level of ideological purity, then go ahead.

    But you’ll have to go even further if you want to be ideologically consistent: no driving on government roads, no walking on government sidewalks, no government mail, no dealing with any company that has lobbied for and received government subsidies, and so forth. Hell, you can’t even read this website, since it’s got freakin’ copyright protection!

    (And before you say that “those things are bad, but not as bad as banks”, that’s just a matter of degree, while your argument is based on pure principle. If it was a matter of degree, you wouldn’t be comparing Allison to Bernanke.)

    So, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Have fun living like a hermit!

  5. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 6, 2008

    Alright GE.

  6. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    Trent – There is a difference between “benefiting from government” and rent seeking.

    Is Ben Bernanke a “free market” hero? If not, why not? What if he donated a few million to your favorite cause? Would this make him “heroic?”

    Government counterfeiters are not heroic, and they’re NOT free market, no matter what.

    Libertarians should not be involved in direct theft and plunder. Yeah. There is absolutely no comparison between the banking industry and anything else. Even Halliburton is more of a “heroic” company than any Fed bank.

  7. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 6, 2008

    GE, you admitted in #34 that any bank that DIDNT counterfeit would go under. So libertarians cannot, should not, be involved in the banking industry? Hell, you dont even know what this guys motivations or actions are. Everytime he gets a chance he might be undermining the Fed!

  8. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 6, 2008

    “Since when do you NOT view the Federal Reserve System as a moral wrong?”

    I never said it wasnt. The Federal Reserve IS a moral wrong. But to claim each of its several thousand participants (some of whom are Austrians) are “statist, immoral, etc” is just plain retarded. If you’re going to condemn anyone who benefits from government, you’ll be a very angry and lonely person.

  9. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    There’s nothing wrong with dealing drugs… Something wrong with using them, in most cases, but these are victimless crimes. COUNTERFEITING IS NOT A VICTIMLESS CRIME! It is a crime of aggression. Allision is an aggressor.

  10. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    langa – Banks are essential to society. It is not true that every bank need to engage in counterfeiting. The bank could self-impose a 100% reserve requirement and refuse to borrow directly from the Fed. This bank, of course, would be forced to charge REAL interest rates which would be a lot closer to the pawnshop’s rates than the bank next door, and thus it wouldn’t survive.

    Banking — that is, lending savings and investments — is essential. Counterfeiting is not, and is DESTRUCTIVE to society. Someone who sets out to “capitalize” on the carterlization of the banking economy, by offering a predatory service that would NOT EXIST under a free market, is by definition NOT a “free market” hero.

    Allison is an armed robber who gives back some of his ill-gotten gains to good causes. That’s not heroic, and it CERTAINLY is not “free market.”

  11. langa langa December 6, 2008

    Banks are essential to the functioning of a capitalist economy. Until competing currencies are legalized (or we go back to a commodity-based currency, such as gold) all banks will be in the business of loaning “counterfeit” (i.e. fiat) money. If you’re suggesting that people should therefore shun banks, I have to disagree.

    If, on the other hand, you’re saying that it’s OK to patronize banks, but it’s not OK to own them or work for them, then you’re like those people who say that there’s nothing wrong with using illegal drugs, but there is something wrong with selling them.

    In that case, my response would be the same to you as it is to them. Drug dealers are performing a service by supplying something that’s in demand. Do I always approve of their business practices? No. But are they necessary for society to function properly? Yes. Same thing with banks.

    Finally, it’s important to remember that even if the money is somehow “tainted”, it can still be put to good use. For more on that, check out this article by Walter Block:

  12. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    And to be clear: I’m not saying anything about Allison other than the fact that he is NOT a “free market hero” — he is a Fed banker. Come on!

  13. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    Ron Paul benefits from the medical racket’s insulation from competition. But he provides a legitimate service that would exist in the free market.

    Allison is a legalized counterfeiter. The “service” of lending counterfeit money at interest would NOT exist in a free society, except as a crime. Which is what it is.

    Again, there’s NO comparison.

  14. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    Ron Paul still benefitted from artificial, government-mandated barriers to entry from his competition.

    True. This is unavoidable.

    the vast majority of small businesses in this country are started with capital obtained via bank loans.

    I’m skeptical that this is true. I’ve started several businesses, including decently well-capitalized ones, and I’ve never sought a bank loan (and not for ideological reasons, either).

    Are all these small business owners complicit in the state’s crimes? Is anyone who ever got a degree from a state university evil?

