The Passion of Ayn Rand

This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, November 30, 2016:  

passed away in 1982 at age 77 when Donald Trump was just 36. But the astounding success of her masterwork, Atlas Shrugged, led to an interview at the Trump Tower on Monday in the form of one of her most avid fans: John Allison.

Allison, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina in 1971, read a copy of it as a young man and it changed his life. There’s an outside possibility that it might change the life of millions of others.

Following graduation he went to work for BB&T Corporation, a small rural bank in North Carolina. By 1989 Allison was the bank’s CEO. By 2010 he had grown the bank from $4.5 billion in assets to $222 billion. How much of his success can be attributed to the free market principles spelled out in Atlas Shrugged is impossible to determine. What is known is that, as president, Allison gave each of his senior staff a copy of the book with instructions to read it. He also urged new employees to read it as well, with the clear implication that it would make their upward path easier for them in his bank.

Atlas Shrugged, as most readers know, is a dystopian novel of America, written by Rand and published in 1957, which tells the story of wealthy industrialists, finally tired of bearing the increasing burden of government rules, mandates, and regulations, to “shrug” and bail out. They became John Galt.

Allison calls Atlas Shrugged “the best defense of capitalism ever written.”

He appears to be almost a perfect match for Trump. He opposed the Supreme Court’s decision in the controversial eminent domain case Kelo v. New London, explaining that “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. One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what [he] owns.” And then, in a quote that made him famous, or infamous, depending on the audience, Allison said:

As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won’t help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership.

In other words his bank wouldn’t help finance any entity seeking to build a project on land seized by eminent domain.

Allison, first hand, has experienced the burdens of Dodd-Frank and especially the unaccountable Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and has publicly called for its repeal.

Best of all, Allison embodies Trump’s disgust with the Federal Reserve. Back in February, Trump tweeted, “It is so important to audit the Federal Reserve.” When Roger Stone, one of Trump’s counselors and campaign strategists, was quizzed about Trump’s view of the Fed, he said “He’s not a big fan of the Fed. He is scaring the central bankers; he is scaring the Washington/Wall Street/D.C. consultant/lobbyist class. He’s deeply suspicious of the Fed and I think he is open-minded about the Fed. I’d suspect [that if Trump wins in November] you’d get an audit of the Fed.”

And that would ultimately lead to the end of the Fed, as Ron Paul has repeatedly point out. Once it has been fully disclosed, public pressure would bring that unhappy chapter in American financial history to an end.

Allison has railed against the Fed for years. In an interview in 2015 with Dan Indiviglio on the Atlantic Business Channel last year, he said:

We wouldn’t have had a bubble in the if the Fed hadn’t printed too much money. It ended up in the housing market because of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, those two giant government-sponsored enterprises.


So it wasn’t really the regulatory structure that created the problems, it was government policy from the Fed and [then] through Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

In 2012 Allison told reporters at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that if he were in charge, he would end the Fed, adding:

I believe that as long as the Fed exists, Congress can print money. And it doesn’t matter if they are Democrats or Republicans, they would rather print money than tax people. They want to spend because that buys votes, [but] they don’t want to tax people because that loses votes.

Whether the meeting with ’s fan John Allison on Monday (remarkably underreported in the national media) leads to an offer to become secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury remains to be seen. Perhaps it was after all just another viewpoint that Trump wanted to hear before making his final decision.

But this is a mind-bending concept: What would the world look like with a true free market Randian running the Treasury Department? As little as four weeks ago such a concept would be impossible to imagine. Today?


Business Insider: Trump is meeting with an ex-bank CEO who wants to abolish the Federal Reserve and return to the gold standard

Charlotte Observer: Could Donald Trump select former BB&T chief executive as Treasury Secretary?

Reason: Eminent Domain Critic, Ayn Rand Superfan, Former Cato CEO John Allison Could Run Trump’s Treasury

Bloomberg: Ex-BB&T CEO Allison Said to Be in Running for Treasury Chief

Background on John Allison

The Wall Street Journal: The Banking Non-Apprentice

The Wall Street Journal: An Ayn Rand-Loving Banker Huddles With Donald Trump

: To Really “Make America Great Again,” End the Fed! Trump calls for Auditing the Fed

Background on Ayn Rand

Background on The Fountainhead

Background on Atlas Shrugged More than 7 million copies of Atlas Shrugged sold

Background of BB&T

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