Friday, November 07, 2008

In Defense of John Allison’s Moral Character

I respectfully disagree with Nick Provenzo’s post alleging that Mr. John Allison is guilty of giving the “sanction of the victim.” Other readers of this webblog have expressed their agreement with Nick’s post. For example, in the comments section, Ed Cline refers to John Allison’s recent press release as a “defection”. There are also several anonymous posts that are far more incendiary but are not worth deigning to address. The rest of this post is a presentation of my assessment and is not an attack on anyone else's view.*

Rest assured that I found the BB&T press release [1] to be a grave concern. The particular statement that expresses open support for the U.S. Treasury’s efforts to achieve financial stabilization is the most unsettling part. At first glance, this certainly seems unnecessary and unjust. However, Burgess Laughlin raises the valid point that it is unclear to what extent Mr. Allison, as CEO, has control over this statement compared to, say, the Board of Directors. We also presently have no idea of Mr. Allison’s motivation for releasing this statement. The fact is, there is presently an enormous amount of uncertainty surrounding this press release.

Nevertheless, if any of us who value Objectivism is to judge Mr. Allison properly, then we must consider the entire context of his actions and his public statements. First, consider Mr. Allison’s many ostensible commitments to spreading Objectivism. He:

  • Gives speeches promoting Objectivist principles in business. [2]
  • Oversaw that BB&T would not lend money to any commercial developers that acquired property from private citizens through eminent domain. [3]
  • Responsible for financing the start and expansion of the Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism, where Objectivist intellectuals Dr. C. Bradley Thompson and Dr. Eric Daniels hold research positions. [4]
  • Is probably one of the biggest financial supporters of both the Ayn Rand Institute and the Anthem Foundation.
  • Created numerous BB&T programs to get Atlas Shrugged in particular and Objectivism in general taught in universities. For example, see [5, 6].
  • Probably converted hundreds of productive businessmen into Objectivists.
  • Serves as a shining example of what an individual can accomplish who lives his life and conducts his business according to Objectivism [7].
  • Stuck his neck out to e-mail all of Congress with a resounding critique of the recent bailout proposal at the end of September [8] and blamed the government for the crisis two weeks ago [9].

In my opinion, John Allison has probably done more to effectively spread Objectivism than just about anybody sans a handful for ARI intellectuals and employees. This strongly suggests that Mr. Allison is not an individual who concedes the sanction of the victim at the slightest increase of pressure.

Second, before making our judgment, we should recognize that even Dr. Yaron Brook expresses the necessity for the short-term economic stabilization of the housing market, the banking industry and the stock market [10]. Of course, this does not say that supporting the Treasury’s efforts for financial stabilization is justified, especially since Dr. Brook goes on to suggest free market solutions to achieve this stabilization. Nevertheless, Dr. Brook’s opinion still suggests that it is not unreasonable to support some effort for stabilization.

Lastly, I wanted to address the broader issue of life and philosophy. Being an Objectivist does not mean that you refuse to file your income taxes because not doing so will result in your incarceration. Nor does being an Objectivist mandate that you actively and publicly denounce Islamic Totalitarians, as it could force you and your family to go into hiding for fear of your life. Being an Objectivist also does not require that you risk your life by defiantly standing in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square. Simply put, it is a contradiction in terms to demand that an Objectivist choose between his life and an allegedly higher philosophic cause.

Again, this is not to say that the infamous press release is worded well or is morally justifiable. However, we must not forget that it is only moral for John Allison to take a defiant stance if it will make his own life better. It is not moral for him to martyr himself to ignite an Objectivist cultural revolt that he may not be able to enjoy.

In summary, I do not think it is fair to debate John Allison’s commitment to Objectivism. His actions prior to this press release show he has lived his life and conducted his business according to Objectivist principles. Furthermore, there is presently an enormous amount of uncertainty underlying both the motivation for releasing the press release as well as the amount of creative control Mr. Allison had over its content.

In Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Dr. Leonard Peikoff writes:


The "sanction of the victim" means the moral man's approval of his own martyrdom, his agreement to accept--in return for his achievements--curses, robbery, and enslavement. It means a man's willingness to embrace his exploiters, to pay them ransom for his virtues, to condone and help perpetuate the ethical code which feeds off those virtues...

The emphasis in the above excerpt is mine. I do not perceive that we have enough information to validly conclude that Mr. Allison has willingly sanctioned the regulators, as there is very good reason to believe he was coerced into releasing the statement in question. We should take the full scope of his life as well as this great uncertainty into account when judging Mr. Allison. Anyone who values Objectivism owes him this much.**

*Added with an edit on 11/08/08

** This last section was edited and expanded on 11/08/08

[1] http://bbt.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=717

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDAn51D_YxY

[3] http://www.bbt.com/about/media/newsreleasedetail.asp?date=1/25/06+9:48:52+AM

[4] http://www.clemson.edu/newsroom/articles/2008/october/BBTgift.php5

[5] http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=as6BR0QV4KE8&refer=us

[6] http://www.utexas.edu/news/2008/03/20/lib_arts_ayn_rand/

[7] http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2007/05/allison_on_stra.html

[8] http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=5293

[9] http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/stories/2008/10/13/daily50.html

[10] Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein on "Real Orange" (KOCE) October 19, 2008, around 2:30 into the video clip. The video can be viewed here: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_financial_crisis

34 comments:

Nicholas Provenzo said...

Needless to say I respectfully disagree with my colleague's interpretation of my view or his view that Mr. Allison's statement in the BB&T press release praising the US Treasury's de facto nationalization of the banking is somehow justified.

Firstly, I did not attack Mr. Allison's character, which after years of support for the spread of Objectivism largely speaks for itself. At the same time, I do not turn a blind eye to where I deeply disagree with Mr. Allison. I do not in any way support the Treasury's efforts to "stabilize the credit markets and restore confidence in the financial system;" I think these efforts are a benighted failure and will only serve to prolong the current financial crisis. Furthermore, the Treasury's efforts come with a host of conditions and caveats that should make any just person shudder at their implication. They are, in my view, a wholesale attack upon freedom in the marketplace.

If Mr. Allison chooses to support these efforts (and even if he has no effective choice), I am under no obligation to follow suit. On the contrary, as an advocate for capitalism, I think that it is incumbent upon me to be outspoken in my opposition. Furthermore, even if Yaron Brook "expresses the necessity for the short-term economic stabilization of the housing market, the banking industry and the stock market" as Doug states, I am under no obligation to agree with him. With all due respect, Mr. Brook is not my moral or economic proxy.

At root, I support a strategy that removes controls and government interference from the economy as the best method to solve the current crisis and I respectfully disagree with those who think otherwise. Nobody's need is a mortgage upon the life of another and I mean absolutely nobody.

Lastly, I think we can disagree, even on fundamentals, and still debate this issue rationally. I have no problem with Doug's (or anyone else's) disagreement with me on this issue and I expect a lively debate. But if you think issues like this should not even be discussed, you are in the wrong neighborhood.

Skip said...

I think it's still safe to go outside mainly because I'm yet to find a youtube music video based on The Fountainhead and We The Living movies set to 'End of the world as we know it.' When Objectivism gets its own video on the Onion News Network though, I'm taking one hell of a vacation.

Anonymous said...

I read Mr. Provenzo's post and now this. Whatever John Allison's Objectivist credentials, his praise for the government takeover of the financial industry is undeserved. And I since others have drawn the parallel to having a gun put to one's head, I can only say that when I had a gun put to my head by a mugger, my words were closer to "f^&* you" than "thank you."

Anonymous said...

I have a question for Doug: Does he think John Allison's press release statement was an example of the Objectivist politics in action and if so, where does he find its foundation in Ayn Rand's writing?

Anonymous said...

>I have a question for Doug: Does he think John Allison's press release statement was an example of the Objectivist politics in action[?]

