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Conservatives Make Clear that Corporate Wokeness Will Now Carry Costs

AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Roman

The clash in Florida between Governor Ron DeSantis and the Disney corporation has caused exultation among members of the Republican base, who for years have seen the party and the conservative movement subordinate all other principles to Calvin Coolidge’s maxim that “the business of America is business,” even as corporate America has embraced the cultural agenda of the radical left. At the same time, there has been extensive soul searching among more traditionally conservative voices such as Charles Cooke in the National Review, expressing concern that attacking the privileges of a corporation because of its political speech is authoritarian, something often associated with Marxist regimes. They worry it could be the start of a slippery slope.

The problem is that like all slippery slope arguments, this merely proves that almost any policy, when taken to extremes, is a bad idea. For example, to suggest that concentrations of wealth or power in unelected hands can be a challenge to democracy does not support an argument for nationalization or socialism, which would of course be far more insidious in their subversion of democracy. It is simply not a betrayal of conservative principles to support actions to curtail the influence of large corporations.

In an article for AMAC Newsline entitled “The Conservative Case for Breaking up Big Tech” last year, I warned that:

For decades, a principled commitment to capitalism has sometimes drifted into an unconditional deference to concentrations of power, provided that power was located in the private sector. It was, and remains, inconceivable to many conservatives why corporate leaders would back the Democratic Party, much less champion causes such as lockdowns, environmental regulation, critical race theory, or media rules which seem designed to hurt the private sector. They have forgotten that, while the Left does hate corporations because they are wealthy, it was conservatives who once backed anti-trust laws because corporations had become too powerful.

Historically, conservatism did not support the free market or capitalist principles out of some sort of moral deference to wealth. Rather, conservatism was founded on a skepticism of mankind. It is the belief that mankind is fallible, and that given power, the tendency will be to abuse it. Conservatives supported capitalism and the free markets precisely because in the hands of many people, freedom was the greatest check on abuses of concentrated power because it decentralized power. The alternative to this approach — government officials deciding who is paid what – would raise the stakes in political conflicts, encouraging those in power to buy political support by offering wealth and advantage to those most able to help them seize and maintain power, not directing wealth to those who could use it most efficiently. As I concluded last summer,

Ever since Adam and Eve, humans have been fighting the temptation to God-like power, and the temptation to abuse it was too much for the best men and women. Republicans and conservatives need to make clear that government will not tolerate the interference of unelected individuals who use their market power to thwart democracy, not because they distrust businesses, but because they value them and want to protect them from those who wish to use government to destroy free enterprise. Not all would-be socialists are poor.

The flaw of modern American conservatism has been an obsession with the potential abuses of governmental power that has blinded far too many to the threat posed by concentrations of private power. The role of Twitter was highlighted during the 2020 elections, when the company, along with Facebook and the Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos) took it upon themselves to determine what was and was not “misinformation” by suppressing the story of potential Biden family corruption contained in Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Then came the banning of Donald Trump, the President of the United States, from social media in January of 2021. Who elected those who made that decision? Not the American voters. Nor did the Twitter shareholders elect those who fought tooth and nail to prevent Elon Musk buying the company.

This highlights a flaw of the libertarian belief in markets. The idea that all businesses have an interest in a free market and a free society ceases to work at a level of scale when those in charge of companies care more about control of government — and the rules of the market that matter to them — than the health of the overall economy. Almost all small- and medium-sized businesses benefit from a healthy U.S. economy. But Amazon, for instance, saw unprecedented profits and growth from the COVID-19 lockdowns even while the rest of the economy suffered. Those lockdowns also drove many of Amazon’s rivals out of business by confining tens of millions to their homes, and the company raked in billions as people turned to online ordering. The destruction of Amazon’s rivals in the wider economy was, if anything, a bonus for the company.

Interests will always diverge, but matters change fundamentally if the powerful have significant interests that diverge from those of the American economy and, more consequentially, if they also have the power to effectuate those policies. Jeff Bezos is the owner of the Washington Post, giving him a major voice in U.S. politics, one which he used last week to directly target a Twitter account that exposes the dangers of progressive ideology. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, of course, spent almost $400 million in 2020 on local election administration in heavily democratic areas in several swing states.

