Woke capitalism is real bad news:
I am a free-marketeer. I think that capitalism, for all its shortcomings, is the best system ever devised to lift the masses out of poverty and to offer us the best chances of becoming prosperous and successful – both as individuals and as nations. Its only other main rival – various forms of socialism – has proven over and over again to be an utter failure.
Socialism does not make everyone equal. What it does is keep the elites very wealthy and powerful, while keeping the masses equally impoverished. But I have written often before about the failures of socialism and the case for the free market. See some of the pieces found here: billmuehlenberg.com/category/economics/
And things like corporations and big business I have also come to the defence of. This is because the Left has for too long demonised and spread falsehoods about them. They are only forces for evil, say the leftists, and must be brought down.
As such these folks are simply following basic Marxist and Leninist theory. Lenin wrote about imperialism theory for example, and spoke about how the capitalist West only became rich by exploiting the developing world. He claimed we are wealthy because we kept other nations impoverished.
The leftist view is a zero-sum game. There is only so much wealth in the world, and when some prosper, it is because they are taking wealth away from others. The economic pie remains the same and can only be cut up in so many ways. But in actual fact, the pie can increase, and we all can benefit from wealth production.
For a person or nation to be prosperous does NOT mean it comes from keeping other people or nations poor. Wealth creation can benefit everyone. Plenty of economists could be cited here on this, and I have written on such topics before. See these two pieces for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2006/12/06/poverty-the-third-world-and-hollywood/
I say all that by way of introduction to some concerns I have. I am not a radical lefty or a Marxist. I support the free market. But I have always argued that the raw market alone is not enough, and moral and spiritual legs are needed to keep things from toppling over. A number of the books I list here seek to make that case: billmuehlenberg.com/2013/09/21/economics-wealth-and-poverty-a-brief-bibliography/
But now we are increasingly seeing the phenomenon of woke capitalism in the West which is rightly causing me and other supporters of capitalism to be even more worried. As these corporations and big businesses seek to outdo each other in becoming woke, politically correct, and fully aligned with leftist values and agendas, they are more and more becoming enemies of conservatives and Christians.
Thus it is harder for me to give any kind of whole-hearted support to the free market when so much of it is being tainted and ruined by woke capitalism. Plenty has been penned on all this, including one new volume by Steve Soukup called The Dictatorship of Woke Capital (Encounter Books, 2021). Since I do not as yet have a copy of the book, let me draw upon a recent review of it by Richard Morrison. He begins:
How did corporate America, long considered one of the most conservative American institutions, become a lead protagonist in a culture war over all manner of progressive activism?
We now have a routine spectacle of corporate social responsibility seminars and environmental, social, and governance—or ESG—conferences, where widget makers of all kinds commit to promoting climate activism, identity politics, union labor, and sundry other causes. Somehow, selling an honest product at a fair price seems like a secondary concern in a corporate America increasingly focused on an array of stakeholders with such diffuse boundaries as “the local community,” “the global environment,” and “society at large.”
How did we get here? Finance professional and political analyst Steve Soukup gives us a fascinating and in-depth answer in his disquisition on modern politicized investing, The Dictatorship of Woke Capital.
He finishes his review this way:
The second half of The Dictatorship of Woke Capital catalogs a series of controversial activist campaigns by some of the biggest names of Wall Street: Apple, Disney, and Amazon. The issues are varied, but the overall trend is nevertheless worrying. Rather than concentrating on what they know best and staying neutral in the culture wars, major companies have hitched their brands to one side of a contentious political divide. The verdict on whether this will ultimately be good for business is still very much uncertain.
Specific issues aside, the influence of all of those progressive and Marxist scholars the book documents can be seen in the modern claim that no institution should be outside the political realm. Soukup writes that “this battle is between those who believe that politics is and should be the overriding force in all human interactions and those who believe that politics is just part of the human experience, a part that is best kept as narrow and limited as possible.”
Attempting to turn every corporation in the world into a political combatant will not make the world a better place. One doesn’t have to be a conservative, like Soukup, or a free-market warrior of any description, to appreciate that. fee.org/articles/how-corporate-america-got-woke-a-review-of-the-dictatorship-of-woke-capital/
The hard left takeover of corporate America – and the corporate West – is a real worry indeed. It manifests itself in so many areas. And for all the moralising and virtue signalling, the further left these corporate bodies go, the more harm they are actually doing. Simply consider the issue of racism.
