Those in the socially liberal, fiscally conservative (SLFC) spectrum of ideologies often have a naïve faith in unrestrained capitalism. This is especially so for the ones with the most panache (such as it is), like libertarians and Objectivists. These two, unlike the bland neoconservatives and certain kinds of liberals, are also quite skeptical about government. Anyone who disagrees is a “statist,” of course. That’s one of those “ism/ist” words meaning a Very Bad Thing. The Market = good; the government = bad. Got that? Of course, the way to make a libertarian cry is to point out the ways that businesses promote repression. It’s time to help clear up a few mistaken notions, which hopefully might educate some of these innocents.
Flaws in the libertarian analysis
It’s very true that governments are capable of making a fine mess of things. However, the corporate world isn’t inherently better, and salvation isn’t too likely to emerge from that realm. Other than that, conventional notions of political science have it that there’s an eternal tension between business and government. In actual fact, this isn’t always so. The following will focus on narrow areas related to “Woke Capital” and corporate culture in general. Other things like sweatshop exploitation, effects on labor markets, exorbitant price-gouging on medication, and so forth are topics worthy of their own discussions elsewhere.
According to the more colorful SLFC viewpoints, the government is always full of tyrants, or at least would-be tyrants eager to exceed their authority. They see bureaucrats as bunglers. (Indeed, it’s pretty hard to argue with these things, especially in light of today’s political establishment.) Meanwhile, they also portray laissez-faîre capitalism as a reprieve from that, a domain of unlimited freedom. Therefore, the less regulation for businesses, the better. The best thing the government can do is step aside, get out of the way, and let all those smart captains of industry run things however they see fit. There are those who propose that the private sector can take over some of the roles of the state — or perhaps even all, according to the anarcho-capitalists.
Even if businessmen do something corrupt, it’s OK, because The Market will punish bad behavior, just as it fixes all problems eventually. Some even will defend monopolies. If they knew their capitalist theory better, they’d understand that Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” theory doesn’t work without significant competition. The problems with their analysis result from the economite nature of SLFC ideologies. To economites, the most important measure of value and success — in fact, perhaps the only thing that matters — is money. Whatever gets the most profit is seen as good, and negative externalities are usually ignored.
Moreover, some tend to esteem the very wealthy regardless of how they got that way. They’re seen as wise and intrepid. However, there is more than one way to the top; some are less commendable. It’s true that ambitious entrepreneurs like Henry Ford are good role models. On the other hand, not every high executive or wealthy individual is as admirable. Some others had the right connections and are skilled at making deals, but otherwise aren’t much more talented than ordinary paper-pushers. The worst are insider traders, grifters, and other white-collar crooks. All told, it’s not the 1%ers who are so bad. Instead, many 0.001%ers indeed have caused some major problems, and quite a few have screws loose. Tricky plutocrats certainly don’t deserve adulation.
From my experience with Objectivists, it seems that some SLFCs believe that wisdom and virtue are a package deal that comes with having a billion dollars. Therefore, it’s right and proper for the 0.001%ers to throw around their weight in the political sphere. At the least, the SLFCs don’t object or seem concerned about the country’s sovereignty. This is one of the reasons why Dissident Rightists tend to think of those types as rather like clueless kids playing in a sandbox. Do they really believe that characters like Crypt Keeper Soros, Soy Boy Suckerberg, and Gates of the Borg Collective are all that and a bag of chips? SLFCs seem rather like medieval peasants who are perfectly happy with their lowly status, because they imagine that with enough gumption and elbow grease, one day they too can become kings.
According to conventional notions, one might expect that corporate culture would be mostly conservative. If this were so, or if instead, it was generally libertarian, it wouldn’t be too objectionable. These days, the limousine leftists are becoming quite troublesome indeed. If they’re capitalist running dogs, why hide it instead of acting the part? Sam Francis had a go at that one, but the phenomenon remains a paradox.
Actually, it’s not inevitable for corporations to engage in social controversies, or even take political positions at all. Their primary purpose is making money, and anything else is a distraction. To appeal to the broadest range of customers, it’s rational for them not to take ideological stands, or at least not those which will seriously clash with the public’s sensibilities. However, in practice, that’s not the case. Some of the agitprop gets well beyond obnoxious, which apparently they imagine they’ll have impunity to get away with indefinitely.
