A Corporation Does the Right Thing …For the Right Reasons

February 9, 2006

By Tom DeWeese

Government is to be feared because it has the power to enforce its will on its citizens. It has guns. It has jails. It has money. The average citizen lacks all of these, making it difficult to fight back. The ballot box and the court of public opinion are about our only weapons. Yet, government has grown so large, so distant from the voters, that it frankly fears little from either.

So what is left for the defense of our rights and our property? A principled leader is a grand ideal. Such a leader in a position of influence who actually believes in right and wrong rarely happens. When it does, there is no more powerful force on earth.

The free market, given a chance, is a potent force; a place where consumers control policy and products with their dollars. No need for government intervention. Bad products or policies fail; good ones flourish. Yet, a principled leader in the free market has become almost unheard of in our modern world where government seems to be the answer to almost every question.

When was the last time your heard a corporate executive talk about his company’s policies from a philosophical position? When did you last hear one talk about individual rights? And when was the last time your heard of a corporation announcing that it would turn down business because a policy was “just plain wrong?” Miracles do happen.

And so it is true with a bank called BB&T. BB&T Corporation based in North Carolina, and the second largest bank in the Washington D.C. area, announced that it will not lend money to developers who plan to build commercial projects on land taken through the power of eminent domain.

The Supreme Court shocked the nation last Fall by issuing a ruling that upheld local government’s right to use eminent domain powers to evict homeowners and demolish their houses for community development. The practice, necessary to implement the ugly policy of Sustainable Development, has created an unholy alliance between local officials and wealthy, politically-connected developers. Now they are free to build projects that promise to pad the pockets of politicians and government coffers, while enriching the developers. The property owners be damned.

The decision opened the way for local officials to move at full speed on projects in communities across the nation. The National Conference of Mayors has led opposition to legislation in Congress that would halt federal dollars to fund such projects, arguing that the legislation would diminish government power to control community development.

And there is danger in just trusting government to solve the eminent domain land grabs with legislation. Many times the special interests and their shark-trained lawyers know exactly what words to remove from legislation to render it worthless. Yet the politicians take the gutted legislation and tout it as landmark property rights protection. It happens all the time. It recently happened in Alabama to legislation particularly aimed at correcting the horrible wrong of the Supreme Court decision in the Kelo case.

As property owners are brushed aside, helplessly watching their homes being bulldozed to the ground, BB&T takes a refreshingly different view of the scene. Rather than progress, the bank sees their customers being crushed under the power of an out of control government which is ignoring the voters who put them in their positions of public trust. Said BB&T CEO, John Allison, “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.” The bank felt “obligated” to take a stand by refusing to lend money to any developer who acquired his land through the use of eminent domain.

By standing for principle and doing what is right, BB& T has a chance to influence others in the banking industry to follow suit. And that is a force of power government fears most. It’s proof that the free market, when left alone, works.

Money drives everything. Cut it off and even the most powerful forces dry up and blow away. Money is the reason why property owners fear the government land grabbers. It’s the message behind the old saying, “You can’t fight city hall.” Why? Because you don’t have the money to fight it. Government can pass a law and the average American is helpless to fight back. But even government needs the money to enforce its schemes.

BB&T just started a small snowball rolling down the hill that could liberate millions from the threat of losing their homes to eminent domain. As the nation is ravaged by Sustainable Development and its eminent domain ponzi scheme, BB&T’s answer is so simple. Just don’t do it. Serve your customers. It’s the perfect free market solution. Property rights advocates everywhere need to converge on their own local banks to spread the word of the BB&T revolution. Give praise for those who follow, and picket lines for those who don’t.

Update: Montgomery Bank, which has six branches in St. Louis and five branches in Southeast Missouri, announced late last week that “it will not lend money for projects in which local governments use eminent domain to take private property for use by private developments.”

Meanwhile, patriots should pause in their embattled trenches just long enough to open their arms to welcome BB&T, and now Montgomery Bank, as the new recruits in the camp of Freedom’s Heroes.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.