Corporate Wokeness

US corporations seem to be in a contest to determine which of them is most woke. Have you ever wondered why? There is no need to traffic in conspiracy theories to understand this behavior; it is both rational and predictable.

Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin understood capitalism better than most conservative social commentators when he observed that capitalist would happily sell bolsheviks the rope they would use to hang them with. Lenin understood that capitalism is a system of competition and the drive for profits. Obviously the capitalists prefer that Lenin not get hold of the hangman’s rope but as rope sellers compete with one another, one of them will surely capitulate and sell them the rope they seek. These capitalist may even form a cartel, all agreeing not sell Lenin the rope, but economists have long argued that cartels are unstable and members are prone to “cheat”. Capitalists will always give the Lenins of their world his rope.

The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.

Vladimir Ilich Lenin

So if capitalist will sell Lenin the hangman’s rope, what will they not do? The answer is they will do just about anything. Capitalism is an interesting thing. It leads to both a race to the bottom and a race to top. What do we mean? There is no taste or desire so perverse, so decadent, so appalling that some business person somewhere will not cater to it. That’s the race to the bottom. The only morals free markets know are profits. A capitalist somewhere stands ready to accommodate any and all values free-floating in the culture.

So what does all this have to do with the wokeness of corporations? Everything. Corporations like politicians are a reflection of the culture. Corporations compete for customers and employees. They compete for customers on the basis of the quality and price of their products. They compete for employees on the basis of compensation and the quality of the work environment they provide their employees. The wokest of woke companies draw their employees from regions with a lot of progressive types (i.e. San Francisco) and progressives want to work for a progressive company. Corporations are the ultimate non-player characters (NPCs). They are drones going exactly where the dominant culture tells them to go. On this point we can hear the reader ask, so who is directing the culture? That question is for another post.

Another important critical element here is consumer behavior. The degree of wokeness of a company is, for most customers, not in the least bit important. Most people when deciding on which brand of shoe to purchase do not care very much about Colin Kapernicks’ propensity to kneel during national anthems. The key words in the previous sentence were most and very much. However, of those few who do care a whole lot about Kapernick’s politics, the vast preponderance of them are progressives. Opinions matter, but the intensity of opinion is what matters most. Politics are far more important to progressives on average than to conservatives.

The reader can be sure that before Nike decided to make Kapernick a spokesperson, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on market research first and part of that research was looking at intensity of opinion on the issues. You can trust some political pundit who says “get woke, go broke” if you want, but in Nike’s case, my money is on Nike making the correct marketing move. I may hate them for it, but I am not selling their stock short. Not every company has the marketing prowess that Nike does and many a company has gone woke and gone broke as a result. And my guess is that most of those either did it for ideological reasons or did it without doing the market research.

So for those of us who want to see less corporate wokeness, what’s the answer? Stay tuned to this blog as we will attempt to answer that question in a future blog post.

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