    No and no. If you can’t see the difference from deliberately setting out to be one of the counterfeiters and “working within the system,” then we can’t go any further. There’s clearly a difference. If the standard you’re suggesting I adopt is accepted, then you’re right, everyone is guilty. But if Allison is off the hook, then literally NO ONE is guilty.

    I’m all for abolishing the state immediately. But what are we supposed to do until that happens? Go back to living like cavemen?

    Absolutely not. But we can NOT be Fed bankers, for god’s sake. That’s not a lot to ask.

  15. JimDavidson JimDavidson December 6, 2008

    @24 Prodigious.

  16. langa langa December 6, 2008

    You’re shifting the argument. Ron Paul still benefitted from artificial, government-mandated barriers to entry from his competition.

    Also, the vast majority of small businesses in this country are started with capital obtained via bank loans. Are all these small business owners complicit in the state’s crimes? Is anyone who ever got a degree from a state university evil?

    I’m all for abolishing the state immediately. But what are we supposed to do until that happens? Go back to living like cavemen?

  17. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    Where does it stop, guys? Is Ben Bernanke just going with the flow? I guess Cato thinks so.

  18. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    PASSIVELY? The guy is a rent seeker. He is a counterfeiter.

    Ron Paul, by contrast, refuses to accept Medicaid and Medicare — but even a doctor who does accept them is providing a REAL service. Allison lends money created out of thin air with the special permission of the government. There is no comparison.

    Having a required license to perform a vital service vs. gaining permission to counterfeit…. NO COMPARISON!

  19. langa langa December 6, 2008

    “…with the safety of government erected barriers to entry for would-be honest competitors. Allison set out to get in on this racket.”

    Doctors have to have a government license to practice medicine. Does that make Ron Paul a crook?

  20. langa langa December 6, 2008

    If you’re going to hate everyone who’s ever so much as passively benefitted from state action, you’re going to end up hating pretty much everyone.

  21. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    Since when do you NOT view the Federal Reserve System as a moral wrong?

  22. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    Banking is essential for civilization. I’m not anti-banking. I’m anti-rent seeking, anti-counterfeiting, and anti-theft. Therefore, I’m anti-Fed, and I’m anti-BB&T.

    I don’t think less of DiLorenzo for accepting the counterfeit cash because it clearly has not tamed his views. Allison is free to send $350k my way, too.

    Austrian economists who advise the Fed are not in the business of counterfeiting and lending the counterfeit money at interest, with the safety of government erected barriers to entry for would-be honest competitors. Allison set out to get in on this racket.

    Can a military contractor be a “free market” hero? I’d say a Fed bankster is 1000 times worse. I’m shocked you don’t see this my way.

  23. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 6, 2008


    I dont view being in the banking industry as some moral wrong. There is are also several Austrian Economists who advise the Federal Reserve boards in Atlanta, Austin, Etc. Are they morally bankrupt too?

    Sorry GE, I dont buy it—and I think you should seek advice from your buddy Thomas DiLorenzo, who ACCEPTED that 350,000 in stolen/counterfieted cash from the “Fed Bankster”. Do you think less of DiLorenzo? Did he make a mistake? Are you going to berrate him? I trust DiLorenzo’s judgement well enough, and distrust your outrageous statements enough, to think that John Allison is a decent man worthy of lauding.

  24. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    I can’t believe you’re defending a Fed bankster as a “hero.” Is $2.5 million the price one needs to pay for absolution? What if Saddam Hussein donated $2.5 million to Would that make Hussein a “hero” of the free market? No, because he got that $2.5 million via theft — and so did Allison.

  25. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    Yeah, Allison might not have had a say in proactively seeking as much TARP welfare as possible.

    But the man started a “business” that is, thanks to government cartelization, able to generate profits by lending non-existent money to the public. He gave $2.5 million to defending “capitalism” after making billions in economic rent at the expense of the American people. NOT a hero.

    If he were a hero, he’d have started a hard-money lending business or any other type of business that actually provides a REAL service. He is a counterfeiter, period, and the $2.5 million he donated is COUNTERFEIT money.

  26. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 6, 2008


    Its a banking institution, what do you expect? Hell, John Allison may not have even had a choice in that—it isnt a privately owned company you know.

    Point being: The man has donated well over 2.5 million dollars to defending capitalism in academia. He’s a hero.

  27. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    My bad. It’s much larger than that.

