Earlier this year, I shared several personal finance tips for dissidents. I deliberately ignored the important topic of investing because I was not aware of any good options on that front. I have since learned of a promising offering for investors in the United States who want to own stocks of publicly-traded corporations: Strive exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Divestment vs. Engagement
As noted in my earlier essay, most publicly-traded corporations are explicitly committed to anti-white activism. For values-based investors — those who want their investments to reflect certain ethical, political, or religious priorities — a traditional approach to companies that violate their preferred principles has been divestment; that is, selling whatever stake they own and refusing to invest new money in those companies. The thought is that if you oppose (say) the burning of carbon-based fuels, you would not want to profit by owning stock in companies that sell carbon-based fuels. Many mutual funds, mostly Left-leaning a few that lean Right, were organized along these lines in the 1980s and ‘90s.
But in the 2000s, Leftist investors made an important discovery: Owners of a company have a lot more power over the company than do non-owners. Leftist activist investors shifted their approach from divestment toward engagement. Instead of refusing to own shares in companies they disliked, Leftists bought shares in those companies and then used their voting rights as shareholders to force the companies to adopt Leftist policies. They elected Leftist activists to corporate boards and offered binding shareholder proposals to promote the climate cult, anti-white diversity, and sexual deviance. This organized Leftist shareholder engagement has been a major impetus behind the ESG (environment, social, governance; aka social responsibility or stakeholder capitalism) push we observe across corporations today. Those wishing to learn more about this financial form of anti-white woke activism may consult The Dictatorship of Woke Capital by Stephen Soukup, Woke, Inc. by Vivek Ramaswamy, or the free online resources of The National Policy Center’s Free Enterprise Project, especially its Proxy Navigator and Balancing the Boardroom reports.
Direct vs. Indirect Stock Ownership
The power of Leftist corporate shareholder engagement has been amplified by changes in the way people own shares of corporations over the past several decades. In the past, most stock investors held shares in individual companies directly. They received paper copies of the annual reports of those corporations whose stocks they owned, and could vote on corporate board candidates or shareholder proposals (or submit their own). Even though many individual stock owners did not read the reports or cast their shareholder votes, enough did that it would have been much harder for Leftist activists to take over the governance of large, widely-owned corporations.
Today, by contrast, most stock investors hold their shares indirectly, in mutual funds or massive pooled accounts that are part of 401(k)s or government pension plans. Even if you have the option to own individual stocks through a brokerage account, chances are good that you have opted to own stock mutual funds or ETFs instead. For most individual investors, owning stocks through diversified, professionally-managed funds is much easier than trying to pick and choose individual stocks. And there is now a massive body of evidence that low-cost index funds — those that simply buy shares of all the companies in the stock market (or some segment of it) — provide better long-term returns than actively-managed funds that seek to outperform the market by buying and selling individual stocks.
The upshot is that the shareholder voting rights that in the past were widely dispersed among individual stock owners are today concentrated in a few very large investment companies and pension plans. Many Counter-Currents readers will no doubt have encountered claims that Vanguard and BlackRock in particular (the two largest US investment companies) are among the largest owners of many corporations. That is not strictly true; the individuals who own shares in various Vanguard and BlackRock funds own the stocks held by the funds. However, Vanguard and BlackRock (and other fund companies) exercise the shareholder voting rights attached to all the shares owned by the funds they manage. Thus, if you own stocks indirectly via Vanguard funds or BlackRock funds (or any other mutual funds or ETFs), you no longer get to cast your votes on the management of the underlying stocks owned by your funds. The funds do that for you.
Unfortunately, the largest fund companies are themselves run by progressive Leftists who have consistently cast the votes on the shares held in their funds not to advance the financial interests of their funds’ shareholders, but rather to promote Leftist corporate governance agendas. This is true even of mutual funds and ETFs that do not advertise a political or ideological mission — they may passively purchase stock in every company included in a broad market index, but they then use the voting rights on those shares to force the companies to comply with an anti-white ESG agenda. Larry Fink, the Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, has been very open about using the shareholder rights of stocks in BlackRock funds to push companies leftward, including in anti-white directions. And even fund companies that do not themselves espouse a Leftist corporate governance agenda rely on proxy advisory companies such as Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis to tell them how to vote on corporate shareholder issues — and those proxy advisors in turn consistently toe the Leftist, anti-white line in their recommendations.
