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Ayn Rand 101: A Glance at the Free Market Coursework Sponsored by BB&T

By Bruce McCall 05/07/2008: John Allison, CEO of the banking giant BB&T, calls Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," "the best defense of capitalism ever written." He says that Rand changed his life, and he's working to ensure that the deceased author isn't left out of the nation's college curricula.

Since 2005, the BB&T Charitable Foundation has given 25 colleges and universities several million dollars to start programs devoted to the study of Rand's books and economic philosophy. In January, the company announced it was donating $1 million to Marshall University in West Virginia. The money would establish a course dedicated to Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" and Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, and help create the BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism on campus.

--Clark Davis, NPR "Morning Edition"

I: Course overview: Introduction to reality in metaphysics, reason in epistemology, rational egoism in ethics.

Assignment: If professor cannot satisfactorily explain this to your liking, punch him/her in the face. If he/she appeals to reason, punch him/her again.

II: "Jail the Tax Man":

Assignment: Describe the triumph of free enterprise and laissez-faire capitalism in America's 19th-century "Golden Age" of child labor, union-busting, monopolies, debtors' prisons. Tell why Upton Sinclair was a quiche head.

-- Pretending you are the attorney general of the United States in 1885, write a 50-page attack on coal miners that blames Black Lung on their sniveling and moral slackness.

-- Show in a separate paper why Howard Roark would never contract Black Lung.

III: "Throw the Bawling Baby Off the Cliff":

Joys of viewing man as a heroic being with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, where reason alone dictates values and actions and rational self-interest and happiness of the individual always comes first. Discuss.

-- Assignment: Dramatize in a one-act play involving a dying mother and her only son's need to sell her apartment for money to finance his vacation in Cancun.

IV: "Forget It -- There's Just Food Enough For Me."

The stupidity of sacrifice.

V: "Jackbooted Gov't Goons Be Gone!"

Specify why postal service, public sanitation and environmental controls weaken the moral fabric of a nation.

-- Assignment: Write an essay depicting a social paradise where the government consists only of cops and an army.

VI: "Shut Down the Orphanage":

Explain in 5,000 words why charity sucks. Give examples.

-- Field assignment: Hand out exploding cigars to the homeless in your neighborhood.

VII: "Why Ayn Rand Would Come Back as a Cat":

Review the virtues of selfishness, willfully ignoring needs of others,

it's-about-me attitude.

Be sure to belittle craven, dependent, altruistic behavior of dogs.

VIII: "The Fountainhead"

How many pages can you read at one sitting and still stay awake?

-- Write 50 adjectives that describe Howard Roark. Include sexual prowess.

-- Write a l0,000 word novel featuring Howard Roark as not an architect

but a) South American dictator, b) Head of Homeland Security, c) Mafia don.

X: "Atlas Shrugged"

Industrialists are America's heroes. List 100 ways that industrialists

beat Mother Theresa, Madame Curie and Helen Keller in every major economic sector.

-- Compose a Nobel Prize speech for a strip-mining corporation that

caused a giant mudslide fatal to three West Virginia towns. Mention the

presidential pardon.

Bruce McCall, a humorist, is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. He is the author of "All Meat Looks Like South America: The World of Bruce McCall" and "Zany Afternoons."