I think Doug answered that by saying that John Allison has done more to effectively spread Objectivism than just about *anybody* (emphasis mine) and thus is above criticism and that Yaron Brook agrees with him anyways.

PS: Who are the "hundreds of businessmen" probably converted to Objectivism by John Allison, as in, what are some of their names and where do they work?

Anonymous said...

Doug wrote:

>However, we must not forget that it is only moral for John Allison to take a defiant stance if it will make his own life better. It is not moral for him to martyr himself to ignite an Objectivist cultural revolt that he may not be able to enjoy.

Oh, really? It's OK for Allison to sanction the federal takeover of banking? If that is so, just what is the sanction of the victim then? Was Ayn Rand simply talking nonsense?

Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Provenzo has missed the point of Doug's post. He is not saying that we should blindly agree with everything John Allison does and says just because he has advocated Objectivism for so long.

Instead, I think what Doug is saying is that when we judge John Allison, we should evaluate him by looking at everything he has done, not just this one press release that he may or may not have any control over.

Moreso, accusing Mr. Allison of "sanctioning the victim" is ceratinly an attack on his character. Think of what kind of individual sanctions his own victimization. What is that person's character?

To say that accusing someone of this is not insinuating something about their character is absurd. An Objectivist does not favorably look upon an individual who sanctions his own victimization. Why not? Because this says something about that individual's character, about what he values, his moral confidence, etc. By incorrectly labeleing John Allison of "sanctioning the victim," Mr. Provenzo, whether he recognizes it or not, has judged John Allison's character.

Anonymous said...

"Simply put, it is a contradiction in terms to demand that an Objectivist choose between his life and an allegedly higher philosophic cause... we must not forget that it is only moral for John Allison to take a defiant stance if it will make his own life better."

I disagree with the above. A true hero values his life so highly that he would rather die than have his life turned against itself for the furtherance of evil. Just ask Patrick Henry.

Anonymous said...

"I disagree with the above. A true hero values his life so highly that he would rather die than have his life turned against itself for the furtherance of evil. Just ask Patrick Henry."

This is a perfect example of missing the most important point of Objectivist morality. You are explictly calling for an individual to choose his philosophy over his life.

Anonymous said...

"This is a perfect example of missing the most important point of Objectivist morality. You are explictly calling for an individual to choose his philosophy over his life."

Nonsense: they are supposed to be integrated. You can't have either without the other.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Allison's core interest lies with the shareholders. If Mr. Allison would be the only one effected by his public statement, he would have said the opposite of the statement in the press release. His core responsibility lies with his shareholders and if the government requested (i.e. forcefully suggested) that he make such a statement, he should.

Bruce Lee said...

>Instead, I think what Doug is saying is that when we judge John Allison, we should evaluate him by looking at everything he has done, not just this one press release that he may or may not have any control over.

I've read Mr. Provenzo's initial post and I fail to see where he misses the larger context in play. Specifically, Mr. Provenzo wrote:

Mr. Allison may have had no choice when it came to accepting government control over his bank. He may have had his reasons as we all do when faced with a mixed economy. Nevertheless, Mr. Allison was under no obligation to publicly praise the government for its latest encroachment.

There is a concept in Objectivism that describes such conduct. It is called the sanction of the victim. With all due respect to Mr. Allison for his support for Objectivism, he just did so via press release.
[emphasis mine]

So Mr. Provenzo acknowledges that Mr. Allison probably had no choice to accept the government takeover, that Mr. Allison supports Objectivism . . . and that the quote attributed to him in his company's press release sanctions Mr. Allison's own victimhood.

If there is a contradiction here, it seems to rest solely with Mr. Allison and not with Mr. Provenzo as Doug claims. Mr. Allison could have elected to be mute, but to re-use a fitting metaphor, he put the lipstick on the pig, not Mr. Provenzo. Nevertheless, Doug has attacked Mr. Provenzo (and Ed Cline as well) accusing them of "[un]fair[ly] debating John Allison’s commitment to Objectivism.

Perhaps Doug needs to check his premises.

