Thursday, July 4, 2019

Hyperrich Leftists

Suddenly, and sadly, the Fourth of July is now controversial. Democratic politicians, pseudo-intellectual pundits and brain dead Hollywood celebrities are lining up to trash a Washington, D. C. celebration because it is being led by Donald Trump. Given that they do not know how to think, it is convenient to have a Trump presidency. They know that whatever he does is wrong, no matter what. It saves them from having to exercise their rational faculties and to make up their minds.

Why, Nike Corp. has just decided that it had best not offend the “woke” sensibility of washed up NFL quarterback. It has pulled a sneaker bearing Betsy Ross’s first American flag… because the QB imagines that it connotes slavery. When the same flag was flying at Barack Obama's inauguration it did not connote slavery. Get it?

As everyone knows Colin Kaepernick’s brain has been occupied by a Muslim activist DJ, by name of Nessa Diab. You did not think that CK was thinking for himself.

Be all that as it may, many Americans have now discovered that corporate America, the big bad capitalist patriarchy, has no sense of loyalty to the nation. The elite leaders of America’s great corporations are far more likely to side with the left, and not just with the Democratic Party. They have developed a marked tendency to kowtow to the radical left. Nike is just the tip of the iceberg.

Why is this so? You would think that tycoons and plutocrats would favor the party that lowers their taxes. In truth, many of them have so much money, in wealth not in salary, that they do not really pay taxes. They will not even notice losing a billion here and a billion there. Some are even begging for higher wealth taxes, though no one would cry if the government fulfilled their wishes and confiscated, say, 90% of their wealth. This would not reduce their standards of living, but it would reduce their ability to make mischief.

Consider that the great Bill Gates actively supported the imposition of Common Core educational reforms in America’s public schools. Consider that, as reported on this blog and in The Federalist, these new reforms have damaged children's educations. Surely, Gates and Co. had the best of intentions. But, wouldn’t it be slightly better if we took most of his money and used it to pay down the national debt… or some such?

Kevin Williamson recently wrote a column asking why the wealthiest Americans seem inexorably drawn, like moths to a flame, to the radical political left. It is a great and difficult question. Williamson has some ideas. So do I. We have not quite solved the enigma. At least, not yet.

Why did so many corporate titans take a stand against a North Carolina transgender restroom law? Are they merely trying to placate the sensibility of transgender activists? Since when was that a corporate responsibility?


But 130 corporate leaders — including the CEOs of American Airlines and Bank of America — getting together to come down on North Carolina over public-bathroom rules that annoy transgender activists? Together with business leaders who have no presence in North Carolina and nothing to do with the state or its politics?

So we have corporate executives following the Siren Song of leftist political thinkers, the kind that believe, to the roots of their marrow, that corporations are evil incarnate.

Tis a puzzlement.

Yet, corporations have been bowing down to leftist concerns for years now. Williamson explains:

Far from being agents of reaction, our corporate giants have for decades been giving progressives a great deal to celebrate. Disney, despite its popular reputation for hidebound wholesomeness, has long been a leader on gay rights, much to the dismay of a certain stripe of conservative. Walmart, one of the Left’s great corporate villains, has barred Confederate-flag merchandise from its stores in a sop to progressive critics, and its much-publicized sustainability agenda is more than sentiment: Among other things, it has invested $100 million in economic-mobility programs and doubled the fuel efficiency of its vehicle fleet over ten years. Individual members of the Walton clan engage in philanthropy of a distinctly progressive bent.

