Capitalism on Campus

Capitalism on campus, WCU follows profitable trend
by Nelda Holder | Mountain Xpress | 12/23/2008

A $1 million gift from the BB&T Foundation to Western Carolina University has raised basic questions about academic freedom versus funders’ ability to affect curriculum decisions.

[…] Ronald Johnson, the dean of WCU’s College of Business, actively sought the funding and says he’s fine with the philosophical implications. “Not that we want students to come out and be ardent supporters of objectivism,” he notes, “but we want students to come out and not be automatons, which is what happens in the colleges of business where there is no intellectual foundation.”


If WCU does not feel it should agree to the terms of a generous donation from a successful business enterprise that practices what it preaches, then, by all means, they can refuse the money.

As the article correctly states, this practice is “not uncommon.” So, why is it an issue now? Is this part of an ongoing series of articles on university donations?

As an Ayn Rand Objectivist myself, I am of the opinion that the students of WCU’s business school will profit handsomely from the inclusion of an explicitly pro-capitalist study of political economics.

Furthermore, I hold that capitalism is the only moral political-economic social system because it is the only one that fully recognizes, respects, and protects individual rights, and it’s about time someone began looking into the possibility of instituting just that kind of system in this country. Hopefully, within a generation.

Three cheers to BB&T!


Additionally: Mr. Greenspan is not a “free-market guru.” He rejected the free market philosophy of Ayn Rand early in his career and even took a position as Federal Reserve Chairman—a stark contradiction to the philosophy of individual rights, limited government, and free markets that is embodied in the over-arching concept of Capitalism.

** UPDATE **

4tees writes:

Ayn Rand’s theory is as bogus as the communist ideology she loathed. Both rely on human kind not trying to achieve an unfair advantage if left to their own accord, something history clearly shows is unrealistic to expect.

No system of economics or governance can or will survive long term without checks and balances, and a built in method to prevent entrenched interests from gaining undue control. Not one society in history has gotten it right yet.

It is worth including Rand’s work in any discussion of economics, as it is worth including most notable failed theories; so that we can learn from the mistakes of the past


You raise a very good point.

Capitalism does indeed rely on ethical behavior and this is what makes it the only moral social system.

People can be dishonest or manipulating regardless of the political-economic system they live under. Their villainy is not a consequence of the system. This is a universal ethical issue, not a particular political one.

Capitalism demands that people abstain from violating the rights of their neighbors and is not properly constructed without reference to an over-arching and objective rule of law (over against the rule of man) which constrains, prohibits and penalizes predation and willful disregard.

This is the definition of free markets. Any market that is not constrained by the rule of law is not free. These enforceable constraints, along with the free market forces of supply and demand, are its “checks and balances.” Beyond this, individuals are free to conduct their voluntary, peaceable economic affairs as they see fit and to their own profit.

However, under a Socialist system, or an Interventionist system, which we have in America, the violation of individual rights is endemic to the system; and that infringement is perpetrated by the very institution established to guard their preservation: The government.

4tees writes:

“By your argument communism is an equally viable theory to capitalism. Both require ethical behavior, as you describe, to function as intended. If man could be expected to act in such a manner either form of society could flourish.”


1. The ethical foundation of collectivist economies is injustice and the denial of reason and free will. The socialist state could not exist for one moment without the violation of individual rights. From the first day, Socialism alienates the individual from his right to property, his right to free trade, and his right to free association.

2. Pure Socialism is impossible. It can never calculate prices for commodities and must always rely to some degree on free market mechanisms to accomplish the simplest commercial exchanges.

3. Therefore, Socialism cannot be ethical nor can it flourish. The only political economy that is both ethical and flourishing is Laissez-faire Capitalism.

4tees writes:

“The laws required to ensure markets remain free markets would be very invasive and require a large external body (which is also subject to non-ethical behavior) to regulate and oversee said markets.”


1. The protection of individual rights is not invasive, but in fact absolutely necessary to a free society. And it is for the protection of individual rights that governments are instituted among men.

2. The only way government (or “a large external body,” as you put it) can be “subject to non-ethical behavior” is in the case where it lurches away from Capitalism and toward Socialism; which is the case that obtains in America.