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Allison's core interest lies with the shareholders. If Mr. Allison would be the only one effected by his public statement, he would have said the opposite of the statement in the press release. His core responsibility lies with his shareholders and if the government requested (i.e. forcefully suggested) that he make such a statement, he should."

I respectfully disagree. The implication behind your argument is that there is a dichotomy between what Mr. Allison should do to further his personal life and what he should do to further his business. What is good for Mr. Allison is good for the shareholders, and vice versa. For example, the shareholders would not benefit if Mr. Allison felt morally defeated by cooperating with the Treasury. Mr. Allison is an indispensible asset to the success of BB&T. Without his confident leadership, everyone would suffer.

Therefore, I do not think Mr. Allison made the decision he did (if he even had a choice about it) based on the fact that cooperating with the Treasury would be beneficial to his shareholders and ultimately to his business, but harmful to his own life. What furthers his business necessarily also furthers his life because his business is of great value to him.

Dan G. said...

Doug, I disagree with several points you have raised, but I do think you have raised another valid one.

First is in regards to Burgess Laughlin's point. While I understand that as CEO he is beholden to his shareholders, he always has control over his actions. Which is why I don't believe the point that the CEO has no control over his actions point is valid.

2) I also don't think his motivations for making the statement change the fact that the act was him sanctioning the actions and means behind the bailout.

That said, I believe you do have a valid point (if I understand the basis of your post). While I stated that he always has control of his actions, he doesn't always control their consequences. We don't know if Mr. Allison is a rotter because we don't know the extent of coercion, or the consequences, he personally faced.

I think that this disagreement is reconciled by the following 1) judge the action as dispicable, nothing mitigates this in my opinion and 2) wait for additional evidence to pass final judgment on the man as the evidence of his past actions would afford him the benefit of the doubt.

Dan G. said...

er.. that's "...has no control is NOT valid".

mtnrunner2 said...

I'm going to wait and see what information surfaces later and what Allison himself has to say. Until then, that's it for me.

Anonymous said...

Doug says that he disagrees with Nicholas Provenzo’s post alleging that John Allison is guilty of giving the “sanction of the victim.” Doug's only argument boils down to his opinion that Allison is not guilty of giving such sanction because of all of Allison's many contributions to the advance of Objectivism. That doesn't change the fact that Allison's press release is obnoxious and offensive to any legitimate understanding of what a proper "bailout" would look like, i.e. the elimination of government controls and a return to laissez faire.

Furthermore, Doug turns a complete blind eye to Allison's support of libertarians in academia. I didn't know it until I read the comments in the other thread, but BB&T has given $2 million dollars to a libertarian scholar who thinks we should get over the New Deal. Are you kidding me?

Frankly, I am disgusted. No, I don't understand what is driving John Allison's thinking, but on the face of it, it's not anything I support. Bravo to CAC for saying as much (and tolerating one of its own bloggers attacking it for saying so).

Anonymous said...

Quoting from the press release:

"We support the Treasury's efforts to stabilize the credit markets and restore confidence in the financial system," said BB&T Chairman and CEO John A. Allison. "Fortunately, our own strong capital position has allowed us to meet the lending needs of our clients, even during this economic downturn. For us, the additional capital will not only extend and strengthen our lending capacity, but provide other strategic options as well."

Given that the government is counterfeiting paper at will, and the dollar is legal tender the only other choice would be for Allison accept the govt. donation or to shut down the bank.

To refuse acceptance of govt. paper (at this point) and remain open would mean BB&T's assets would in *real* as opposed to *nominal* terms lose value.

As long as the U.S. dollar is legal tender BB&T must accept the "additional capital" or "shrug" (shut down).

The value of the dollar will drop in half in the next few years -- so it only makes sense to accept all the *nominal* interest free paper possible -- because that is the *statist* banking environment that exists.

Other banks are accepting the money, if BB&T does not *now* do so, it means that it is passing *real* value* over to the banks that do.

Under pure capitalism, it would make no sense for BB&T to accept the government funding -- but America is not a capitalist economy; it is a mixed economy. So based on this fact, the govt's efforts in the short terms are the right thing for BB&T and it's shareholders.