“Woke Capital” certainly does involve itself in the culture war, and on the wrong side. This is either approved by or even instigated by top management. Promoting The Narrative is more important than profits, because they don’t care if it alienates customers and will probably leave shareholders with smaller dividends. The Boards of Directors aren’t calling them out for pushing social engineering when they’re supposed to be making money. If we passively wait for The Market to fix all this, it might be the same time that we have to reboot society because we let civilization collapse. It’s preferable to act now, sparing ourselves the trouble in the future.
Capriciousness in big government
Can governments be repressive? Obviously, it’s true that they’re capable of doing bad things. In the grim tapestry of history, one could say that liberty seems to be an exception rather than a rule. Certain parts of the world did have a pretty decent run of it for a while, from the Age of Enlightenment until political correctness started reversing course on that. Sad to say, even the famous “liberal democracies” have seen better days. These are matters of degree, of course, and the results have much to do with who is in charge. Still, even the best governments have at least some dirty laundry.
Regarding the bad things that governments do, there is a very wide variation from despotism to enlightenment. Where a particular society is in this range is a large factor in what can happen to dissidents. Under the most capricious governments, insufficient bootlicking can get someone sent to the gulag. Free countries don’t require bootlicking, and one can criticize public figures, and maybe even denounce the official ideology up to a certain point. Even so, it’s still possible for the “better” governments to make life interesting for their citizens. That might involve extra scrutiny, intimidation tactics, vexatious tax audits, and so forth. If the government conducts provocateur operations or false flag attacks, consider it a sign that things are turning for the worse.
Still, there are certain safeguards for citizens. Only in a dictatorship can the top leadership just do whatever they want. Other types of governments have elected leaders, Constitutional provisions for checks and balances, and protections such as due process. In a free country, or even a partially-free one, there’s a lot of openness and accountability which at least in theory will prevent certain problems from occurring. The government can break its own rules, but at the very least it will look bad when it is caught doing so.
For example, if a prosecutor has a personal grudge against someone, it’s not just a matter of calling the police department and locking up the innocent target, throwing away the key. For the prosecutor to railroad someone, the government still has to go through the motions. The defendant is supposed to get due process protections, a decent attorney can blow apart a flaky case, and even one doubting juror can put a stop to it.
Even so, the libertarians are right that abuses by governments can be pretty scary. This is especially so in countries run by someone with mirror shades and a funny hat. In those cases, regime change is usually the only recourse. Still, even free countries with fair elections can have problems. Fortunately, private business never acts that way — right?
Capriciousness in big business
The truth is that businesses aren’t necessarily any more wonderful than governments. What the SLFCs don’t understand is that, as top-down power structures, they effectively are governments in miniature. (Some aren’t very miniature; the largest corporations have revenues greater than the GDP of some developing countries.) Governments and businesses are both examples of human institutions. People aren’t perfect, and the organizations we create tend to fall short to one degree or another. When vast powers are gathered into few hands, things have the potential for going seriously awry, which is why caution and restraint are necessities.
How does it roll in the corporate world? There’s a chain of command going all the way up to the CEO, who is answerable to the Board of Directors (quite often his friends). However, the ordinary employees have absolutely no input on decision-making, other than dropping a note in the suggestion box or the extreme measure of going on strike. In other words, businesses are effectively like small dictatorships. The problem with that is that a dictatorship is only as good as the dictator, so the results may vary greatly.
Companies usually do have an extensive list of policies, which for the employees might as well be inscribed on a stone tablet. Some policies are geared toward compliance with laws, which SLFCs believe shouldn’t exist. Other policies are whatever the upper management decides. They have a lot more freedom to act as they please, and can rewrite policies much easier than a government can edit its Constitution.
The one reason why businesses are considered less repressive than governments is that the penalties they can mete out are much more limited. Employers can’t put people in the gulag, of course. However, they can cut off someone’s income. Depending on how long the following job search goes, the economic damage might be the equivalent of a court-imposed fine of several thousand dollars. Most people only have one revenue stream, and many live from paycheck to paycheck, so impoverishment and even homelessness can result if one can’t get another job in time to pay the bills. That is, of course, regarded as the former employee’s problem.
