John A. Allison IV

“You learned in that sandbox at some really deep level that it’s bad to be selfish,” says Mr. Allison, adding that the mother has taught a horrible lesson. “To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say it’s bad because he’s alive.”

The chairman of BB&T, a $143Bln regional bank headquartered in North Carolina is an Objectivist. An article in the New York Times, entitled “Give BB&T Liberty, but Not a Bailout“, paints a favorable picture of Mr. Allison and others. In the picture of Mr. Allison during his speech (shown on the blog and in the article), you can see the moral absolutes of Objectivism in the backdrop: productivity, self-esteem, pride, justice, integrity, honesty, reason, reality, independent thinking. Then, at the top of the list: teamwork.
I’ve seen all of the others many times in Ayn Rand’s writing. But I haven’t seen teamwork. Is teamwork Randian, or is it collectivist propaganda? What are your thoughts?

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3 thoughts on “John A. Allison IV

  1. I once read an alleged “article” by an alleged “writer” in a magazine comparing basketball to communism…how the individuals don’t matter (there is no “I” in “team” and other such idiocy), the team members must subordinate their individual ambitions and desires to those of The Team (as though “The Team” were a living, thinking entity existing in and of itself), etc.

    What a sad, destructive, and quite frankly disgusting interpretation of the concept of a “team”.

    A basketball player who refuses to employ “teamwork”…refuses to pass the ball, share scoring responsibilities, play “team defense”, etc….is cutting *his own* throat. He is also cutting his teammates’ throats, but that is secondary. A “selfish” player is working against *his own* best interests, *he* cannot win if he plays that way because his team cannot win the game if he plays that way.

    But the player isn’t being asked to sacrifice a win for himself so that the other four players and his coach can record a win on *their* records while he records a loss…the player *cannot* record a win on his own record unless the rest of his team also records a win. And if they lose, he loses…not because he was really the winner of the game but then The League (i.e. the government) had him declared a loser because he didn’t play the way they like players to play but rather because of the dictates of Reality. This is a classic example of rational self interest. The same principle is at work in the classic example of how Michael Jordan could score 63 points in a game that his team ultimately *lost*. Jordan scored 63 points and, in the end, was recorded as a loser that night just like the rest of his team.

    Red Auerbach (The Greatest Coach…of anything…Who Ever Lived) was The Master of helping basketball players understand this, that he and the rest of The Greatest Team (in any sport) Ever were *not* forcing an individual player’s career to die so that they may live. Rather they were begging that individual player to understand how tailoring his own individual contribution…willingly, indeed with great personal enthusiasm for the task…would strengthen the ability of each individual player to win an NBA Championship by negating some of his teammates’ weaknesses on the court.

    For example, Bill Russell’s physical abilities were at least as accomplished as Michael Jordan’s. Russell could have averaged 50 points per game instead of 15. But he knew that his teammates could also score, whereas they couldn’t rebound, play defense, or block shots anywhere near as well as he could.

    Some people say Russell “sacrificed” his scoring average for the good of his team. THAT’S CRAP. He *traded* his skills to his teammates, *value for value*. He chose not to score a ridiculous number of points per game in exchange for 11 championship rings to wear on only 10 fingers. *His* 10 fingers. He knew what he was doing and he did it willingly because he wanted The Ultimate Prize rather than a big number on a stat sheet. His teammates did exactly the same thing for themselves. If they hadn’t then none of them would have been able to do what they did, instead they would have traded potential value for actual mediocrity.

    That’s rational self interest in *spectacular* action. 😀 In fact I’m surprised that The Boston Celtics apparently escaped Ms. Rand’s notice, one would think that between 1960 and 1970 they would have been a perfect example for her to use to bring the concept of “rational self interest” vs. “selfishness” to The Masses. Of course no one paid much attention to the NBA in those days so maybe that example wouldn’t have been so effective.

    So, based on the idea that “teamwork” really means “capitalizing on your teammates’ strengths while they capitalize on yours”, there is nothing even remotely collectivist about teamwork…unless someone is going to come along and force you to give up your hard-earned portion of the value that resulted from your voluntary teamwork.

    Those are my thoughts. J

  2. Ayn Rand’s philosophy, which held laissez-faire capitalism as a virtue, could have largely been shaped by early experiences in Russia, when her family was driven to near-starvation by the nationalization of her father’s pharmacy by the Communists. This is understandable.

    But what if her family had just recently lost everything to some Wall Street scam? I venture that the core of her philosophy would embrace a need to regulate the darker sides of greed for the benefit of social stability.

  3. The article quotes one of Ms. Rand’s detractors as calling her “irrelevant.” Given that Ms. Rand described Objectivism as “a philosophy for living on earth,” this claim is ironic indeed. No other philosophy is as focused on dealing with the needs of real people. This is clear from the case of BB&T. Could Plato or Kant take credit for the success of a business in the way that Ms. Rand could take credit for this bank’s success?

    Objectivism, as a philosophy which upholds rationality, honesty, justice, and pride — not as duties, but as tools for success — is very relevant.

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