The only way that BB&T should refuse the "additional capital" is if they were under free banking and some kind of gold standard (laissez-faire capitalism). But, given the present environment only a "fool" -- or a John Galt -- would "refuse" the additional capital. Allison is neither.

The choice is free banking (in which case one should refuse the additional capital; but, it is not the present environment) or trying to survive under the present system. Allison -- given his position as temporary CEO, and not owner, has correctly chosen the position of looking out for his shareholders.

Having said all this, I do not like Allison's statement "We support the Treasury's efforts to stabilize the credit markets and restore confidence in the financial system," which I think contradicts his piece published in capmag. But, this should be taken in context.

Lastly, thank Provenzo for providing a vehicle for discussion which is greatly lacking on other sites (like capmag.com which shut down its' forum for no reason).

Anonymous said...

The Press Release quotes John Allison as saying:

"We support the Treasury's efforts to stabilize the credit markets and restore confidence in the financial system," said BB&T Chairman and CEO John A. Allison. "Fortunately, our own strong capital position has allowed us to meet the lending needs of our clients, even during this economic downturn. For us, the additional capital will not only extend and strengthen our lending capacity, but provide other strategic options as well" [Emphasis added].

I read that as Allison saying that the 'take our money or your life' ultimatum (that "We" support) will allow BB&T to buy struggling banks, (that being the only "strategic" option that I can think of).

No wonder BB&T supports the bailout.

Poor Eliot said...

The question that isn't being discussed here is: Should the Treasury be intervening to stop a widespread financial panic?

The answer is clearly yes. The Treasury should understand that government caused this problem in the first place, and it should intervene with the explicit goal of fixing their mess, and freeing markets in the future. Unfortunately, we aren't getting that today with Paulson.

To say that the government should stop its meddling in markets instantly, in a second/minute/hour/day, without some sort of transition period is insane. There are many intelligent people who made rational decisions based on the false premises provided by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve (imagine if FDIC insurance is withdrawn...wouldn't you want to take a closer look at your bank's balance sheet?). The unwinding of government involvement in the economy and the central banking system would be enormously complex, and it should proceed under measured steps and with caution. The attitude "get the hell out immediately" is neither reasonable nor rational.

It is, however, not contradictory to say that the economy should be freed from the restrictive shackles of government, while also advocating for a temporary government provided fix. Remember that because of government policy, there is no J.P. Morgan today (as there was to rescue the system privately in 1907).

Anonymous said...

So Doug, you're saying it's ok to give millions of dollars to libertarians, as long as you don't vote for one?

Ok, just wanted to get that straight.

Burgess Laughlin said...

> "The unwinding of government involvement in the economy and the central banking system would be enormously complex, and it should proceed under measured steps and with caution. The attitude "get the hell out immediately" is neither reasonable nor rational."

Let's take the same approach to slave labor in, say, 1860: The unwinding of governmental protection of the slave system would be enormously complex--think how many slave masters and their large families depend on this system!--and the unwinding should proceed under measured steps and with caution.

Should there be a plan for decontrol? Of course. But a quick, rough one is enough.

Liberty can never come too soon. I never worry about freedom happening too fast. Chaos for awhile? Sure. So what? Liberty must be the precondition of solving problems--not the final payment in a long bureaucratic plan.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

Poor Elliot wrote:

>To say that the government should stop its meddling in markets instantly, in a second/minute/hour/day, without some sort of transition period is insane.

Just who is advocating this?

I agree with Burgess Laughlin that the transition to capitalism should be swift and sure. Take Social Security as an example. The system is predicated upon the principle that a person has a right to receive more money than they save for their retirement. Whose fault is it that a person foolishly relies upon such a system? Who should bear the costs of the transition to freedom? I say that the looters should bear the costs, not the looted.

