Call It 'Woke Cronyism' Instead, Please

Monday, January 23, 2023

In a Nation piece whose nasty tone reminds me of Ayn Rand's Lillian Rearden, Joan Walsh notes that Ron DeSantis is crusading against something he is calling "woke capitalism" -- a term coined by Ross Douthat, the conservative writer at the New York Times.

Like the terms overregulation and crony capitalism, the phrase involves a stumbling out of the gate at a time when the enemies of freedom already have a head-start.

Reardon -- I mean Walsh -- elaborates on her idea of what DeSantis is fighting:

Calling it woke capitalism is a poor start. Among other things, the phrase covers up the state's role, and wrongly implies it would fly in a free market. (Image by Petr Kadlec, via Wikimedia Commons, license.)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis committed to fight "woke ideology" at his inauguration last week. It's part of his crusade against "woke capitalism," by which he means companies that see LGBT people as part of their market (Disney) or make noises about building environmental concerns into their investment strategies (BlackRock), and pharmacy chains that peddle what he now insists is a dangerous Covid vaccine... [bold added]
We have a couple of layers of crud to peel off before we can even begin to talk about this.

First, we have to walk back from the usual smuggled-in leftist pieties/smears: One can be a good person without proclaiming adherence to some virtue or a political cause at the start of every sentence.

A company can see everyone as potential customers -- and provide excellent value to them -- without naming every currently fashionable category at every turn, nagging everyone to be tolerant of members of said categories, or even agreeing with left-wing political goals regarding such individuals.

A company can indeed run its business guided by principles that arguably harm its bottom line -- or not -- and attract customers. BlackRock and Chick-fil-A both famously do so. Regarding vaccines, a certain degree of paranoia is understandable, given how stridently the government and the left over-sold the Covid vaccines.

I don't share that paranoia, but I can see how it fits in as "woke" and with what DeSantis is doing.

That said, I have not been a big fan of the ways DeSantis has fought back. Why is he threatening Disney over its political speech instead of working on how to give every business more freedom? Why on Earth is he aping Gavin Newsom (but in the opposite direction on the issue) by forbidding businesses to require customers or employees to take vaccines?

At best, DeSantis means well, but is of an age where the government runs everything, and so stops at asking how he's going to counteract this, rather than asking if the government should be doing anything at all -- other than protecting individual rights.

Stripped of Walsh's bile and DeSantis's decisions to misuse government in return, we have a major media company participating in an education policy debate, a major investment firm pushing anti-fossil policies, and arguendo drug companies caving to pandemic hysteria -- all very left-wing positions. Isn't it their right to do so, but aren't these actually not-exactly-popular positions?

What -- if anything -- to do?

I don't have all the answers, but the first thing would be to quit pretending -- or helping the left pretend (as Walsh does) -- that this insanity would actually win in a free market, by calling it woke capitalism. ESG is succeeding in large part due to inappropriate state control of investment funds. That is not capitalism:
[W]hen state pension plans ... [start] making or "encouraging" companies to change how they operate based on ideological issues (such as causing oil companies to get behind green anti-fossil fuel initiatives), this amounts to the state adding the further injury of lower profitability for such companies to the original one of what amounts to nationalization by stealth.
And, as I said elsewhere in the piece:
State interference in ideology is the real problem with ESG. A truly free market would allow investors to make clear-eyed decisions about where to place their money and whether they want to earn higher returns or support political causes with their money.
I have likewise argued elsewhere that vaccine uptake would have been more rapid and less attractive to conspiracy nuts in a free market.

And then there's Disney. What would it even have to say if there were a free market in education, rather than a state monopoly on education -- which inherently comes with the threat that such ideologies as climate catastrophism, critical race theory, and the latest bizarre academic fad about "gender" can be ramrodded into our children's skulls top-down?

All of this is "woke" and none of it is capitalism.

Let's call it something else, like maybe woke cronyism, instead. This would fall like a house of cards if politicians would work to break the government's stranglehold on practically every area of commerce, and normal human beings once again had the power to make choices in a free market, like: where to invest for retirement (not BlackRock!), where to take a vacation (maybe not Disney!), whether to get vaccinated, and where to educate our children.

-- CAV

No comments: