About the BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism

The BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism (Center) was founded in the spring of 2008 as part of a grant from the BB&T Charitable Foundation.  The Center will be part of the College of Business and will be under the direction of Dr. Calvin Kent.  The Center will introduce students to the fundamentals of a capitalist market economy.

The grant from BB&T, making the Center possible, envisions the following activities:

  • A course on the foundations of market capitalism
  • A lecture series
  • A book distribution program
  • Support of entrepreneurship programs
  • Public policy research


The BB&T Center for the Advancement of American Capitalism (Center) will introduce students to the fundamentals of a capitalist market economy including:

  • How it provides for a unique set of incentives for economic prosperity
  • How it automatically ensures the maximum level of individual autonomy and achievement
  • How it is an integral and necessary component for political freedom

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The Center will also publicize and advance this mission by:

  • Conducting at least one upper level course each semester that focuses on the principles set forth in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and other writers who have championed and critiqued the workings of a capitalist market economy.
  • Advancing student and general public awareness about the role and importance of the capitalist market economy through a series of public lectures, workshops and symposia.
  • Researching public policy to provide useful and necessary information on how legislative action either supports or undermines the workings of the capitalist market economy.

Encouraging the formation of new entrepreneurial business particularly those which are being generated by faculty, staff and students at Marshall University

Exposure to Market Capitalism Fundamentals

Every student, particularly those in colleges of businesses, should have a solid grounding in the workings of capitalism and free market forces. They should recognize that the success of the economy is not an accident but is the direct result of the operation of a market capitalist economy. They should bear witness to the reasons for the spread of this economic system throughout the world and the reasons for the demise of competing systems.

A compelling and continuing rationale for the study of market capitalism was given by Ayn Rand herself,

“The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as trader, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit . . . the government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders.”

In the same vein during the last three quarters of the century, others have applied this philosophy. The works of Hayek, Von Mises, Schumpeter, Friedman, Sowell, DiLorenzo, Gilder and Novak are among those, which have kept alive the ideal of the market economy first articulated by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations.

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To fully comprehend market capitalism today’s students should also be familiar with its critics. No idea is fully grasped until it is tested and debated. Market capitalism today is under attack from a variety of directions. The sources of these critiques must be understood and the ability of market capitalism to answer them must be presented.

Support for Entrepreneurship

Marshall University has launched a new initiative designed to make it a leader in bio-tech research called the Marshall Institute of Interdisciplinary Research (MIIR). Part of this initiative is bringing to market the innovations which are developed by faculty, students and staff. The University considers this entrepreneurial effort to be absolutely essential to encouraging entrepreneurial research and research-based economic development. MIIR, cooperating with the Center, will make it possible for innovators to profit from their innovations. By bringing innovation to the market MIIR also will provide a stream of royalty income for the institution.

The University’s support of entrepreneurship is not limited to bio-tech innovation. It is actively seeking to bring to market innovations in transportation, engineering, medicine and art. These advances are being promoted by the patent process and through the securing of venture capital through Marshall University Research Corporation’s Technology Transfer Office.

The Center will play an important role in the University’s entrepreneurial thrust. Using the expertise of the LCOB and others on campus, the Center will provide direct assistance to entrepreneurs in the drafting of comprehensive business plans. Virtually all innovators have little, if any understanding of how to evaluate the marketability of their ideas, how to establish a business using their innovations or the intricacies of patents and venture finance. The Center will serve as a resource and catalyst for entrepreneurial ventures.

Public Policy Research

Through the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), an active program of public policy research will be pursued. CBER does contract work for governmental entities, private business and non-profit groups. CBER also staffs state Legislative Committees and Governmental Commissions.
CBER’s director writes a tri-weekly column for The State Journal which is West Virginia’s business weekly. Lewis College of Business faculties as well as CBER staff are always called upon for public presentations both oral and written. These outlets provide a platform for the advancement of public knowledge regarding market capitalism.