In fact, just going down the list of largest U.S. companies (by market capitalization) and considering each firm’s public political activism does a great deal to demolish the myth of the conservative corporate agenda. Top ten: 1) Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, is an up-and-down-the-line progressive who has been a vociferous critic of religious-liberty laws in Indiana and elsewhere that many like-minded people consider a back door to anti-gay discrimination. 2) When protesters descended on SFO to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, one of the well-heeled gentlemen leading them was Google founder Sergey Brin, and Google employees were the second-largest corporate donor bloc to President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. 3) Microsoft founder Bill Gates is a generous funder of programs dedicated to what is euphemistically known as “family planning.” 4) Berkshire Hathaway’s principal, Warren Buffett, is a close associate of Barack Obama’s and an energetic advocate of redistributive tax increases on high-income taxpayers. 5) Amazon’s Jeff Bezos put up $2.5 million of his own money for a Washington State gay-marriage initiative. 6) Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has pushed for liberal immigration-reform measures, while Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz pledged $20 million to support Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats in 2016. 7) Exxon, as an oil company, may be something of a hate totem among progressives, but it has spent big — billions big — on renewables and global social programs. 8) Johnson & Johnson’s health-care policy shop is run by Liz Fowler, one of the architects of Obamacare and a former special assistant to President Obama. 9) The two largest recipients of JPMorgan cash in 2016 were Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, and the bank’s billionaire chairman, Jamie Dimon, is a high-profile supporter of Democratic politicians including Barack Obama and reportedly rejected an offer from President Trump to serve as Treasury secretary. 10) Wells Fargo employees followed JPMorgan’s example and donated $7.36 to Mrs. Clinton for every $1 they gave to Trump, and the recently troubled bank has sponsored events for the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, and other gay-rights groups, as well as donated to local Planned Parenthood franchises.

Even the hated Koch brothers are pro-choice, pro-gay, and pro-amnesty.

Perhaps it’s all just PR. As I have occasionally suggested, giving aid and comfort to leftists might well be a way to pay protection. Right wing agitators do not threaten company profits. Left wing agitators can and do. Would you want the kind of  media and legal assault that has befallen Donald Trump? You would do anything in your power, even if it meant marching for Hillary Clinton, to avoid what has happened to Trump. And to anyone who has ever associated with Trump. Of course, it did not begin with Trump, but, you get the picture.

Williamson writes:

The Left will see to it that Brendan Eich is driven out of his position at Mozilla for donating to an organization opposed to gay marriage, but the Right will not see to it that Tim Cook is driven out of his position for supporting gay marriage. For the Right, the question of gay marriage is an important moral and political disagreement, but for the Left the exclusion of homosexual couples from the legal institution of marriage was something akin to Jim Crow, and support for it isn’t erroneous, it is wicked. Even those on the right who proclaim that they regard the question of homosexual relationships as a national moral emergency do not behave as though they really believe it: Remember that boycott of Disney theme parks launched with great fanfare by the American Family Association, Focus on the Family, and the Southern Baptist Convention back in 1996? Nothing happened, because conservative parents are not telling their toddlers that they cannot go to Disney World because the people who run the park are too nice to that funny blonde lady who has the talk show and dances in the aisles with her audience.

The left and the right are playing by different rules. And the left mostly monopolizes the public conversation. Thus, you might have all the money in the world, but a well placed article in the Sunday Times Magazine can destroy your reputation in a half hour. Why else do you think that Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post?

Of course, Williamson continues, many of these great CEOs went to America’s best colleges and universities. They suffered an indoctrination in the dogmas of the American left. Since they are not playing in the marketplace of ideas, they prefer not to engage in debates about matters they do not understand.

But then, many corporate tycoons also think of themselves as intellectuals. Williamson thinks that they are . I think that they are posers, pseudo-intellectuals who have conquered the world of business and who now think that they are philosophers.

Williamson writes:

Whereas the ancient corporate practice was to decline to take a public position on anything not related to their businesses, contemporary CEOs feel obliged to act as public intellectuals as well as business managers. Many of them are genuine intellectuals: Gates, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein. And, like Hollywood celebrities, almost all of them are effectively above money.

None of these people are philosophers. They have a tendency to let themselves be duped by supposedly serious thinkers, much in the way that Plato’s dialogues are filled with pictures of Socrates making some hapless dupe think what Socrates wants him to think… and thinking that he thought it up himself.

But, the tycoons of American industry do not believe in rugged individualism. I am not sure why Williamson considers rugged individualism the sine qua non of conservative thinking, but he does. Industrial leaders believe in organization and they believe in their own ability to shape and control an organization.

I find this to be dubious, but allow Williamson his thought:

If you have not read it, spare a moment for William H. Whyte’s Cold War classic. In the 1950s, Whyte, a writer for Fortune, interviewed dozens of important CEOs and found that they mostly rejected the ethos of rugged individualism in favor of a more collectivist view of the world. The capitalists were not much interested in defending the culture of capitalism. What he found was that the psychological and operational mechanics of large corporations were much like those of other large organizations, including government agencies, and that American CEOs believed, as they had believed since at least the time of Frederick Winslow Taylor and his 19th-century cult of “scientific management,” that expertise deployed through bureaucracy could impose rationality on such unruly social entities as free markets, culture, family, and sexuality. The supplanting of spontaneous order with political discipline is the essence of progressivism, then and now.