This brings us to Disney. Democrats and National Review-esque conservatives would like to portray Disney’s foray into Florida politics in opposition to Florida’s recent laws regarding sexual instruction in grades K-3 as an act of principle, and the loss of their special economic zone near Orlando unjustifiable as political punishment. But Disney’s principles have always been limited by pragmatism; look no further than the company kowtowing to China, even on sacred LGBT or racial issues, such as removing a lesbian kiss from Star Wars in China, or when they removed African American star John Boyega from all Chinese posters for the films.

Disney’s recent corporate behavior has been therefore to defer to those it cannot defy, and to dictate to those whom it can dominate. When it comes to China, Disney chooses appeasement. In the U.S., Disney faces cancellation from the Left and cultural elites if it defies them, hence the willingness to fire fan favorite Gina Carano from the hit Star Wars spinoff series “The Mandalorian” for refusing to put pronouns in her Twitter bio and being a Republican. Carano, one of the first female MMA fighters, is a trailblazer, but she was fired because Disney assumed any outrage among viewers or conservatives would be minimal, while their left-wing employees and the entertainment media would harass the company until they acted.

Disney has been correct in their calculus – until now. That is the real purpose of Florida’s actions. It is not, per se, about Disney’s opposition to the recent law. Efforts to stop it were ineffective, and the law passed. It was rather about changing the incentive structure. Disney was willing to oppose the Florida law and Governor DeSantis because the company believed that if they did not, left-wing activists and the media would attack them, but if they did, they would get cheers from the left and media while DeSantis and Republicans would shrug and do nothing. The incentive was clear. Being “woke,” even ineffectively, was free. That, in a nutshell, explains corporate wokeness: it is a rational cost-benefit calculation, not a broad-based ideological commitment to some sort of post-modernist Marxist worldview.

By not “doing nothing,” but rather taking action, Governor DeSantis, the Florida legislature, and newly assertive conservatives have sent a very clear message not just to Disney but to every company: the incentives have changed. If you decide to attack conservatives on the assumption they will merely “take it,” then you will now face retaliation.

This will not, as the National Review worries, endanger corporate free speech. If Disney executives and shareholders feel that “wokeness” is worth a financial tradeoff, they are free to pursue it. There are undoubtedly many woke consumers in America. But Disney will now have to balance pandering to them with the newly clarified costs of alienating everyone else – which will not mean abandoning all political positions that aren’t conservative, but likely will involve avoiding issues where 70% of the public is opposed to the message the left wants them to push. Pandering to vocal minorities will no longer make business sense.

This is a “conservative” approach to the antitrust goal of thwarting the abuse of concentrated economic power, in methods as well as ends. It functions not through coercion, but through the same incentive structures as the free market. By changing the costs and benefits of options, it forces companies like Disney to think much harder about taking biased political stands. That, ultimately, is what conservatives should seek in any sort of marketplace. A balance, in which no one side becomes all powerful.

Daniel Roman is the pen name of a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.    


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Peter
1 month ago

I didn’t read the whole article because I keep up with “real news” and Gov. Ron DeSantis is only removing special privileges or more accurately having Disney follow the same laws as the rest of businesses in Florida! Trump won the election of 2020 and Demincrats and RINOs are evil

Richard
1 month ago

Trump election was clearly stolen illegally, Trump deserved 8 years as president of the USA. I vote for any Trump family member meets the age requirement that would return the Trump family to their position as President of the USA. Trump and his family deserve 8 years as president.

Richard
1 month ago

god bless Trump greatest family to be elected legally and unelected unconstitutional. Ronald w. Reagan would of stood in line and legally voted for Trump family.

FD
1 month ago

It’s about time!

David
1 month ago

All Ron did is take away privileges that Disney shouldn’t have had in the first place. After “conservatives” complaining about the bias on social sites, along comes Elon to save the day, not to mention many new upstarts now on the scene. There should be a separation between business and state, just as there is a separation between religion and state. Business runs itself just fine.

Mike J
1 month ago
Reply to  David

I must disagree, if business runs itself just fine why are the elites getting ridiculously rich while normal folks go broke due to the scamdemic and other trickery. I do believe in capitalism but when corporations become too powerful and full of followers with no brains instead of leaders, something must be done!We must fight fire with fire otherwise we’re doomed!

1 month ago
Reply to  Mike J

Agree.

Gary
1 month ago

What exactly does the word woke mean? As far as I can see what woke means is that whatever a person thinks or does is OK as long as it is politically correct with the establishment.This goes beyond the bounds of moral standards and judicial standards in this country. Political wokeness is the the end for American democracy! And the beginning of Chaos in our nation.

Gary
1 month ago

Its all a matter of morals, of what is right and wrong! The corrupt government holding power right now have no morals! They are corrupt power hungry lowlife swamp scum! (My opinon) Our for fathers fought for their freedoms and today we again need to fight for our freedom! But also to uphold laws to protect our freedoms our rights and our choice ! The courts are there to uphold all this and punish thoes that break our written laws!

1 month ago
Reply to  Gary

Agree wholeheartedly

Sandra
1 month ago

Getting a another prospective on issues that affect us.

Locke
1 month ago

Good.

Ray
1 month ago

DeSantis is my governor, and we love him. But credit to Donald Trump for reinserting a spine into conservatism. He’s the one who broke our history of passivity. He fought back. Some didn’t like it, “mean tweets!,” but he put energy into our defense of liberty. As this article suggests, we too can protest, and boycott, and harass, and ridicule. We’ve been slow to join the fight, we’re nice people, but we’ve been pushed too far.

Jimmyd
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

A big Amen. My Governor too .

Linda W.
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Bravo!

Eric M.
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

Very well stated! President Trump does have a spine and he fought for what he thought was right and what the majority of Americans wanted. FL Governor DeSantis has the same energy and spine as Trump. We need DeSantis to be elected as President to turn this country back to what it once was!

Nancy
1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

You have phrased it perfectly!!

pete
1 month ago

I also object to the concentration of products into one or maybe two choices. For example, aftermarket auto parts manufacturers are down to two companies; all the others have been consolidated

Rich C
1 month ago

Disney and others have continuously slid farther down the slippery slope. Such a shame. If a corporation is “woke” they should keep it to themselves and not shove it in our face. So much like the socialist democrats. I wonder if they are learning anything by going after our kids? (both of them) I certainly don’t need them and will continue to cancel their culture in my life. From “woke” to awake! I love it.

Ray
1 month ago
Reply to  Rich C

We shouldn’t underestimate the effects of these woke companies being based in the People’s Republics of California and New York, or the cesspools of Washington, Chicago, or downtown Atlanta. Imagine what your company would look like if you only hired from these places?

1 month ago
Reply to  Ray

It sure looks like I finally found a very good and outstanding group to cheer for. Thank you.

1 month ago
Reply to  Rich C

“We the “some “of the people” of America have pushed Our Heavenly Father too far out. After all His plans are the best to live by. We should learn from past episodes of living and not repeat the same old ones.

BAE
1 month ago

The business of America might be business, but the left produces NOTHING. They stir the
pot to get more free stuff. They’re useless and ruthless !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

dunce
1 month ago

i am delighted to see that AMAC is part of this resistance.

Chuck
1 month ago

When I see comments from authors such as in this article as “challenges to democracy, subversion of democracy, and thwart democracy”, I cringe at their lack of understanding of our constitution and Americanist principles. Communists preach “democracy” as the path to totalitarian communist takeover. Google “Republics and Democracies” by Robert Welch and for $2 to $35 you can “get
the rest of the story”.

MBlanc46
1 month ago

Corporations have always done what the elites have wanted. Now that the elites have adopted radical globalist and multicultural ideas, the corporations have simply followed suit.

Rich C
1 month ago
Reply to  MBlanc46

Hopefully for the corporations the elites will be enough to carry them.

Dan W.
1 month ago

For an interesting comparison, go to the Comments section of the AMAC poll from a couple of weeks ago dated April 15th titled: “Should colleges that will not allow conservative freedom of speech be denied federal funding?” and compare those comments with the comments to this article. 

Both that poll and this article debate whether either more speech OR the suppression of speech should be the remedy to unpopular speech.

JudeDude
1 month ago

Excellent article, “Daniel Roman”!

MNix
1 month ago

John Boyega isn’t African-American, he’s not American at all. He’s a dual citizen of Britain and Nigeria. Hes just got a really good American accent.

Clair Leeper
1 month ago

TLDR
Please, our collective attention span is about 30 seconds, you sure are taking your time getting around to a few salient points!

JudeDude
1 month ago
Reply to  Clair Leeper

For some of us, it is a wealth of information.
“Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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