That much is justifiable in severe cases, like theft or industrial espionage. However, the extreme penalty also might be imposed for far less, such as insufficient bootlicking. Telling the wrong joke can get a summons by HR; the days are long gone when off-color humor livened up the workday. Also, if you flirt on the job (or someone thinks you did), then you’re in a lot of trouble. The same goes for if someone doesn’t like your politics, even if your opinion was expressed while on your own time. This, of course, is a growing problem, especially since there are online mobs that specialize in applying pressure to ruin people economically over a Narrative Violation of some sort. For employers, the path of least resistance will be to cave in to pressure.
At least in the USA, most workers have little protection against capricious actions. This is much unlike criminal defendants, who have due process rights. Part of this is from the decline in unionization, a trend also correlating to wage stagnation. The SLFCs think that’s great — the less money that the workers make, the better! Haven’t any of them wondered why those who work the hardest and are involved most directly in production get rewarded the least? For that matter, haven’t any of them ever had to endure a “kiss up, kick down” workplace?
The greater problem is that businesses perform repressive functions so that the government doesn’t have to look bad doing it. SLFCs don’t see anything wrong with that. Bidness is bidness is bidness is good! It’s a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.
For example, one common feature of totalitarian societies is that they have a lot of propaganda. Some of it is cool in a Battleship Potemkin way, but usually, the rest is conspicuously heavy-handed. In practice, liberal democracies do commission and distribute propaganda. However, that would be rather embarrassing if taken to excess. Fortunately, private enterprise comes to the rescue! Some of the largest corporations have vast powers because of their roles. One type is the opinion-forming institutions of the mainstream media. (As Yuri Bezmenov put it, “Who elected the media?”) Unlike the government, they’re not bound by checks and balances or other Constitutional provisions.
In the USA, about 50 corporations comprised the MSM around 1980 or so. Thanks to deregulation — that great SLFC panacea — monopolization increased greatly. Now, the MSM means six gigantic conglomerates which own 90% of the country’s media outlets. Aside from Hollywood, they’re largely headquartered in the same neighborhood of Manhattan. (Other countries sometimes have fairly similar arrangements, though usually with fewer conglomerates.) Five of the Big Six are toxically Leftist, but hide it to some degree. The other has neocon leanings, which is all well and good if one imagines efforts like Fox News and National Review to be courageous edgelords.
Other than that, it’s rather inescapable that the MSM’s upper management is overwhelmingly Jewish. I’d rather not bring it up at all, but the disparity is too overwhelming not to notice. If instead that many Chinese were running the MSM, it would be legitimate to take notice, ask why the Chinese should have influence far beyond their numbers, and question their intentions about it. However, another feature of SLFC ideologies is that they consider population groups to be insignificant, and therefore they don’t see the role of ethnic networking, ultimately to their detriment.
Media power concentrated into relatively few hands has been remarkably productive for the Powers That Be. Since long before my time, the MSM has been able to nudge the Overton window the way they want it to go, or to put it more bluntly, manipulate public opinion. Over the decades, the people were shielded from a lot of inconvenient facts about what is happening to the country. Everything gets run through the narrative filter. The only problem is that all this has been a little too effective. It’s nowhere near as ham-fisted as Soviet propaganda was, but public trust in the media is the lowest it’s ever been. Even the majority of liberals have figured out that it’s biased, and if those innocents can put two and two together about anything, that really says something.
Is this corporate arrangement convenient, or what? Back in the day, surely efforts like Pravda, Izvestia, TASS, and the Novosti press agency required a significant amount of attention and budgetary outlay by the Soviet government to keep running. On the other hand, our ruling regime has a wide variety of propaganda organs, costing nothing besides PBS and NPR. In fact, the MSM’s owners make money from it. The government didn’t need to expend the effort in setting them up. Neither does it need to ensure that they stay on track ideologically, since corporate management hires like-minded journalists and manages the editorial spin. Again, five of the MSM conglomerates have a political angle coinciding with the regime, and the other conglomerate essentially delivers the controlled opposition opinion.