That's not to say that one can't engineer a transition plan that lessons the costs of the transition. For example, with Social Security, one could convert the money people have paid into the system into government bonds that earn interest and can be bought, sold and traded. That way, a person on the verge of retirement doesn't lose what they were forced to pay into the system and the Social Security system is treated just like what it should be: yet another addition to the public debt (and a program that has finally been put to rest).

Contrast that with a person saying "We support the government's efforts to stabilize Social Security." With all due respect, that doesn't get you closer to laissez-faire.

Ted Diesel said...

Thank you, Doug, for supplying additional context and points to consider. For one thing, it is good to have more specifics about Mr. Allison's accomplishments at hand, since the extent of his positive involvement with intellectual activism is not clear from Mr. Provenzo's original post.

Poor Eliot said...

I don't really follow the slavery point. Of course slavery had to be unwound with measured steps and with caution, otherwise we would have risked starting a Civil War.

The state cannot withdraw false premises that people have rationally acted on without regard for any subsequent chaos.

Nick hit the point on the head with the phrase "lessening the cost of the transition." That should be government's role here. Make sure a transition to a free economy is smooth and causes as little damage as possible. Shutting down the Federal Reserve on Monday and declaring that all fiat dollars in worldwide circulation are worthless is not a laudable goal.

Anonymous said...

This entire thread is the sort of tedious nonsense that give Objectivism a bad name. No, I take that back - an object of ridicule -when it's considered at all.
Who appointed you all Jacobins?
Why not just take the responsibility of contacting John Allison, asking him how he squares his pronouncements on behalf of BB&T with his (obvious) Objectivist proclivities, and respond to that?
No, the easier route is to engage in pseudo-dispassionate analysis which is worse than the the most arcane inter-departmental disputes among postmodern faculty.
Do your homework, or declare your selves impotent.
Of course I'm Anonymous!! Play the ball, not the man!

Doug said...

First of all, if there is any doubt, my disagreement with Nick is respectful. Any accusation that I have attacked Nick or that I have insinuated that Nick is contradicting himself is misguided.

Dan G. wrote

"While I understand that as CEO he is beholden to his shareholders, he always has control over his actions."

I respectfully disagree with this. When BB&T releases a press release that quotes their CEO, the CEO is speaking on behalf of the company, including all of its rights holders. I imagine that the extent that the CEO can speak a view (or withhold an endorsement) that is not representative of the company is highly contingent on the CEO's contract. Thus, I am saying that I do not know to what extent John Allison had the freedom to say otherwise in this particular case. I have reasonable doubt.

Moreover, Dan G. wrote:

"I also don't think his motivations for making the statement change the fact that the act was him sanctioning the actions and means behind the bailout."

I think I agree with the spirit of what you are saying but I would not call this a sanction. We can both agree that the press release clearly demonstrates compliance, which in and of itself, is not a good thing. However, I do not consider this a sanction if BB&T was coerced into releasing it. (Again, although I am not certain, I see good reason to believe that coercion was used here.) This is analogous to how the words person A utters are meaningless if A is merely complying with the maniac who is pointing a gun at A's head.

Otherwise, thanks for your reply Dan. You always have something insightful to add.

Doug said...

An anonymous poster wrote:

"I didn't know [that John Allison financially supports libertarians in academia] until I read the comments in the other thread, but BB&T has given $2 million dollars to a libertarian scholar who thinks we should get over the New Deal. Are you kidding me?"

I think this post invites a lot of confusion. First, I assume that the scholar you are referring to is Tyler Cowen, who wrote this [1].

My understanding is that John Allison has been funding institutions who are willing to *include* Atlas Shrugged as *part* of a curriculum for a general moral defense of capitalism. This means that the funding will go to general free market types who may hold other views that are contrary to Objectivism. However, so long as these individuals will present Atlas Shrugged honestly, this will fulfill the goals of his program.

The standard of judging these benefactions should be, will the receiving programs properly present the content of Atlas Shrugged to its college students? I believe many professors can do this to a decent degree, even if the professors themselves have irreconcilable disagreements with Objectivism.