The Investor’s Trilemma
Given the dynamics described above, recent stock market investors have had to choose among three less than ideal options:
- Own individual stocks directly. This option allows shareholders to retain their voting rights, but it also saddles them with the responsibility to monitor, research, and vote on corporate governance issues. It also deprives them of the well-documented benefits of broad market diversification that come from owning stocks via index funds.
- Own stocks via conventional mutual funds and ETFs, including index funds. Here one reaps the benefits of diversification at potentially low cost, but cedes one’s voting rights to anti-white Leftist fund companies (or their proxy advisors). The ownership rights of one’s investments are being used in the service of evil.
- Own stocks via niche conservative “values” funds. Though not discussed above, there are a small number of mutual funds that purport to be managed according to broadly conservative principles. These funds have four significant limitations: First, they employ a divestment rather than an engagement strategy — that is, they refuse to own shares in companies they determine violate their principles, but they thereby forego the opportunity to influence those companies. Second, none of them (of which I am aware) includes anti-white discrimination among its triggers for divestment; they are focused on conventional Religious Right or Con, Inc. values. Third, they are actively managed (they try to pick individual winning stocks) and thus do not benefit from the broad diversification of index funds. And fourth, due to their small size and active management, they have relatively high fees that cut into shareholder returns.
Until recently, there has not been an option that combines the simplicity, diversification, and low cost of broad market index funds with the use of the engagement strategy to oppose Leftist, including anti-white, corporate governance.
It appears that there is now such an option. In 2022, Vivek Ramaswamy launched Strive Funds as a family of ETFs that uses shareholder voting rights to influence companies to promote excellence in products and services and to oppose the politicization of corporate governance (which in the current climate means opposing the woke corporate agenda). In the rather bland language of its regulatory disclosure documents:
[T]he Firm will vote proxies in the best interests of the Fund. . . . The Firm will generally vote in favor of and advocate for board members and proposals that focus companies exclusively on the pursuit of excellent products and services for customers over all other agendas. The Firm will generally vote against board members and proposals that advance social or political agendas unrelated to providing excellent products and services to customers.
In addition to voting its proxy shareholder rights against Leftist initiatives, Strive is also submitting its own initiatives and engaging the leadership of especially bad corporate actors. For example, last year Strive threatened to lead a shareholder campaign against Disney’s board over the company’s promotion of sexual deviance; Disney later fired its CEO and hired a previous CEO who immediately pledged to steer the company away from political controversies. And this year, Strive is pressuring Home Depot to abandon a Leftist shareholder-backed “racial equity audit.”
Current Strive funds are passively managed (meaning they simply replicate defined swathes of the stock market, without attempting to pick individual winners), and they appear to have reasonably low costs — not quite as low as the cheapest index funds from Vanguard or BlackRock, but much lower than those of conservative “values” funds. For example, the Strive 500 ETF, which invests in the 500 largest U.S. corporations (about 80% of the total US stock market value), currently charges 0.0545% annually. That means that if you own $10,000 of the Strive 500, Strive will deduct $5.45 per year from your investment as their fee, which is very low by historical standards.
In addition to the Strive 500 ETF, Strive currently offers a Small Cap ETF covering approximately 600 small US companies, as well as an Emerging Markets ETF covering foreign stocks in countries such as India, Taiwan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia (but not China). They also have funds that invest in US energy and semiconductor companies and in growth, value, and dividend stocks. Hopefully their offerings will expand to include foreign developed markets (such as Europe and Japan) and US mid-cap companies. Because they are exchange-traded funds, Strive funds are available to anyone with a brokerage account — i.e., an account in which you can buy and sell stocks — including taxable brokerage accounts, most IRAs, and some 401(k)s (those with a so-called brokerage window allowing you to choose your own investments beyond a pre-selected menu of mutual funds).
Time will tell whether Strive consistently follows its stated pro-excellence, anti-ESG mission, and to what extent it promotes white interests in its pursuit of that mission. But it is encouraging to see an investment offering that combines the benefits of passively managed index funds with anti-Leftist shareholder engagement. And index funds that merely ignored white interests in exercising their shareholder voting rights, rather than actively opposing them, would be an advance over the current alternatives.
I am not an investment professional, and nothing in this article is intended as investment advice. I have no relationship with Strive beyond my own investments in several of their funds. But I believe Strive ETFs may be a good way for pro-white, anti-woke investors to better align their financial life with their values.
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