Thunder Pig writes:

“Call it what it is: Meritism


Yes, but this not what it is. This definition isolates one part and uses it to refer to a complex whole. Neither is the concept of desert — that is, getting what you deserve — a phenomenon exclusive to the political or economic realms; as the author admits (par. 8).

Capitalism is more than this one characteristic.

Laissez-faire Capitalism is a complete political-economic social system of freedom that recognizes, respects and protects individual rights, is based on the private ownership of the means of production, derives its principles from the facts of reality, human nature in a social context, and the ethic of rational self-interest, and finds its expression in peaceable, voluntary exchange within a framework of justice and the rule of law.

chops writes:

“What’s wrong with this situation is that WCU does not have the freedom to choose who offers $1 million. BB&T however, has the power to be self-serving through its own exploits and our faulty capitalist policies.”


1. The freedom that WCU does have is to choose whether or not to accept funding from a potential benefactor. This is not something that is “wrong.” If WCU would prefer not to receive the funding, and thereby not agree to its conditions, they are free to do so. BB&T is under no obligation whatever to offer funding to anyone and WCU is under no obligation to accept any. That is freedom of choice.

2. There is nothing wrong with BB&T being self-serving. In fact, this is their right: to use and dispose of their capital in any legal and peaceful way they see fit. Just like you and I.

3. Any profit that BB&T acquires is done so entirely appropriately by offering valuable products and services that customers voluntarily want to purchase and use. Profit-making is a perfectly moral human activity. And all this is in spite of being heavily regulated under an Interventionist political economy, not a Capitalist one.

chops writes:

Without profit, perhaps one’s motivation to raise our standards and incentive for innovation and production would be simply for the betterment of the greater community. Love for “thy neighbor” is a very strong force: in a highly evolved society, it motivates people to volunteer and become activists, benefactors and philanthropists.


In anticipation of the next issue of the Mountain Xpress, I would like to thank everyone for an engaging discussion on this story and bid this one adieu with these final thoughts:

1. Socialism is both immoral and unsustainable.

2. Capitalism does not exist in this country, and never has.

3. Our current economic crisis is a failure of Interventionism, not Capitalism.

4. Congratulations to WCU for their wisdom in accepting the very generous donation from BB&T. Congratulations to BB&T for making it a condition of their generosity that WCU add Ayn Rand’s remarkable novel “Atlas Shrugged” to their required reading list.

5. Who has done more to increase the general prosperity and happiness of the poor? Mother Teresa (self-sacrificial ‘love’) or Bill Gates (self-interest and profit).

[signing off]



Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

The Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism
The mission of The Clemson Institute for the Study of Capitalism (CISC) is to examine and increase public awareness of the moral foundations of capitalism.

What Is Capitalism?
By Ayn Rand

BB&T Spreading Capitalism On Campus Through Ayn Rand
Marc Gallagher | LibertyMaven | December 24th, 2008
I knew there was a reason I banked with BB&T.

Lecture: Unregulated Laissez-Faire Capitalism
Dr. Yaron Brook | Ayn Rand Institute | April 14, 2008
Delivered at the University of California, Irvine. Q&A

Who controls what’s taught?
By Julia Merchant |Smoky Mountain News | 1/7/2009
Western Carolina University’s College of Business recently secured a $1 million donation from BB&T — but not before discerning faculty fought to loosen the strings that came with the donation.

Bubble Boy: Alan Greenspan’s Rejection of Reason and Morality
Gus Van Horn | Objective Standard | Winter 2008
“[The] idea that Greenspan possessed ‘free-market convictions’ and that those convictions are why he failed to rein in unsound lending practices is ridiculous. The very purpose of the Federal Reserve—the central bank at the heart of our troubled, government-controlled economy and the money machine that Greenspan operated for almost twenty years—is to manipulate the market. Such a ‘bank’ would not even exist in a free market, and its precise function in our mixed economy is to engage in unsound lending practices as a means of such manipulation.”

Letters to the Editor
Smoky Mountain News | January 14, 2008


About Tim Peck

Unaffiliated Objectivist
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