Do Businesses Have a Social Responsibility to Defend Property Rights?


Here's an interesting development in the post-Kelo backlash against eminent domain abuse: Today BB&T Corp. announced it "will not lend to commercial developers that plan to build condominiums, shopping malls and other private projects on land taken from private citizens by government entities using eminent domain." BB&T Chairman and CEO John Allison says:

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….One of the most basic rights of every citizen is to keep what they own. As an institution dedicated to helping our clients achieve economic success and financial security, we won't help any entity or company that would undermine that mission and threaten the hard-earned American dream of property ownership.

Is this an attempt to improve BB&T's image among home buyers looking for mortgage lenders, or a plain, old-fashioned stand on principle? Maybe a little of both. If BB&T is doing well by doing good, it could hardly be faulted by shareholders. But what if it actually stands to lose more money by turning down developers' business than it gains by taking a stand in defense of property rights? I wonder what Milton Friedman would say.

[Thanks to John Kramer at the Institute for Justice for the tip.]