(José Niño, Mises Institute) These days it’s not your typical latte-sipping millennials who are going woke. Taking a stroll around America’s largest metro areas will have one believe social justice is the latest fad that’s sweeping across corporate boardrooms.
Much has been written about woke capital—businesses’ recent pivot to signal their affinity for leftist movements—and what it means for society at large. Suffice it to say that since last year, this trend has accelerated at breakneck speeds.
Scratching one’s head in utter confusion should be a natural response to corporate America’s virtue signaling. One has to wonder why big business, which has traditionally been perceived as a reactionary institution aligned with the political right, would make common cause with radicals on the cultural left.
Counterintuitive as it may seem, corporations and prominent business moguls have many incentives to jump on the virtue-signaling bandwagon.
For megacorporations, woke signaling is a matter of self-preservation in order to protect themselves from ravenous mobs in both the virtual and physical realms. What’s more, in a time when hall monitors—state and nonstate—are lurking around every corner waiting for individuals to commit some kind of impropriety, many institutions will go out of their way to signal their compliance with the regime’s standards. Not abiding by the regime’s accepted behavior comes with major social and financial costs that the bulk of businesses are not willing to bear.
For wealthy members of society who have leftist inclinations, there’s a diminishing marginal utility of money, as Mises Institute president Jeff Deist spelled out in an interview with Jay Taylor two years back. Put simply, spending hundreds of millions on civilization-destroying campaigns is a casual expense for America’s premier tycoons, who have plenty of money to spare after covering their expenses on basic necessities.
When someone is rich, say an individual who has $10 billion, they have the luxury of throwing money at uneconomic ventures without losing any sleep about meeting their basic economic needs. The multibillionaire spearheading a woke project that is rejected by the public will not land in the poorhouse from the financial fallout. They can go back to their private affairs or pivot to another political cause that is not as divisive.
By contrast, for a small business owner, such virtue signaling could mean bankruptcy if their customer base tends to be right wing or is at least hostile toward culturally radical virtue signaling.
Indeed, one of the more perverse developments in Western societies is the rich’s penchant to squander away the wealth they’ve accumulated by funding all sorts of bizarre social projects. Only in such a developed economy, characterized by hyperabundance and unprecedented luxuries, can people engage in bizarre activities that in previous eras would have been viewed as masochistic and self-destructive.
The likes of George Soros and Michael Bloomberg offer stark counterexamples to the business elites of the past. The two financial titans have built a reputation of bankrolling a wide network of gun control groups which strive to pass legislation designed to infringe on millions of people’s ability to defend themselves. By contrast, Bloomberg and his left-leaning oligarchical counterparts have the luxury of living in gated communities and relying on private security to defend themselves.