Corporate America and the Left

A distinguished social economist of my acquaintance, Carl Horowitz, produced a penetrating essay, which is available in the latest issue of Social Contract, on “The Alliance of Corporate Capitalism with Political Radicalism.”  Carl demonstrates that black nationalists, revolutionary socialists, and off-the-wall feminists have loyal benefactors among the corporate boards of high-tech enterprises and in older corporations like Pepsi-Cola and Citibank.  Carl’s illustrations are vivid and shocking, and his well constructed speech leads me to raise two questions occasioned by his evidence.

One: Carl describes his targets as people who are betraying the free enterprise system that has allowed them to flourish, but it might be asked whether this is really the case.  Can’t it be argued that someone like Mark Zuckerberg, the socially radical billionaire founder of Facebook, is being economically rational even when he indulges his infantile leftist fantasies and sports a Che Guevara shirt?  Many of those who avail themselves of Zuckerberg’s invention hold the same political and cultural beliefs.  I’m not even sure that the decisions made by Facebook and Google here and in Western Europe to kick political conservatives off their sites is a bad business practice.  Perhaps most users of these internet conveniences welcome P.C. intolerance.  They may be like those college students who are demanding safe spaces and who cheer anti-fascist demonstrators keeping “intolerant” views from being expressed on their campuses.  Political pressures are coming almost entirely from the cultural left, and it might make perfectly good business sense to accommodate these politically engaged customers.

Capitalists a hundred years ago were generally on the political right.  But that was owing to very different circumstances from our own.  Unlike Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie were devout Protestants, and they lived in societies in which both rich and poor were expected to conform to certain bourgeois proprieties that hardly exist anymore.  In any case, the old “sexist, racist, homophobic” morality has been replaced by the equally demanding standards of political correctness, and there can be no doubt that those figures whom Carl blasts are obsessively scrupulous in observing our post- and anti-bourgeois social morality.  Also, we are now living in an age of global capitalism and multinational corporations, in which the exaltation of diversity may have considerable advertising value.  Because the traditional right (to which Carl and I both belong) may not value the cultural destruction that we see happening all around us, that does not mean it’s bad for business.

There are those lower down on the capitalist pecking order – e.g., purely American enterprises run by serious Christians, like Hobby Lobby – that try to uphold traditional cultural values, often at great expense to themselves.  These lower-end capitalists put up with widely proclaimed boycotts from the left and with government pressure in order to be true to their principles.  We should also note the presence of much smaller, ideologically independent mom-and-pop businesses.  The owners of these enterprises really don’t have to worry about being politically out of step unless they are located in some leftist enclave like Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury.  But those at the top of the economic heap showcase their culturally leftist positions because it helps them commercially.  It also protects them against boycotts from an activist left, whose collective strength is totally unmatched by anything on the right. One would have to be sight-impaired not to notice that when representatives of the left pulverize Confederate memorial statues, there is no significant physical response from the other side.  As in Western Europe, the anti-fascist left raises Cain, through boycotts and violent demonstrations, without evoking an equivalent response from its presumed adversaries.

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