Of course, if you actually have specific evidence that John Allison has funded researchers to produce ideas that are hostile to Objectivism or that he has mistakenly funded someone who will not present Atlas Shrugged honestly, then please share it. But even in this case, we should honestly consider all aspects of John Allison's activities before concluding whether this would be a mere oversight or a negative commentary on his judgment in general.

[1] http://www.cato-unbound.org/2007/03/11/tyler-cowen/the-paradox-of-libertarianism/

Doug said...

Thank you for your comment Ted. The main intention of my post was to provide this context for those who were not familiar with John Allison's many, many achievements.

Jim May said...

It can happen that pre-existing agreements can prevent one from withdrawing sanction. I found myself in such a situation where I worked on a enviro-cultish TV special (as a visual FX artist). Had I seen it coming, I would have refused to work on it -- but this time, the gig was an unseen part of a promise I had already made. I therefore followed my commitment and worked on the show, rather than renege on an agreement and damaging my career.

I do what I can to be vigilant about such matters, but it often happens that I am committed to work for company A before I, or even company A, knows what client B is bringing to the table. This is a risk in my line of work. (As far as quitting it is concerned, I am working towards that goal, as morally questionable work in my business is an increasing problem, alas).

The point is: I'll wait until John is free to speak before I reach any conclusions. He may yet find a way to "reveal the gun".

Anonymous said...

One facet of BB&T’s enlistment in the Treasury bailout matter that I think has been overlooked, is what role did BB&T’s Board of Directors play in composing the press release, and to what extent were its members gung-ho to participate in the bailout? Did the Board insist that John Allison personally endorse this participation – “We support the Treasury etc.” – to lend moral credibility to the idea? What pressures did the Board members come under from the Treasury? We may or may not get answers to these questions.

Moreover, whether or not John Allison or the Board thought that “voluntary” participation was the better part of wisdom – after all, the bank, Allison, and the Board were faced with a government department with the power to punish or destroy – why would the Board and Allison submit to the Treasury’s plan when surely they must all realize what will happen to BB&T when another bank is tottering and BB&T will be expected to do it share in saving it? And if the Board and Allison felt obligated to protect the interests of the bank’s shareholders, how could those interests be safeguarded in these circumstances. If BB&T weakens its strong position by submitting to a forced blood transfusion to another bank, would not the shareholders see their dividends reduced, deferred to the next quarter or next year, and ultimately dissolve or vanish altogether for the sake of “spreading the solvency”?

Ed Cline

Dinesh Pillay said...

At present we cannot know 'why' John Allison made such a statement but that does not mean we cannot judge the statement for what it is and denounce it as an anti-thesis of what one would expect from a vocal advocate of Objectivism & Capitalism. Knowledge truly is contextual and we have to as proponents of Objectivism state for the record that Mr. Allison's press release is contrary to Objectivist principles.

Yes, Mr. Allison has in the past displayed his support of Objectivism and for that I'm grateful but that does not absolve him of the necessity to remain consistent in his following of the same. It does not say much for Objectivism if we have to build escape clauses for people in tight situations.

Anonymous said...

If I said something so contrary to Objectivism--especially if I was forced to say it--I would expect and welcome criticism from Objectivists. Personally, I would go further, and publicly distance my statements (and if necessary, myself) from the movement. The last thing I would want would be for Objectivists to defend my bogus statements just because of how awesome I am. And believe me, I am awesome.

I think if someone says something jacked up, they should be called out for it, no matter how much money they donate to people doug likes.

Doug said...

An anonymous poster wrote:

"If I said something so contrary to Objectivism ... the last thing I would want would be for Objectivists to defend my bogus statements just because of how awesome I am. ... I think if someone says something jacked up, they should be called out for it, no matter how much money they donate to people doug likes."

It is difficult for me to tell if this poster failed to carefully read my post, is deliberately being dishonest or is just simple-minded.

Look, we all agree that the press release is alarming. However, to paraphrase Diana Hsieh, the banking industry has a gun pointed at it now. We have too little information to question John Allison's character, especially when his past actions overwhelmingly indicate that he would not release such a statement voluntarily.