As far as propaganda organs go, what the MSM produces is about as sophisticated as it gets. In the “bread and circuses” equation, they have the latter part covered. They certainly do have higher production quality than Pravda had back in the day, and usually more subtlety. Not only do they make use of rhetoric and traditional propaganda tactics, they also benefit from the latest in psychology and cinematography. It’s true that their narratives sometimes are pretty ridiculous, which is the one unavoidable weakness. Still, they have gone a long way in perfecting the art of putting lipstick on a pig, and a fraction of the public still is still taken in by that. I suspect that if those MSM spin-doctors started selling cow patties as hamburger patties, some people still would be eating up their BS.
Best of all for the Powers That Be, the media has the appearance of real competition. The MSM looks like a bunch of private businesses loosely affiliated into networks. With hundreds of TV channels, as well as all the radio stations and print media, it seems as if there’s really a lot of variation. In practice, it amounts to the momentous choice between vanilla and French vanilla.
Only despotic governments routinely spy on their citizens, right? Liberal democracies don’t have anything like a KGB or a Stasi to track dissidents who have the “wrong” opinions. Golly, of course not! Neither can they just check out their citizens at random and pry into their business without a court order based on probable cause. Well, things should not work that way, of course, but “should” and five bucks gets you a cheeseburger. The good news, of course, is that private enterprise is way totally better, right?
Even during the 1990s, back when Cupcake and her sidekick Bill Clinton were in charge, there were concerns about corporations colluding with the government to diminish privacy. For one example, the government wanted help from the telecom industry to be able to bug digital cell phone transmissions, and they got it. Then there was the _NSAKEY code found in the encryption DLL for Windows NT 4.0, only noticed because Microsoft forgot to take out the symbols (code markers) in Service Pack 5. That seemed rather like a back door to decode secure traffic, though assurances were given that it wasn’t what it looked like, and it’s a “conspiracy theory” to say otherwise.
In the security theater-obsessed 21st century, the rules pretty much went out the window. In fact, the only move to stop terrorism that remains out of the question is discontinuing anarcho-tyranny like the “bomb the world, invite the world” strategy. According to our wise politicians, anything else goes, including trading liberty for security. One part of it was a massive domestic spying apparatus that went beyond anything that the Communist Eastern Bloc ever had. (It’s blatantly illegal, though some judge conveniently figured out a way to circumvent the Fourth Amendment.) Best of all for the government, they don’t even have to do their own data gathering, since private businesses are doing it for them.
Indeed, the corporations certainly haven’t been acting as a counterweight to governmental overreach in this matter. For example, when Big Tech companies signed onto the PRISM domestic spying program, not only did they cooperate, they lied to the public about the extent of what they were doing. When the Utah Data Center started recording everyone’s calls and text messages, it wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of telecom companies. How is this about national security — did some judge declare that all citizens are subversives? Curiously, these companies sometimes also have ties to Israel. How are connections with a foreign government justified?
But wait! There’s more! Certain operating systems have built-in spyware. Certain network switch vendors aren’t in any hurry to get backdoors out of their products. If hackers figure out how to exploit security holes too, that causes additional risk. Other than that, cell phone apps are notorious for privacy problems, but we can consider it to be working as designed.
What happened to business being a counterweight to government? All these corporations certainly weren’t fighting tooth and nail to protect their customers. They could’ve used their massive capacity for lawfare to resist these intrusive and highly unconstitutional domestic spying measures. They could’ve warned everyone accurately about what they were being asked to do. Well, that’s not what happened.
When the Soviet government wanted the capability to wiretap its citizens, they had to figure out how to create the infrastructure to do so and build it into their telecom system. They didn’t have private enterprise setting it all up for the government and handing the keys over to the KGB. I’ll give the libertarians one thing — they’re right that capitalism can be pretty darn efficient sometimes!
Liberal democracies never, ever, ever have to resort to censorship! They’re so free that their benefits are self-evident, and they need not fear ideological competition. Neither do they have to fear inconvenient truths. More seriously, that much was fun while it lasted. Still, it does look embarrassingly heavy-handed when countries that pride themselves on freedom start penalizing the expression of opinions that, within living memory, were correctly regarded as normal and socially protective.