It is hardly a new idea. The old robber barons were far from being free-enterprise men: J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie, like many businessmen of their generation, believed strongly in state-directed collusion among firms (they’d have said “coordination”) to avoid “destructive competition.” You can draw a straight intellectual line from their thinking to Barack Obama’s views about state-directed “investments” in alternative energy or medical research.

It is not difficult to see the temptations of that approach from the point of view of a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffett: The decisions they have made for themselves have turned out well, so why not empower them, or men like them, to make decisions for other people, too? They may even be naïve or arrogant enough to believe that their elevated stations in life have liberated them from self-interest.

There’s state directed collusion and there is industrial policy. It would be helpful if Williamson had distinguished between the two. I am inclined to accept his point that these tycoons believe that their great wealth is a sign of surpassing genius, and that whatever they think about matters beyond their ken manifests the same genius. How many of them think that they are authorities on climate change?

They are suffering from the pride that the Greeks called hybris. Since they have amassed great fortunes, they would rather think that this shows them to be great minds, not great robber barons. And they imagine that being an expert in one thing means that you are an expert in all other things. It’s a common mistake. In their cases it egregious. In Greek tragedy it precedes a great fall. 


Callmelennie said...

Colin Kaepernick should be the poster boy for NPCs. I have looked at numerous pictures of CP, and what struck me was utter lack of any expression or human emotion in.any of them. He was a total blank slate

One line of attack on CP was that he was a washed up NFL QB. Not so. He was an incredibly gifted athlete who led.his team to within a whisker of a Super Bowl win. But then he experienced his first setback and fell apart.

The key is that he was gifted at every sport he ever tried -- as good in baseball as he was in football. Which means he was always the center of attention and adulation. He could never do wrong, a situation that was compounded by the fact that he was bi-racial and a minority playing QB

All of this would have conspired to turn him into a flaming narcissist who never had to think thru anything off the field AND who never developed any coping skills

trigger warning said...

"I think that they are posers, pseudo-intellectuals who have conquered the world of business and who now think that they are philosophers."

And I think you are right. So did Tom Wolfe...

"From the very outset the eminence of this new creature, the
intellectual, who was to play such a tremendous role in the history of the
twentieth century, was inseparable from his necessary indignation. It was
his indignation that elevated him to a plateau of moral superiority. Once
up there, he was in a position to look down at the rest of humanity. And
it hadn’t cost him any effort, intellectual or otherwise. As Marshall
McLuhan would put it years later: 'Moral indignation is a technique used
to endow the idiot with dignity.' Precisely which intellectuals of the
twentieth century were or were not idiots is a debatable point, but it is
hard to argue with the definition I once heard a French diplomat offer at
a dinner party: 'An intellectual is a person knowledgeable in one field
who speaks out only in others.'"
--- "In the Land of the Rococo Marxists"

Sam L. said...

I must congratulate NIKE for impelling Betsy Ross' masterpiece back into the light, lest we forget. Won't buy their shoes, though, nor anything else that they make.

"They are suffering from the pride that the Greeks called hybris." I've always see it spelled "hubris".

trigger warning said...

There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet. U and y count as the same.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

They ALL know what’s best for you.

Sam L. said...

tw, all my Greek letters were in my physics classes, and long, long ago.

Walt said...

I posted this on fb a while back, asking, "Is Gillette slitting its own throat?" This, after telling its customers they're toxic, made me wonder if they're not paring their market by making colossally wrong assumptions about what their market IS. Or perhaps in these woke times they don't care, preferring moral preening to selling to deplorables.

sestamibi said...

Many years ago I worked in a congressional campaign for a candidate (Republican), who had been a high-ranking executive at a well-known Fortune 500 corporation. I remember a conversation with him in which I claimed that most corporations these days were (whatever the equivalent then was of) "woke". He didn't think so, but he had been out of it for a while, or maybe he didn't travel in such circles. Oh well.