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Progressive Corporate Politics

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Social justice is all the rage in corporate boardrooms, and some on the left would like you to think it’s because of market pressure. Americans are firmly on the “right side of history” when it comes to gay rights, gender identity, and religious bigotry, and companies are responding. It’s in their best corporate interests to boycott North Carolina, threaten Georgia, and bully Mississippi. The culture wars are over. Taking a stand is now the path of least resistance.

Don’t be fooled. The business world’s turn toward progressivism is the result of peer pressure, not market forces. It reflects the personal values and interests of the corporate world’s liberal elite, not the values and interests of the country as a whole. Apple, Disney, and PayPal fish from the same cultural and academic pond as the elite media and elite universities. When I was at Harvard Law School, my classmates were recruited not just by top law firms but also by top consulting firms and multinational corporations. Very few of them were conservative. Barely any of them were social conservatives.

Back when I still did commercial litigation, my larger corporate clients were almost uniformly left of center, and the few Republicans on staff were stereotypical “Wall Street” conservatives. They may have been fiscal hawks, but they positively loathed the religious Right. My small-business clients were far more mixed. Conservative communities tend to spawn conservative entrepreneurs.

Decades of stocking top corporations with talent from the “best” schools has now yielded a predictable result. Employees tend to retain not only the political values of their youth, but the activist mindset and philosophy of the modern progressive. That means an inconsistent (to put it charitably) view of free speech. It means public naming and shaming to enforce ideological conformity. It means living in a leftist cultural cocoon where Christian conservatives are largely viewed as malicious bigots.

So, here we are. Progressives mock the notion that corporations can have “values” when those values are religious or conservative, but then they endlessly obsess over the progressive culture and values of their favorite companies. Progressive entrepreneurs talk about “making the world a better place” so much that it’s a cliché. Buzzwords such as “sustainable,” “diverse,” and “inclusive” dominate progressive corporate discourse — just as they do on the campuses where political correctness is most oppressive.

The answer to bad speech is better speech. If you think progressive corporate activism can be repelled by an onslaught of boycotts, you’re wrong. Trying to create change through economic threats and reprisals is inconsistent with establishing and preserving a culture of free expression. Plus, it doesn’t work. Politics is a sub-sub-culture, so boycott movements rarely gain large-scale traction. Even the most ambitious attempts at conservative boycotts have mainly served to make progressives feel courageous for “standing up to the wingnuts.”


Source: David French, nationalreview.com