    BB&T announced it has gained preliminary approval to sell to the government’s TARP program $3.1 billion of preferred stock. The preferred stock will yield 5% for the first five years and 9% thereafter (the standardized rate for all TARP injections). BB&T will also issue $465 million of warrants under the terms of the capital infusion. At the company’s 20-day trailing price, this would represent just under 14 million shares of common stock. BB&T applied for the upper limit of its capital eligibility.

    Some hero.

  28. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    Also, BBT is part of the criminal Fed cartel, and it’s accepting a half billion in the TARP ripoff.

  29. G.E. G.E. December 6, 2008

    That uncommon for a company’s value to be cut in half in 2.5 months? Um, yeah. It’s very uncommon. Less so in the post-bailout era, but still something that can’t be ignored.

    Nothing against the guy. I’m taking exception to the LP’s semi-dishonest and definitely incomplete portrayal of him. I mean, it’s like profiling Ken Lay as a great businessman right as Enron’s stock is plummeting (and before it was known there was something shady going on — and I’m NOT saying there’s anything shady going on with BBT).

  30. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 5, 2008

    “Just trying to put forth the other side of the story. A company’s value being cut in half followed by the CEO going out the back door.”

    Is this REALLY all that uncommon? The man built the business up from nothing and has headed its operations for decades,and now the investors are worried because he is leaving. How does this reflect badly on HIM?

  31. G.E. G.E. December 5, 2008

    The 2-5 months aren’t as important as the 44%.

    I didn’t say any of the things you accused me of saying, nor did I try to “castigate” him.

    Just trying to put forth the other side of the story. A company’s value being cut in half followed by the CEO going out the back door.

  32. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 5, 2008

    2.5 million on libertarian academic promotion is nothing to scoff at.

  33. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 5, 2008

    Oh—and this isnt the first grant he’s issued. 2 million for a similar program at the University of Texas, 350,000 to Loyola College in Maryland, 200,000 to Wheeling Jesuit College.

    Sorry GE,you lose.

  34. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 5, 2008

    More sand.

    “I did get the grant, after several months of haggling with the bureaucracy. At that point BB&T was very anxious to publicize the grant locally, and well they should be. I naïvely assumed that Loyola College would also be anxious to publicize it, since it is probably the largest single grant ever received by any business-school faculty member, and it comes from one of top-ten financial institutions in America (in terms of assets). (The genesis of the grant is that John Allison liked my book, How Capitalism Saved America, so much that he suggested to all of his senior managers that they read it. He then contacted me personally about the grant.)”

    Thomas DiLorenzo’s single largest supporter in terms of grants? John Allison.

  35. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 5, 2008

    Are you suggesting that he ISNT a great businessman? Or that he didnt build the company up from scratch?

    No, you arent–that’d be ludicrous. You’re merely suggesting that he isnt as successful over the last 2.5 months. You,as well as anyone, know that 2.5 months is very short in the stock market.

    Oh–and just to rub some sand in your wounds, here is a quote to grapple with.

    “Atheists, communists, and abortion activists are all welcomed at Loyola College, but there is one category that is not: defenders of capitalism – the system that allows the parents of Loyola College students to accumulate enough wealth to pay those hefty tuition bills every year, and which provides the means of success for the College’s non-stop fund-raising drives. Defenders of capitalism may exist on campus, but it is clear that such views are not welcomed or appreciated. I learned this recently after John Allison, the CEO and Chairman of the Board of BB&T, contacted me and offered me a $350,000 grant for a program on “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism.” The BB&T Foundation funds such programs at numerous universities, including at least one other Jesuit school that I know of, Wheeling Jesuit College.”

    John Allison, the man you’re currently trying to castigate, tried to help Thomas DiLorenzo defend capitalism—DiLorenzo, for those who dont know, is basically GE’s hero.

  36. G.E. G.E. December 2, 2008

    Trent – They’re touting him as a great businessman, and bragging up how he built the company up… Well, he’s stepping down now, but not before he presided over a 2.5-month 44% loss of shareholder value.

  37. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 2, 2008


    Why would it be? The guy is definetly a hero of the freedom movement,regardless.

  38. G.E. G.E. December 2, 2008

    BB&T has been on my watch list for stocks to short for a while now.

  39. G.E. G.E. December 2, 2008

    The Constitution allows for numerous gross incursions against freedom. If you’re all that “freedom-loving,” you’re not a constitutionalist — at least, that’s not what you are FIRST.

  40. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 1, 2008

    …what is wrong with that statement GE?

  41. Trent Hill Trent Hill December 1, 2008

    Great story.

  42. G.E. G.E. December 1, 2008

    “freedom-loving Constitutionalist”???


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