One voice that deserves to be heard on this is Charles Payne, a Black American business analyst. He has recently spoken out on the corporate world’s failed direction on race relations. As one article puts it:
Fox Business host Charles Payne completely tore into corporate America for virtue signaling on social justice issues like racism. Payne slammed the faux outrage coming from big businesses pandering to the left. “The bottom line is corporate virtue signaling is not only phony, but it is actually making the situation worse. So, my message to corporate America is just shut up, and do the right thing. That is, if you really give a damn,” Payne said during the May 20 edition of Making Money. Payne stated that he was leery of big businesses “opining openly on social issues, and more recently, taking even stronger political sides.” He said his first instinct when he sees corporate America going woke was to ask, “‘What are they hiding?’”
The Fox Business host said that based on his personal research into liberal companies, “I always come away wondering if they should just maybe set the example rather than wag a finger. And it turns out that my gut, well, it was right all the time.” Payne, hammering a glaring hypocrisy, summarized a study by Blendoor, which found that “companies that made statements of solidarity with the black community have 20 percent fewer black employees than companies that didn’t make any statements at all.” www.newsbusters.org/blogs/business/joseph-vazquez/2021/05/25/charles-payne-phony-corporate-america-virtue-signaling
But I write not just as a conservative but as a Christian. As such, let me add one more commentator into this discussion. Catholic writer Casey Chalk recently penned a piece on the Corporate Roundtable’s new “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” signed by 181 CEOs. After looking at some possible benefits of this initiative he says this:
Much as we might want to hail the Business Roundtable’s implicitly more Catholic tone on American entrepreneurship, there are also reasons to be cautious. Some observers, like David Bahnsen at National Review, have argued the declaration smells a lot like virtue-signaling to a Leftist political agenda, which often irrationally demonizes corporations for seeking to generate profits.
And a Harvard Business Review opinion piece asks (fairly) whether the statement is just “empty rhetoric.” The same piece asserts that the problem of prioritizing shareholders is less dangerous than the preeminent focus on short-term profits; in other words, the decision is more good management than altruistic self-sacrifice.
Bear in mind, too, that many of the signatories have been at the forefront of “woke capitalism.” This movement exerts financial pressure as a blunt instrument to demand subservience from local and state governments on many issues related to the sexual revolution, promoting radical goals associated with the LGBTQ movement, like exposing impressionable children to transgender ideology.
Indeed, in Edelman’s comments on the Business Roundtable’s new approach, he urges American businesses to “step into the void left by government on issues of worker training, sustainability, LGBTQ, minimum wage and immigration.” If this is what is entailed by the new statement, we have reason to worry.
We should also remember that, when it comes to seeking real economic justice, Catholics can’t rely solely on the consciences of corporations. Informed by the dual paradigmatic philosophies of solidarity and subsidiarity, we recognize that solutions to economic problems lie in the hands of individuals, communities, corporations, and governments—all of which our Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition teaches are objective goods. www.crisismagazine.com/2019/woke-capitalism-is-no-substitute-for-catholic-social-teaching
The corporate world always needs moral if not spiritual underpinnings to best serve others. But the move to woke capitalism is not the way forward. It is in fact a step backwards and will only add to our woes.
A word on Big Business and the Rona virus
I have noticed that some conservatives who have long defended the free market – and rightly so – seem to be rather unnecessarily fixated on defending at all costs pharmaceutical companies and the like in the wake of the Rona and new vaccine rollouts.
Some of these conservatives seem to think that anyone asking any questions here is automatically a Marxist or a progressive. Well, I am neither, but I have plenty of legitimate questions about all this. There ARE such things as Big Pharma and Big Biotech. There ARE some folks quite happy to get rich off of crises like this.
While I do not begrudge folks becoming wealthy as they produce various goods and services, no one is sin-free here, and many can have all sorts of dubious motivations and intentions. If conservatives do not implicitly trust the Big State, it seems they should now show equal scepticism and criticism of some of these corporate giants as well.
For just one article on this, discussing “COVID-19 vaccine billionaires,” see this piece: www.lifesitenews.com/news/covid-19-vaccine-billionaires-are-the-human-face-of-huge-profits-and-monopoly-control