The Center will expand its work and inquiry into both the philosophy and workings of the American and West Virginia economies. An additional emphasis will be research emphasizing science and technology based research and its role in economic development. It will actively seek funds to sponsor research both inside and outside the University. The Center will make its works available both on line and in print to the general public.
Further, scholars identified with the Center will publish in academic, professional and public outlets with a particular emphasis on market capitalism. It is to be expected that the Center will become a leading exponent of policies to promote economic growth through market capitalism in the region.

Book Program

The BB&T Center for the Advanced Placement of American Capitalism will provide each rising senior of the Lewis College of Business and every MBA student a copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Professors in the corresponding classes will integrate the concepts of market capitalism into their courses using the book. Atlas Shrugged will serve as a required reading for the “Comparative Economic Systems” course.

Course Objectives

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Course Objectives

The primary general objectives we seek to accomplish this semester are as follows:

  • Characterize what makes “capitalism” distinctive from “socialism”.
  • Define the spectrum of economic systems from rigidly-planned socialism (N. Korea) to a pure free market capitalism (e.g. Singapore).
  • Become thoroughly acquainted with the ideas of Ayn Rand through her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, and its link to the “objectivist school”.
  • Understand how the great economic minds of the past reasoned through how an economy does and should work.
  • Become familiar with the economic policies of the state of WV especially in regards to how they deviate from the ideals of capitalism.
  • Similarly, study how the U.S. as a nation has implemented many policies (e.g. social security, public education, calls for more regulation of the financial industries, etc.) that do not comply with a pure capitalism / objectivist view.
  • Describe the current economic systems in several representative countries. Countries to be compared are: USA, Canada, W. Europe (UK, FR, Ger.), China, India, Russia (and other countries in transition from socialism to capitalism), Japan, Chile (S. America) and possibly others as time permits.
  • Give each student multiple opportunities to express their ideas and what they are learning through oral presentations and written reports.

Lecture Series

Known as the BB&T Lectures, the Center will bring to campus each fall semester, beginning in 2008, a speaker who is grounded in the philosophy of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. The speaker selected will be nationally recognized for studies on the market economy and advocacy of public policies that promote economic and political freedom.

In addition, each spring semester the Center will invite to speak someone with international stature in the business community who has exemplified the working of the market economy and the virtues of the entrepreneurial spirit.

Faculty and Staff

Dr. Calvin Kent – Dr. Kent is Marshall’s Vice President for Business and Economic Research and director of the Center for Business and Economic Research. He also holds the Lewis Distinguished Chair in Business at the COB.
Dr. Kent has extensive experience in promoting market capitalism.

  • He was one of the founders of The Association for Private Enterprise Education (APEE), which is now the largest professional organization in the United States dedicated solely to promoting an understanding of private enterprise. He was the Association’s executive secretary/treasurer for ten years. APEE’s distinguish service award is named after him.
  • While at Baylor University, he founded the Center for Private Enterprise and Entrepreneurship and the National Center for Entrepreneurship in Economics Education. He produced both scholarly works and curriculum for students in elementary and secondary schools. The National Council on Economic Education presented him its highest award the John C. Shram Distinguished Service Citation.
  • For his work in promoting education regarding market capitalism, he has received other awards:
    • Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Levy Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education
    • Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Sargent Americanism Award
    • Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation, Piper Professor Designation.
  • He has authored or edited four major books including:Dr. Kent has lectured in 14 countries and over 50 American universities on entrepreneurship and market capitalism
    • The Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship
    • Entrepreneurship and the Privatization of Government
    • The Environment for Entrepreneurship
    • An Economy at Risk
  • During the first President Bush’s administration he was an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Energy and Administrator of the Energy Information Administration.
  • Prior to assuming his current duties, he was Dean of the College of Business and continues to teach.

Karen Adkins – Program Coordinator

Gael Setliff