Several European countries have various “hate speech” laws and the like. Enforcement, of course, is extremely selective. For example, Tommy Robinson got locked up for discussing Muslim grooming gangs. (That’s a problem the British government, whose job it is to protect the public, did nothing about for decades, except to keep bringing in masses of incompatible migrants. Britain’s version of the MSM, whose job it is to inform the public, hid it from the public.) Meanwhile, ungrateful Commonwealth types and other imported pests are free to criticize their British benefactors with complete impunity, biting the hand that fed them. They can complain all they want about the country they’re dragging down, its authentic culture, and its people. Other special laws in many European countries forbid dissent about certain historical matters, to preserve the designated victim status of a single minority population, and keep them immune from criticism.
Still, there are a few problems. It’s hard for tyrants to lock up everyone for thoughtcrime. That would require extremely repressive measures that would dispel the illusion of being a liberal democracy, resulting in tremendous morale problems. However, making an example of individuals does work. High-profile cases (like Tommy Robinson) can intimidate other citizens into shutting up. Still, it’s helpful to have other ways of controlling public discussion without looking like the Soviet-era KGB. Also, the USA doesn’t get that heavy-handed. Although the government has some other ways to enforce ideological preferences, it can’t do so in such a direct manner, no matter how ardently Leftist politicians wish they could get around the pesky First Amendment. Therefore, much more subtlety is necessary.
Fortunately for them, private industry came to the rescue again! It was easier to control The Narrative back in the 1980s. Now, the Internet provides a way around the information blockade. At first, it was essentially a matter of pinholes in a dam, but eventually, ideological competition began to threaten The System. All of the Dissident Right sources put together don’t have the same viewership as a single MSM conglomerate. Even so, the effects of real competition have been devastating to The Narrative. Why, we can’t have people just saying whatever they like, now can we? Therefore, the tactic is to shut up individuals who deviate from The Narrative, using rules that are worded as vaguely as possible. On the other hand, non-whites are free to use the technology we created to criticize us, and the Silicon Valley ideological gatekeepers don’t mind in the least.
As the story goes, the flashpoint was the election of Donald Trump. According to insiders in one of those Big Tech companies, they took it upon themselves to interfere in the political system so that it never could happen again. The public cannot be permitted to elect a purple-pilled President who hasn’t been vetted by the major globalist clubs! After that, they started using special algorithms to manipulate search engine results with ideological bias. They also started deleting counter-Narrative videos at an astounding speed, accelerating the ongoing effort. They wrote programs to scan metadata and content for Narrative Violations. They also are known for recruiting teams of volunteers to censor videos. Is our capitalist system wonderful, or what?
Even journalists help Big Tech corporations to perform censorship when they’re cyber-loafing instead of attending to their official job responsibilities in the MSM. They have special transmission belts to do that. Again, the SLFCs are right — free enterprise is so much more efficient than the state! If the government tried to do all that, they’d have to appoint a panel of judges to watch videos all day, figure out which ones contain thoughtcrime, and then issue court orders to take them down. Even then, they couldn’t hope to match the speed of what Big Tech is already doing on its own initiative.
Not only is it unnecessary for The System to set up an organization like the Soviet Glavlit, free enterprise already did this job all by itself. The government didn’t even have to make laws or pressure them to do so. Big Tech took it upon themselves to decide what the public can and can’t say. Neither does the government have to bother with micromanaging what goes online. Furthermore, although our politicians tolerate censorship, they don’t look bad because they’re not the ones doing it. Our good old capitalist system found an end-run around the First Amendment. How creative, right?
Now for the usual objection
I already can imagine those libertarians saying: “But it’s only private companies doing that! What’s the problem?” This, of course, is their “something bad is wrong only if the government does it” shtick. What they don’t understand is that Big Tech companies all just so happen to have the same Left Coast corporate culture. (The billionaire geeks and the bugmen working for them don’t exactly have much in common with John Galt!) The Internet should be the most ideologically diverse forum in existence, since users come from all walks of life and everywhere across the world. However, the companies running the largest platforms and search engines want to make cyberspace operate under the rules of the Granola Belt’s extreme Leftist ideology.
Moreover, these companies usually are monopolies. (There are certain regulations applying to monopolies, as well as important distinctions between publishers and platforms, but all that is another subject.) If, for example, one wanted to get a wedding cake from a baker unwilling to produce it, then presumably it’s not too difficult to find another baker, make it oneself, or even substitute another pastry. On the other hand, if Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or Paypal don’t like your politics, you can’t just go and find another Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, or Paypal. You’ll be shut off from the rest of their user base, which will no longer be able to see your opinion there or buy your merchandise. Loosely speaking, the presence of a monopoly means that there are no comparable substitutes. Finally, if your domain gets taken off of the Internet for political reasons, you can’t just find another Internet.
This obviously has been used to target certain ideologies, diminishing their freedom of expression. They don’t want the free marketplace of ideas to be a level playing field! For those who have difficulty understanding the implications, it would be the equivalent of a set of city ordinances regulating where and when libertarians may speak in public, and especially which subjects libertarians are allowed to discuss. Meanwhile, the rules aren’t binding (or perhaps aren’t enforced) for other ideologies.
Whether it’s done by the government, or a group of like-minded monopolies, the effects are the same. Finally, the SCOTUS decision in Marsh v. Alabama (1946) ruled that private monopoly power can’t be used to deny freedom of expression. All told, this wouldn’t be a problem if government regulated Big Tech the way it regulates utilities. (The water company can’t shut off your water if they don’t like your politics.) In that case, it’s too bad that SLFCs don’t like regulations.
Socialism in reverse
At this point, surely plenty of SLFCs will be quite perturbed. Can’t I see that the problems occurred because of the mixing of the spheres of business and government? Essentially, the idea is that business is pure, but government corrupts everything it touches. Therefore, allowing government to have any influence over business is a grave sin. To give this frequent SLFC theme its due, it’s true that government micromanagement of businesses can cause problems. (However, that’s not a good argument to get rid of sensible regulations.) Moreover, Atlas Shrugged did make a pretty good case that Marxist-style socialism is a train wreck.
Although there’s something to all that, some SLFCs don’t see that influence goes in the other direction too. Overly persnickety regulations are a problem, but corporate rent-seeking is just as much of a problem. When governments seize the entire private sector of their countries, it doesn’t end well. What would happen if instead, the intrepid captains of industry started pulling strings in the government? As the theory goes, SLFCs should oppose that as well. However, some might consider it an improvement, because they’ve put so much energy into the idea that the extremely wealthy are always wise and competent.
This odd “reverse socialism” might look like lots of big money donors hedging their bets by contributing to both parties. It also might involve a few shadowy globalist clubs full of interlocking corporate directorates, essentially acting as Deep State staffing agencies, whose members often get picked by both parties for Cabinet positions and other top roles. Another effect would be well-connected kingmakers in both parties playing favorites during the primaries. (In the 2016 election, the public got a rare direct look at it from the DNC email leaks, and can infer the same from Republican Party chiefs continually trying to sabotage their top candidate.) Other than that, the NWO’s “in” crowd includes some people who might have spent a lot of leisure time at spirit cooking parties, hanging out on Jeffrey Epstein’s island, and maybe engaging in some other interesting pursuits.
The result of undue influence by big money interfering in the political sphere is that no matter who gets elected, the public will get the same globalist policies. The problem is that elected officials should work for the public, not be proxies (at least to some degree) of wealthy special interests. On that note, I’ll also agree with a former German chancellor that the economy should serve the people, not the other way around.
The libertarian critique of government does have something going for it. In practice, politicians do have a bad habit of misusing their powers and abusing the public trust. Today’s crop of Washington bozos isn’t known well for their sagacity. However, that doesn’t mean that the corporate world is any kind of antidote. Neither is every middle manager out there a Randian captain of industry. Other than that, there’s a big difference between capitalism and crapitalism. A market economy doesn’t have to mean globalism and corporations that can become more powerful than entire countries.
In the end, neither businesses nor governments are perfect. Corporations aren’t restrained by the Constitutional safeguards that governments have. Certain key monopolies and like-minded oligopolies are in positions to do things like enforce ideological conformity over public debate. In some of today’s liberal democracies, where the governments are constrained from certain repressive measures, “Woke Capital” is more than happy to fill in the gaps. The business world, as it is these days, is not a refuge from the government’s problems, but rather it is another problem that must be solved.
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